Expressing your thoughts and feelings can be difficult. It is sometimes hard to find the right words that really say what we’re experiencing. Even more difficult, though, can be finding the right person to say them to.
Many people have issues with sharing their feelings and experiences with others, especially when it comes to the more negative feelings. I’ve personally had this problem. When I thought about confiding in others, I didn’t want to seem like I’m a downer, or that I’m always complaining, or that the other person should be worried about me. But finding those right people to confide in — whether it be a parent, therapist, or friend — is possible!
This short New York Times article discusses some of the qualities we can work on to be a good confidant to others, but I think it also helps us to identify the qualities we should look for in someone that we wish to confide in. (Also as a bonus, it uses experiences from a Pittsburgh person!) These skills include:
- Ask open ended questions These allow someone to explain themselves, and reveal any details at a level they feel comfortable with. You can ask questions like “What’s troubling you?” and “How do you feel about ____?” These types of questions can’t be answered as a simple yes/no, and let’s a person know that you are willing to listen to details.
- Observe body language This can help you gauge if someone is feeling really anxious, uncomfortable, or ashamed. Some common signs are turning away while speaking or physically closing themselves off (like crossing their arms). Other signs could indicate a fight-or-flight response, such as talking quickly or in a much higher pitch than usual.
- Be patient Confiding in someone takes time and trust. Wait to build a relationship where both parties can feel comfortable in taking part in the conversation.
- Don’t pry for more information Just listen to what’s being shared. Understanding and respecting someone’s boundaries in what they are willing to share helps to ensure that the confiding person feels more comfortable.
- Don’t offer advice (unless it’s being asked for) Most people just want to be heard, not necessarily told what they should do next. Unsolicited advice is rarely followed, and given that a confidant may not know all of the details of a situation being shared, can even backfire. This isn’t to say that advice is always a bad thing — simply realize that having a friend listen to them may be all a friend really wants!
- Talk about good experiences This can help lighten the mood, and in addition to feeling better about confiding in someone, it also can help people leave feeling the conversation wasn’t all negative!
What qualities do you look for in a confidant? Feel free to share in the comments below!