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What is a Confidant?

Dana Hinders
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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The term “confidant” is often used to describe a person who has been trusted with sensitive or private personal information. Everyone needs a confidant, but choosing a trustworthy person to share your secrets with can be a tricky task. Unfortunately, the ability to keep a secret is simply not a trait that everyone possesses. If you feel the need to divulge the details of your personal life, it’s a good idea to take the time to consider if your secret will be safe.

For some people, the ability to keep a secret is an absolutely vital part of their professional integrity. Doctors must work with private medical information on a daily basis. Lawyers are often privy to secrets as well. By the very nature of their professions, priests and psychiatrists must be trustworthy confidants. If you share your secret with someone who deals with sensitive information as a part of his or occupation, you can be reasonably assured of your privacy.

The average person, however, may be much less likely to act as a trustworthy confidant. Before you share a secret with a friend, ask yourself if he or she has been responsible in the past. If your friend is best described as reckless and impulsive, think twice before sharing your secret. A friend who regularly gossips about a mutual acquaintance is also a poor choice to share your secrets with. The best confidant is a friend who is both sensitive and emphatic.

When you are asked to keep a secret as a confidant, take your promise seriously. If you’re tempted to share the secret with someone else, ask yourself how you would feel if your friend divulged your personal information. Trust and accountability are the cornerstones of a successful friendship. If you fail to keep a friend’s secret, however, it’s best to confess your mistake and apologize accordingly. Denying any wrongdoing is a surefire way to permanently destroy a friendship.

Of course, there are some secrets no confidant should keep. In certain situations, a moral obligation to do the right thing surpasses the importance of keeping a secret. A teen who confesses to her best friend that she’s worried she may have a drug or alcohol problem is crying out for help. Similarly, anyone who tells you they are thinking of suicide doesn’t really need you to keep their secret. Breaking a confidence is a small price to pay when you’re potentially saving someone’s life.

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Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders , Writer
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the PublicPeople team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.

Discussion Comments

By anon305315 — On Nov 25, 2012

Some 30 years ago, I told my sister I had an abortion and I never told another person. I just discovered that she's told her new partner about it, and presumably she told her husband at the time I had it, and the subsequent partner too. No idea why, or how it could have come up.

It's not that I'm ashamed or regret it (I don't) but it was an intensely personal and difficult decision that I've never even told my best friend about. I feel really betrayed.

Her excuse in the past for telling secrets is that he's her partner, and she tells him everything. Because of the way this came out, there was no opportunity for me to discuss it at the time but I'm still livid. It wasn't her secret to tell.

I know now that I can't tell her anything I don't want her to tell other people. I have been married for many years, but I wouldn't dream of telling my husband other people's confidences.

By wavy58 — On Jul 06, 2011

As a teenager, I tended to keep all my secrets to myself. I had been hanging out with a friend, and she wanted to be my best friend. However, she believed that this meant telling everything to each other.

I really wanted a best friend, so I made up some issues on the spot. This made her feel good, so that worked out okay. The imaginary issues I shared with her were not embarrassing in nature, so even if she had shared them with others, I wouldn't have been affected.

By Perdido — On Jul 06, 2011

I became very troubled in my college years, but I did not want to tell any of my friends or family my disturbing thoughts. I knew that therapists were bound by law to keep my secrets, so I made an appointment with one.

The feeling of opening up to another human being without fear of exposure is very freeing. My therapist was my confidant, a woman whom I could share everything with and not have to fear the repercussions of leaked information.

I no longer need a therapist, because my main issue involved trust, and she helped me work through that. I now am able to open up to my husband, and I believe in him enough to trust him with my deepest secrets.

By seag47 — On Jul 06, 2011

@Oceana - I know exactly what you mean. I keep my secrets to myself unless I have collateral on the person in whom I confide.

I have a good friend whose secret I witnessed firsthand. Since I was there when it happened, she did not have to tell me, but I have this knowledge now, and she knows I could ruin her. Like you, I would never do that to a friend, but something about possessing that power makes me open up to her.

I confide in my friend frequently now, and it's very therapeutic. I tell her things that I would never tell anyone else, and I can do so with the confidence that she will not expose my secrets.

By Oceana — On Jul 05, 2011

After having been burned by trusted friends in the past, I now believe that the best confidant is someone who has already confided in you with a damaging or embarrassing secret. That person has something besides your feelings to protect.

I have a friend who told me a very damning secret about herself. She knows that I would never tell, but now I know that I can trust her because I have this information on her. Though I probably would never reveal it even if she revealed my secrets, still, in the back of her mind, she knows that potential is always there.

By cupcake15 — On Jul 04, 2011

@Sunshine31 - Wow, you would think that the very definition of a confidant should be your childhood friend. I guess it just goes to show you that you really have to be careful in who you confide information with because this information can have long term consequences if it is given to the wrong person.

Someone could be your friend one day and then turn around and my your enemy the next. I guess if you do have a problem with someone it is probably better to go to that person directly and work out the differences no matter how scary or painful it is. That is really the best choice in order to keep your privacy intact.

By sunshine31 — On Jul 04, 2011

@SurfNturf - I agree with you on some points, but disagree that your mother is not the best person to confide in. I was watching a television program the other day about a lady that was confiding in her childhood friend many secrets about her marriage.The friend came over often and eventually had an affair with this lady’s husband.

My mother always used to tell me to never confide in any friend regarding martial issues because some people use the information against you. This childhood friend was actually blaming the wife for the problems in the marriage. It was unbelievable. I think that confiding in a parent or a pastor might be the best solution because these people truly have your best interest at heart.

By surfNturf — On Jul 03, 2011

@Comfyshoes - I agree with what you are saying, but what about if your problem is directly related to your spouse. How would you address it then? I think that some people may feel that their friend or parent is the only one that really understands their problems because they already know the history of the relationship.

Some people may feel comfortable confiding with a pastor or a priest, or maybe even a therapist, but many people would rather have a familiar face to talk to. I can see both sides of the issue and understand if a person decides to confide in a friend.

The only word of caution that I have is that if you divulge negative information especially when you are speaking with your mother for example, it may hurt her relationship with your spouse because she will see things through your eyes and once that negative attitude is planted it is difficult to remove.

By comfyshoes — On Jul 02, 2011

For me, I have to say that my husband is my biggest confidant because he is the only person that I share intimate information with. I think that there could be friction in a marriage when one partner decides to talk to a friend and confide in personal problem especially if this is pertaining to the marriage.

The other partner is bound to feel betrayed that their private information is being given to a friend. My sister does this. She tells everybody about her problems and then she wonders why her husband gets mad at her. I think that we really need to be careful who we confide in because some people really don’t care about your situation. They act interested because they want to hear the juicy details of your problem.

Dana Hinders

Dana Hinders


With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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