The Sacred Role of the Confidante

A common definition for “confidante” is a “person to whom private matters are confided” (from free dictionary).

In our lives, we will likely be in this role for at least one person if not many.  If we are counselors, healers or therapists – we are professional confidantes.  Other professionals include lawyers, doctors and priests who are governed by law to honor their confidentiality with clients.

In more informal settings, somewhat professional confidantes may include people in the service industry who often connect with clients in this way… such as the archetypal bartenders, hairdressers and escorts.

Most often, we are confidantes to our peers, our friends, our partners and our families.  Then there are the times when we receive a stranger’s story on the bus or at the grocery store.  Even here, we are confidantes.

In turn, we each seek to find our own confidantes. Hopefully, we can trust enough to reveal our stories to someone. We may have many confidantes or we may only have one. Whatever the number, we can be grateful for this person’s role in our lives. It is so healing to be heard – so healing to have a safe place to share our hearts.

Ironically, some people find that a stranger is the easiest kind of confidante for them. Perhaps without any history together, there are less concerns about judgments, consequences or breaches of privacy. Others of course, prefer to select close friends or professionals to share their innermost feelings and thoughts.

11 Things To Consider When You Are A Confidante

Note:  “They” refers to the person who is confiding in you, be it a friend, a stranger, a family member or a client.

a)  Know Your Discretion Level.  If you have trouble “containing” private information, you can respectfully explain this so they will understand your capacity.  As a result, you could either decline being their confidante if the story is very confidential or ask them to omit identifying details.

b)  Know Your Boundaries.   You need to understand your overall capacity for this role and how much you can handle.  Are you currently grounded enough to be a confidante for this person?  Do they need a confidante with special training or skills (e.g. a professional therapist)?  What is your availability and how are you most accessible (phone, in person, email, skype, what hours, how often)?  Communicate these to your friend so that they are on the same page.   Only offer what you are comfortable with and what you can truthfully manage.

c)  Be aware of any conflict of interest.  This can compromise the confidentiality.  e.g.  If they are sharing something about your partner, will you be able to keep it confidential or will it affect your own relationship?  If they are sharing something about your workplace, do you have a legal obligation to disclose it?

d)  Practice listening deeply.  Be present when they are talking, instead of thinking of how you will respond.  You are helping them a lot with your focused attention and with your efforts to understand them.  To be understood is one of the greatest feelings and it’s often more valuable than anything else we can give!  Here is a quote from my friend Maureen Jack Lacroix:  Listen to understand, not necessarily to agree.

e)  Before offering help, advice or ideas, ask them if they are seeking any of these things.  Many people are actually keen to solve their own issues but wish to express themselves safely with a confidante or process their thoughts and feelings out loud.  They may not actually need advice from you nor want you to “fix” anything.

f)  Get consent before touching, hugging and caressing. Before you engage in these forms of affection or consolation,  be sure to ask them about their comfort zones.  Remember to check in periodically as their comfort zones may change.

g)  Be a sacred witness.  If you are a confidante, then you are privileged to know about their trials and tribulations; you are trusted with their disillusions and epiphanies.   Stand in your integrity as a trusted witness and be noble in this role.  Also, the longer you are their witness, the more continuity you offer as their confidante.   This is an additional benefit if your friendship continues.  However, you can also reduce or complete your role if your heart guides you to do so.   Sometimes, we are only short-term confidantes in someone’s life.  (Though the information that you retain requires your continued confidentiality)

h)  Be compassionate.  No matter where their journey goes, do your best to stay open-hearted.  You need not preach this compassion but you can embody this loving energy while you listen or when you speak.

i)  Avoid strong judgments.  If possible, let them share how they think or feel without interjecting with judgments of right and wrong, good or evil.  If they do request your opinion, you can share your personal views as preferences.  Offer possible perspectives rather than rules and regulations.

j)  Allow them the freedom to choose their own path. Though you may be a helpful influence and provide wise counsel, ensure they are free to make choices without pressure.  Also, do not take on responsibility for their decisions.  If they succeed, you can be happy for them.  If they fall, you can trust that this too is part of their evolutionary training.  Do not measure yourself through their pleasure or pain, nor be attached to their loss or gain.

k)  Be patient.  Allow them to heal and process at their own speed.  Let go of any expectations – they may or may not conform to your hopes and wishes.  (even if it matches their own desires)  Refrain from being condescending in any way and always have respect for them no matter how challenged, confused, lost or despairing they might be.

Remember that intimacy rises as the trust factor rises… Honor your Sacred Role as a Confidante.

This is a five-part article:
1)  The Practice of Confidentiality
2) The Sacred Role of the Confidante

3) Benefits of Having A Confidante
4) Challenges of Having A Confidante
5) Tips on Picking A Confidante

This article is dedicated to my confidante and bestfriend Dhyanna. I have experienced so much healing through the long-term trust and love we share. I’ve shared my greatest joys and tribulations with her. We have been able to talk about anything because of the deep understanding and unconditional love that we have for each other. Though she now lives in the US, we still speak regularly and keep each other updated on both epic and mundane events in our lives. Having someone in my life who knows me this well, who sees who I am regardless of what happens and who loves me infinitely is a gift that i will cherish forever. Thank you for our eternal friendship…

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