2 Qualities That Make You Your Friends' Go-To Confidant
The dual powers of quiet listening and roaring support are what make your friends count on you emotionally.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | November 14, 2023
In every friend group, there's usually a person whose presence alone invites confessions and innermost thoughts without the need to probe. You might think it's an innate talent, something you either have or you don't. But, what if science says otherwise? What if these seemingly natural confidants have cultivated certain traits that signal to others, "Your secrets are safe here"?
Being a trusted confidant is a role that comes with deep respect and significance. It means you are valued not only for your ability to listen but also for your wisdom and the strength of your character. It can lead to stronger, more intimate friendships where mutual support and honesty are the foundations. It can also enhance your sense of belonging and purpose within the group, as you become a pillar of support for those around you.
Psychological research has identified common traits in trustworthy confidants, which are not innate or esoteric qualities. Rather, they are characteristics that anyone can develop and strengthen over time with intention and practice. Here are two psychological traits that can transform your role within your circle and forge deeper, more meaningful connections.
1. Great Confidants Are Skilled At Picking Up On Your Feelings
Empathy is the ability to not just understand, but also to feel the emotions of others. It's the bridge that connects one soul to another, allowing confidants to provide comfort and understanding in times of need. By showing empathy, you communicate to your friends that their feelings are important and that they are not alone.
The good news is that the ability to empathize can be developed. A 2016 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology investigated the impact of empathy training. This research supports the idea that through dedicated training programs, individuals can enhance their empathic abilities.
A particularly impactful way to cultivate empathy is to ask open-ended questions and pay attention to how people talk, not just what they say. Asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer allows the person you're speaking with to delve deeper into their feelings and thoughts. It demonstrates your interest and desire to understand their perspective more fully. Questions like "How did that make you feel?" or "What do you think is the next step?" can prompt further sharing and show that you are engaged and care about what they have to say.
2. Assertive People Make Wonderful Confidants
Assertiveness may not be the first trait that comes to mind when considering what makes someone a great confidant. However, assertive individuals possess a unique set of qualities that can be beneficial for those seeking a listening ear and sound advice.
According to a 2018 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, an assertive person has a drive to take action. An assertive confidant is not only supportive, but also proactive in offering solutions and resources. They can also motivate and encourage their friends to take action and face their fears.
Assertive individuals, as clear communicators, confidently handle difficult conversations, making them reliable for discussing sensitive topics. When someone confides in you, they are not just looking for a passive listener. Rather, they often need guidance and honest feedback.
An assertive confidant can provide this without the conversation descending into confrontation. They can help to set boundaries that respect both parties' opinions and emotions. This balance between listening and speaking up provides a solid foundation for a trust-based relationship where both individuals feel heard and valued.
To become a better confidant, it is crucial that you understand assertiveness is not the same as aggression. While aggression oversteps boundaries and disrespects the rights of others, assertiveness is about expressing one's own needs, thoughts and feelings in a way that is direct, honest and respectful of others.
Being the go-to confidant in your friend group is about more than just keeping secrets—it's about developing key traits that build trust and encourage open, honest communication. By developing the qualities of assertiveness and empathy, you can deepen your connections with friends, offering a safe haven for their thoughts and feelings.