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Getting a Confidant/Confidante

Confident, Confidante, Confidant. Three similar words. What do they mean? Confident means to have a strong belief or assurance about oneself. Synonyms are certain, positive, sure, self-reliant, assured. Confidant is defined as a close friend or associate with whom secrets are shared, and private matters and problems are discussed. Confidante is the same thing except the addition of the “e” makes it feminine and specifically a woman. These words are similar because they all have the same Latin root, meaning to trust.

Leaders need to be confident, for sure. But they also need a confidant/confidante.

A confidant is not…

  • someone on your team who reports to you or is a peer.

  • not your boss. For non-profit and church leaders, this is probably not someone on your board.

  • not a family member.

  • not your decision-maker; they advise.

  • looking for something to gain or motivated by what they might gain from the outcome of your decisions.

  • Not someone you pay to help you. Executive coaches can be good but are not usually what you need in a confidant.

What to look for in a confidant:

  • Great listening skills. This is one of the most vital skills in a relationship. When you are expressing your deepest thoughts to someone, you need to know you have their complete attention. Do they give you steady eye contact? How do they respond to your concerns? You don’t want to be competing with their electronic devices. You should be able to be confident they will always hear you out.

  • Offers encouragement. You need someone who is not judgmental or bent to harshness and negativity. They need to be able to proactively encourage and reassure you that everything is going to be okay; someone you can believe when they say so. This person needs to be able to play devil’s advocate to protect you from your own blind spots and show you the other side of the story. It’s so much easier to confide in someone who’s actively rooting for you and demonstrates their support.

  • Offers empathy, not sympathy. Sympathy means feeling sorry or bad, while empathy involves actually identifying with the situation. Anyone can feel bad for you, but not everyone is willing to allow themselves to feel exactly what you’re feeling. A person who does this well will try their best to see and feel the problem from your perspective, while maintaining objectivity so they can protect you from aspects of the situation you may have missed. But make sure they don’t refer everything back to themselves, because you don’t want them to make the conversations all about them.

  • Shows loyalty even in difficulty. Loyalty tends to disappear when difficulties arise. You need a confidant who is with you when things are really tough. This person will not be expected or able to solve all your problems, but they will be loyal and will always do what they can to lighten your load. They will always feel better when you feel better, and will hang with you no matter how tough things get.

  • Displays honesty and integrity. The truth is, not everyone is worth trusting. You need someone with honesty and integrity. Someone who you are 100% confident won’t talk to anyone else about what you are sharing. Not everyone can handle the responsibilities, nor has the capacity to be a confidant, and that’s why you must choose yours wisely. Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you and cause you to talk to the first person who’ll listen to you. Make thoughtful decisions when it comes to exposing your vulnerabilities and sensitivities. A true confidant will stick around and keep your confidence no matter what. They will always have your best interests at heart no matter what you disclose to them.

  • More about listening than talking. Most of the time, if you have an effective sounding board, you will come to very wise and healthy conclusions for yourself.

  • Can be an impartial observer. They must be able to listen carefully, without bias, to different viewpoints and help resolve competing interests and points of view.

  • Asks good questions. They can probe a little and get you to communicate things that are pertinent, but that you might pass over on your own.

  • Capable of moving you to solutions. A great confidant does not just listen to you endlessly venting. He or she will courteously but surely turn you toward solutions.

Having a confidant is so helpful. Often the thoughts rolling around in our heads and in our heads cannot find a clear path out until we speak aloud our many ideas or troubles. The attention of a wise and loyal person can open up the act of sharing with another human being, which can be very clarifying and helpful. A confidante can also be a safeguard.

Confidants can help us regain perspective at times when we lose it in our circumstances or thoughts. They can support us when we feel lost. They can benefit us with their wisdom or skills. They can steady us when we think we can’t stand. A true confidant can make you more confident because they help you see things you would have otherwise overlooked.

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