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Why Do Introverts Struggle to Ask for Help?

17/05/2016 12:30 | Updated 17 May 2016

Asking for help is difficult for most people.

It forces us to admit our shortcomings; our weaknesses; our vulnerability.

It reveals us as the bruised peaches we are - not the shiny, unspoiled apples we wish to be seen as.

Brené Brown would, I'm sure, give me some sage advice like:

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.
Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.

For me, asking certainly fits into that 'uncomfortable but good-for-you' category.

But I already know how it makes me feel... now I want to understand WHY.

A common sexist assumption I grew up hearing was, 'men will never ask for directions.'

Ridiculous as it sounds, I did notice my own father would never, EVER ask for directions (he was even resistant to getting a sat nav.)

One day I pointed out that he had asked me to tidy my room. His response was: "That wasn't a request, it was an order."

Fair point.

In recent times however, I wonder if it's not his gender that leads this resistance to asking: but the fact that he is an introvert.

I've taken various tests based on the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicators, and l too am an introvert to the core (INTJ, to be precise.)

I too, find it nigh impossible to ask for anything without feeling like I'm taking up space, time, or resources.

Like I'm a crab without a shell.

I learnt a lot from Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking, but asking for help still doesn't come easily.

So what does introversion have to do with the inability to ask?

Of course, I'm not suggesting extroverts all find asking is easy.

However, many traits associated with introversion could make the psychological aversion to asking more extreme:

1. Self-sufficiency

One trait common to introverts is our self-sufficiency. We draw energy from within, not from our external environment.

We think. A lot. Often to a fault. For me, that means I'm used to coming up with (often unnecessarily elaborate) solutions on my own.

It's not that I believe my solution will be better: I'm just so used to looking inward to help.

2. Heightened self-awareness

It's this strong sense of self that can make the inward-looking introvert more self-conscious than extroverts and therefore more concerned about looking weak or foolish when asking for help.

This is up for debate of course, as many would say this inward focus could make introverts less concerned about the outside world... but it hasn't been my experience!

3. We like being alone

Finally, there is a practical reason: we work best alone. Physically, we don't do our best problem-solving around people.

Particularly now that we are able to consult the online compendium of knowledge, we can do most of our asking alone.

Working on problems in groups, or asking others for help in person however, requires us to be around people!

If I can take my answers from Quora, I will.

***

So what does all this mean: do we, introverts, just accept that we aren't great askers?

Well, no. I mentioned Brené and Amanda earlier, and I really do recommend reading both Rising Strong and The Art of Asking.

Slowly but surely, these women have opened my eyes to:

  • Why we can't do it all alone (and why we don't have to try.)
  • How good asking CAN feel, when we realise the support exists (I think of AFP crowd-surfing to remind myself of this.)
  • How to use our inner strength (which introverts have plenty of) to brace for the answers we don't want.

In fact, he voiced proudly, that he never asked for anything.

Do you, introvert or extrovert, struggle with asking?

***

Cat Rose is on a mission to help other creatives get over their fears of self-promotion and get their work seen and shared.

She offers 1-to-1 coaching and founded the League of Creative Introverts: a safe community for creatives to share their work openly, learn from others and get all the support they need on their creative journey.

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