How to Become Someone People Will Confide In – Free Ebook

It is a mark of character to be thought of
as someone that others can safely confide

in; there is a high degree of empathy, generosity
and open-mindedness implied in being the person

that friends instinctively turn to when everything
has gone dark. But we may come to realise

that, despite our best intentions, often others
do not quite see us in this way. If we ask

them directly what the matter is, they try
to look cheerful and insist that everything

is fine. We know it can’t be but nor do
they seem inclined to open up to us. We end

up lonely and a little helpless. There are
plenty of good reasons why people tend to

show extreme care before opening up. A confidant
may turn out to be patronising, alarmist,

sentimental, panic-inducing or moralistic.
The dangers of humiliation can be acute. To

dare to confide, we need a strong feeling
that our companion is going to be unreservedly

understanding, gentle and kindly. But even
if we feel ready to be all these things, how

do we signal our capacities properly to others people?

The almost touchingly obvious method is via
direct assertion. We might say: don’t worry,

I won’t judge or simply: you can tell me,
I’m very understanding. Kind though such

statements may be, they can’t generally
help because they don’t touch the core fear

that – whatever we may say – we may still
turn out to be disturbed by, or hostile to,

the details of actual revelations. The more
skilled approach requires a greater degree

of courage on our part. It involves regularly
admitting to something difficult and troubling

and rather shameful about ourselves. It’s
by letting others know something of our own

vulnerabilities that we free them up to share
some of the things they are terrified of admitting

in their lives. Our revelation proves far
better than a headline statement that we are

reliable because we know from the inside what
it’s like to carry a dreadful secret and

to feel frightened of another person’s reaction
to it. We’re demonstrating a crucial idea:

that we won’t turn on them because we’ve
trusted them not to turn on us. The process

of building up trust often functions in an
incremental way: we reveal a small and not

too awful fact about us, and the other then
starts to share a little of what’s going

on for them. From there, we take a bolder
step of admitting to something more significantly

awkward: something we know could be seen as
really not very acceptable. We’re inviting

the other to follow us in turn and to feel
secure in opening their hearts yet wider.

©Flickr/Cabin Events
The underlying idea is that in order to demonstrate

our position as an empathetic receiver of
confidences, we have to show our broken and

flawed sides: we’ve failed, so another can
tell us of their failure; we’ve been hurt

so, they can admit to being hurt; we’ve
done, and admitted we’ve done, very stupid

things so we’re not going to turn against
those who have also been at points very silly.

To be a good companion, it isn’t enough
simply to be polite or to commiserate. We

need to take a risk. We need to give our friends
something they could use against us – so

that they can feel safe in giving us something
we might use against them. Under the umbrella

of mutually assured destruction, real trust
and friendship

can then flourish.

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