Needy Friend or Friend Indeed? Tips to Help NTs Cope with Emotionally Needy Relationships

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 30, 2015
Categories: INTJ, INTP, ENTP, ENTJ

As members of the personality type grouping known as "rationals," NTs are practical and unsentimental folks. Great at solving life's little problems, they are not so great at dealing with people who get sunk into their emotions. NT's are pretty hot on reciprocity, too, and don't appreciate friends who demand more than their fair share of attention. Unsurprisingly, NTs are the type least likely to cope with an excessively needy friend - those who take a mile while giving barely an inch in return.

If you find yourself avoiding phone calls or blowing them off every time your attention-seeking friend wants to meet up, you're probably not handling the situation very well. Here are some tips to help NTs cope with emotionally needy relationships.

Analyze the Problem

Behavior that seems emotionally needy to a level-headed NT may seem completely normal to everyone else. Before you design a plan of action, you need to be very clear that your friend is the problem - not you. Ask yourself, is your friend making demands that are excessive? Are you stuck in a cycle of the same drama, different day, or is there a reason for your friend's sudden neediness (relationship break up, bereavement, job loss?) Perhaps your friend usually behaves in a perfectly self-reliant manner, but you have created the problem by controlling the relationship through strict and rigid boundaries. NTs have a tendency to keep people at arm's length. If your friend is not getting the intimacy she needs, then she may become clingy simply to get your attention. Lessons learned, you can start tinkering around the edges to fix your friendship.

Be Less Available

A friend in need is a friend indeed, but what if your friend sounds like a broken record? If your friend is always asking for a sympathetic ear, money or a favor, you need to take a reality check. Chances are, this friend needs more help than you can provide. Worse, they may be quite content lurching from crisis to crisis and have no intention of doing anything about their demanding behavior.

If you are stuck in an endless cycle of drama, you need to establish clear and consistent boundaries. Tell your friend to stop calling you during work hours. Tell them that you are crazy busy and can only spare a half hour before dinner to chat. If they call after dinner, let the call go to voicemail. And for goodness sake don't change your plans to deal with the latest emergency - your energy is limited, and your friend needs to understand that you can't give what you don't have. An NT's tank of sympathy is small, and it will empty out pretty quickly if your friend continually draws from it without giving you the opportunity to refuel.

Widen Their Friendship Circle

Another way to cope with your friend's clinginess is to introduce them to a new group of independent-minded people. This will have two positive effects. First, your friend will have other people to talk to and this will dilute the impact of their behavior. More significantly, being introduced to a new group of people can act as a great stimulus for change. The human desire to fit in is powerful, and your friend may go to surprising lengths to blend with their new, self-sufficient friends.

Given Them An Alternative

As a rational, you are very good at telling people where they are going wrong and how they can make the situation better. Stop! This behavior gives your friend an escape route. They will learn to rely on you to meet their emotional needs instead of fixing their own problems. The better course of action is to gently cajole your friend into finding a solution that they must implement. For example, if your friend wants to cry on your shoulder about their significant other (again), suggest that they talk to their partner about it or seek counseling. Be clear that you are supportive, but your friend needs to take responsibility for their own problems.

Become the Happy Friend

All friendships get stuck in a rut, and it may be that your friend has come to think of you as the friend who lends a helping hand whenever she turns up on the doorstep in tears. To change the relationship, you're going to have to break the mold.

How? You could start by doing the things you both enjoy so that your friend begins to associate your relationship with happy feelings, and not as another therapy session. In the beginning, choose activities where your friend can't talk much to stop them wallowing in self-pity (the movies, dancing, skydiving!) Praise them on their positive qualities to help boost their self-esteem. Over time, your friend should start to feel good about the time they spend with you, and they will be less tempted to spoil it with drama.

If the relationship is completely exhausting, you obviously need to cut loose. There's nothing wrong with downgrading a friend to an acquaintance if the relationship becomes too draining. But a true friend will accept that you don't have the energy to be there for them all the time and accept that it's OK for you to have a life that they are not the center of. These tips should help you put your relationship back on track before it's too late.

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


LorraM (not verified) says...

OMG! Thank you for writing this, I really needed it. My mom is my emotionally needy friend and I feel so mean when I get mad at her for sucking all the sympathy right out of me, but it is exhausting. Just last night she had me drop everything and drive for an hour, on a school night, to fix her closet rod that crashed down due to her excessive clothes collection. Is this really an emergency? Why can't your apartment maintenance man fix it? She is very controlling too which makes me more mad. I will set some new boundaries and be the happy daughter, thanks again:)

Guest (not verified) says...

thank you for this article! I seem to always attract "needy" friends! As an INTJ it is extremely exhausting being a woman who has to lend a sympathetic ear to these needy friends who never follow practical solutions to fixing their problems. So frustrating to hear the same problem everyday over and over and over and over again......! It feels especially unjust when it is finally my turn to talk but the person poorly reciprocates.

Guest (not verified) says...

This is very interesting and helpful! In a current situation with a friend and have started to feel frustrated that they don't take my advice! In the moment, it seems logical and that is how I know to help them. As an INTJ, we feel the need to fix problems and then get aggravated when people don't follow our recommendation, which just makes us more exhausted, then I feel bad that I couldn't help! Great read :)

Guest (not verified) says...

Thank you for this article! I was so buried in this persons needy world that I know the same 3 stories verbatim. It is so sad that I was not able to break away sooner but it just got to the point where I just couldn't do it anymore. I was so relieved when I severed the relationship with her. I was way too available and I knew it! Even when I had other things to do she always found a way to absorb my energy when I had somewhere else to be. Funny thing about this person, she wasn't very nice to a lot of people but when she needed the trash bin (my ear) she used the most desperate behavior to get my sympathy to go and have a therapy session at happy hour. Those two years I did that were the longest and wasted years of my life (hindsight).

Lola93 (not verified) says...

Here is something I learned the hard way a few years ago.  These needy friends are not interested in solutions to their problems.  They are not bending your ear to find a way out of their constant, incessant drama... they're venting and asking for your advice because it gives them what they want -- attention.  Needy people have holes in their souls, and they want to fill the hole by draining you.  And the hole can never be filled!  You will become resentful, exhausted, and angry in the end.  

Needy people are broken records because they focus externally instead of doing what they really need to be doing -- taking a good, hard look at themselves with honesty.  They'll loop endlessly in their own pain and make demands on you all the while.  And you'll suffer for it, as long as you allow it.

My friendship with the needy friend ended almost 5 years ago, and it was an enormous relief.  I never realized how much her self-centered neediness was weighing me down.  From what I've recently found out, she's turned into a bigger mess and I can't help but feel I dodged a bullet.

If the relationship feels wrong, end it before it gets ugly.

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