What an unfortunate culture we're building by demoting to a problem what is a normal
human condition – need. I'm tired of being called needy. I'm tired of talk show hosts and writers babbling about getting my needs met by myself then selling books on how to do it. I'm tired of personal coaches talking about being "needless" moments before "inviting" me to buy their tapes. What I've experienced is an insinuation I have a big problem…unmet needs and it's holding me back from being fulfilled.
I see people with no desire to listen to a person's complete story. Overbusy and overwhelmed, we don't have the energy and cover this fact by saying we don't have time. If I need to talk nineteen times about something, I'm seen as unable to move on. But, if I shortcut my examination I'd miss that the twentieth version leads to the next step. I wouldn't learn my whole process if I rushed it. I'm moving on by working with it! Sometimes we have to sit with confusion and not lunge beyond it. Besides, maybe it's their impatience that is spun as my problem. Sometimes needs are only met by inner work. I get that. Sometimes needs can only be met through communion and interaction and questioning aloud and non-judgmental help from others. Sometimes it takes both.
In Webster's dictionary, I discovered the pejorative meaning of the word, need, is not the main definition. The negative connotation is only in a footnote. It says, "the Old English origin has connotations that make it strong in emotional appeal [as in], the need to be appreciated.
Further, the definition of neediness says, "a condition of want or need; poverty; indigence." If neediness is akin to poverty and poverty is enjoyed by no man, why are we cheap with affections that would help others be richer? Others would seem less needy if we had more to give.
I can't find a downside to generosity. (I'm not espousing helping people remain immature. That's too easy a criticism. This is about casting aspersions and piling on derision.) Materially, Mother Theresa had nothing yet was generous with love. Dale Carnegie worked to give everything away before his death, realizing through giving his humanity was demonstrated. Thoreau believed our mania for accumulation of things drains our souls. He discovered material simplicity created emotional abundance. Many seem to think only material abundance transforms lives.
Why do we obsess over neediness? We all feel it. Why do we implore each other to hide it? Why rush to judge like you know everything? Why are we so unwilling to help another through costless actions like listening and compassion?
Steven Covey espoused being interdependent; working in overt spiritual and material co-operation to meet everyone's needs. It's the state of a more perfect union – of giving and accepting without judgment or shame. It's not sophisticated to label people as needy and then withhold help. Who is the least evolved in that scenario?
Could a solution to this problem be opposite of what we think? Could we have it backwards?
Maybe, we could see everyone is deeply needy sometimes and amazingly strong at others. Maybe if we stopped walking like peacocks trying to convince everyone we're just fine we could relax and care about each other better. In our streamlined state, with feathers down, we'd feel less stress and have spare energy. Let's open to one another just the teensiest bit more. Constantly strutting our bug-eye, blue-black plumes, letting them become worn like flags left too long in the wind just leads to more separation…the bleak shadow of independence.
Maybe the human spirit climbs soonest into crowns through our sticky interactions, not the Teflon ones. Maybe, we'll heal our wounds by offering to apply the salve and bandages and waiting until our neighbor is ready to walk down the road. Maybe we could extend a nurturing hand instead of keeping it arrogantly in our emotional pockets. Maybe every homeless man doesn't buy booze. Our loving quarters might buy a warm burger or a cover for his torn sleeping bag. Maybe, it is a good idea to help a confused street lady (we'd do it for a dog) or help a well-dressed businessman change his tire.
Maybe, by offering a cushion of kindness you'll cushion your own silenced hope for that gift. Someone has to take the first step. Maybe our frustration at neediness is our deformed desire to reach out without knowing quite how. Maybe, we will start to talk openly about why we treat our pets better than the supermarket check-out ladies. Maybe, we all have needs that can only be met through deep emotional, intellectual and physical interaction with others and that that is common to all men and women, planet-wide. Maybe, we can move to laughing together about what we know everyone feels and shift to opening instead of chronic self-protection.
Maybe, we'll enjoy a smile where before there was a flat line; a wink where there were only darting eyes; and an embrace where there was a pamphlet for a therapist. Maybe, we can support each other's growth through community instead of rabid independence; through "let's" instead of "you should" and "we" instead of "you and me." Maybe, by caring more we can return warmth to everyday life and business (where it's badly needed).
The solution to neediness may be opposite of our self-sufficiency ideal. Such independence is overrated. Wouldn't it be neat if the solution was you giving them more? Wouldn't it be nice to know someone would do the same for you? Wouldn't it be neat if openness and generosity created a more relaxed culture? Wouldn't it be neat if our fear that giving a little will result in someone needing even more was misplaced? And wouldn't it be neat if in elevating another, we were to rise up ourselves? — Wouldn't that be neat?
David Facer is a professional life and corporate citizenship coach. For nine years he was a marketing executive for EMC Corporation in the US and the UK. Today, through his company WellspringCoach, he helps others walk their peculiar and wonderful path without apology. He helps businesses redefine customers and consumers as people, and return love to both the workplace and the services offered.
David C Facer
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