How to build trust with your friends

Follow our advice for becoming that person your friends can always trust.

Trust between friends takes time to build, but once it’s there you can become each other’s confidantes. You’ll feel safe talking to each other about anything. You’ll keep each other’s secrets, cheer each other on and pick each other up when you’re down. Who wouldn’t want a friendship like that?

Being able to share your feelings and concerns with someone, knowing they won’t judge you, is really important. When you keep your emotions hidden away inside, unexpressed, they can become bigger than they actually are. Equally, if you have a great idea about something you really want to do, talking about it with someone can help you find a way to make it real, which might not happen if you keep it to yourself.

YOU’LL KNOW YOUR FRIEND IS YOUR CONFIDANTE WHEN…

1. They hear you

They listen to you intently, making you feel both safe and valued. When you’re sharing something personal, they will give you their full attention.

2. They see you

They’re able to look at life from your perspective and identify with the way you’re feeling, even if they’ve never experienced it.

3. They cheer you on

They respond positively to you without judgement, and celebrate your achievements without being jealous. They also offer words of encouragement when you’re feeling low or upset, and show enthusiasm for your success.

4. They stand by you

They’re loyal no matter what happens. If you’ve been left out of a group activity or circle of friends, for example, they will be prepared to stand up for you and stand by your side.

5. Beware the fake confidante

Watch out for friends who share other people’s secrets easily and spread gossip, especially if they ask you to divulge your personal information too. A true and trustworthy friend knows you only need to share what you want to share.

HOW TO BECOME A CONFIDANTE

Becoming a confidante is a core life skill even if it does involve making some tough decisions. It won’t just be your friendships that benefit, however, since you’ll also get better at communicating and connecting with everyone.

Listen with your eyes and ears

Focus all your attention on the person speaking. Maintain eye contact as much as possible, but also look for clues that give an idea of how they’re really feeling. If their breath is fast or shallow they could be upset. If their body language seems defensive (for instance, if their arms are crossed) they might be feeling vulnerable. If they’re speaking quickly, they might be excited as they’re telling you something important.

Let them finish before you speak

It’s tempting to interrupt someone when they’re sharing a story. You want to tell them about your own experiences and let them know they’re not alone, but it’s likely your friend just wants you to be present for them while they speak. Use brief words of encouragement instead and let them tell you everything before you jump in with your own stories. Allow them this opportunity to open up.

Respond with open-ended questions

You don’t always have to agree with your friends. Instead you can try responding with questions that need more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. This will help them to better understand their feelings. For example, instead of asking ‘does that make you feel sad?’ you could ask ‘why does it make you feel sad?’.

Have empathy, not sympathy

Sympathy means you feel bad about a situation, which could make your friend uncomfortable. Empathy means you identify with the situation, which puts them at ease. Try asking questions to help you see things from their perspective rather than turning the conversation around to talk about your point of view.

Know when a problem isn’t yours to solve

You don’t always have to offer advice or solutions. You’re not responsible for helping your friends do something they could do for themselves, but you can support them in finding a solution and taking responsibility for their actions.

If a friend tells you something upsetting that a teacher, parent or guardian should know, ask them how they feel about passing on this information. If you think they are in any danger, talk to a trusted adult or call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 for advice.


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