What Do You Need From Me?

There are a number of personality tests in the world. I’m not talking about the nonsense ones. All those Facebook quizzes that will tell you which Hogwart’s house you’d be in, which Sex in the City character you are, or which member of the Nazi high command you’re most like. Those are nonsense. I’m referring to the ones that have some measure of scientific basis. The Five Factor test, Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram and a number of others. How much scientific basis they possess is debatable. They are at least more accurate than your astrology sign (I’m a Leo for what that is worth). Until fMRI machine analysis becomes a science fiction version of the Sorting Hat, these tests are an easy way to start that most important philosophical process - Know Thyself.

I mention these tests because the ones I have taken all agree on certain key elements. I am an introvert with a strong bias toward rationality. To which anyone that knows me would express incredulity that this was even a question. I’m not the most emotionally available and empathic person. I am a good listener and I endeavor to be a good partner and a good friend. Even so, I get it wrong sometimes. That happens because there’s a question that hasn’t been asked or answered.

What do you need from me?

If you’re hurting or angry or suffering and want to talk, that needs to be my first question. Because if I’m in rational, problem solving mode when you need empathy and support then this mismatch in expectations is going to result in neither of us being thrilled with this interaction. If you just want to vent and I tell you that you should quit your job and get a divorce, then I’m probably not helping. Or maybe I am and you just don’t know it yet.

Is this simply catching up? Are you looking for someone to listen so that you feel heard? Is this emotional offloading just to get it out? Are you trying to understand why you feel the way you do? Would advice help? Do you need help with brainstorming solutions to problems that have you vexed? Are you trying to enlist me to do something illegal to solve a relationship issue?

We aren’t very good at expressing our emotional needs. Mostly because we don’t know or understand what our emotional needs are. We are complex beyond measure with internal systems and feedback loops that are built atop one another. We think we know what we need only to get it and find we were wrong. There are times when what we really need is brutal honesty and to be called out on our bullshit. That’s difficult for others to know and deliver on with proper timing. Perhaps the question of what you need will help to sort through these systems and identify what will help you. Or at least give us a place to start in the conversation.

There are circumstances when we know the answer without asking. The worst times. The hard and heavy emotional events that leave us reeling. The death of a loved one, a major break up, any of those devastations that shatters our world view. What people need then is comfort and to know that someone is there with us. That we’re not alone in our suffering. Not that there is ever enough comfort or love that can fill the void and erase the pain we’ve found ourselves with. Healing only comes with time.

Time. Sometimes that is all we need from each other. Someone to pay attention and hear what you have to say. To not be impatient or absorbed with their phone or the other distractions of the world. We want to be seen and heard in the little ways that make us feel that we matter. Part of the human condition is a deep loneliness that hovers at the edge of experience. What we need from each other is connection, a bit of understanding, time to share stories, and to be there for each other. So the next time you’re with a friend or loved one, put away everything else, sit with them and let them know - I’m here for you. What do you need from me?

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