Everyone has secrets, from the lightest (like a new job) to the most serious (like a divorce). Whatever the information, getting it from someone can be quite difficult. You must first build a relationship of trust and show that you have the ability to keep a secret; only then can you achieve this feat.
Part 1 of 2: Building Confidence
Step 1. Nurture honest conversations
Chat with the person a lot, talk about a good variety of subjects, and be honest. Talking about deeper aspects can help your friend get in touch with positive feelings about you, which will make them more comfortable opening up.
- Talk about all sorts of subjects, preferably light and fun things interspersed with more serious themes from time to time.
- Be frank, but don't seem forced. For example, if your friend is having relationship problems, and you have no idea what it feels like, say "I can't even imagine how you're feeling, but I'll be happy to talk about it whenever I want." This is much more sincere than saying “I know exactly how you feel”, even more so if you don't.
Step 2. Listen carefully
Actively listen to what your friend is saying, use other facts he mentioned earlier in the conversation to show that you always pay attention to their needs.
- Ask questions as they show that you are interested and paying attention to everything that is said.
- Observe changes in behavior and tone of voice; they can show if he is hesitant, or if an issue is particularly problematic. If you like, subtly probe the terrain, asking "Is everything okay?" This will give him an opportunity to tell if something is wrong.
- Don't force your friend to open up about issues that clearly make him uncomfortable. The idea is to show that you are trustworthy and that you really care about him.
Step 3. Talk about yourself
Don't be afraid to speak your mind. Gradually give out personal information about yourself as you feel comfortable, to show that you too are vulnerable and trustworthy.
- Get into lighter issues, then talk about more personal and possibly heavy issues; discovering similarities between you will help your friend or relative to discover if you are a person who can keep secrets.
- Sharing sensitive issues is a good way to develop a stronger bond, especially if you both feel that you can open up to each other.
- What you share with your friend should be proportionate to what he shares with you; don't tell more blatant secrets than he is, and don't restrict yourself to talking superficially, at the risk that he doesn't know whether or not to be more personal than that.
Step 4. Accept your friend unconditionally
A key part of building trust in a relationship is accepting it the way it is so that you don't feel afraid of being judged and thus have the courage to reveal more intimate information.
- Don't go overboard, don't insist on knowing something he's clearly not willing to talk about yet.
- Support him however you can. For example, if you know he's not saying everything there is to say, say “You know you can tell me anything, right? I will not judge him”.
Step 5. Be Reliable
Be present and comply with everything you say to your friend. Show him he can count on you for anything, including keeping secrets.
- Whenever you make a promise, keep it to the letter. This is also part of being trustworthy, even with the most basic and seemingly simple matters.
- Give satisfaction in advance when you can't deliver on what you've promised. Explain the circumstances and apologize.
- Remember not to be judgmental about anything your friend tells you to help them feel more comfortable with your complicity.
Step 6. Show independence
When they're talking, do your best to show that you think for yourself and don't get carried away by others. Not being susceptible to the opinions of others and not giving in to outside pressure are proofs that you are a person of strong and trustworthy character. It's hard not to trust a person with these traits.
- Don't gossip and don't repeat what you've heard around. The reasoning is logical – if you speak behind so-and-so's back, you will certainly speak behind your friend's back.
- Give your opinions without being authoritarian, show your friend that you can be yourself despite others and that it is not “Mary goes with the others”.
Step 7. Be discreet
This is the fundamental rule if you want someone to trust you and confide in their own secrets, even more so about matters you talk privately. Don't spread what your friend says, and don't even mention snippets of their conversations when talking to others.
- Anything that seems sensitive and complicated to your friend should be kept secret. Respect his privacy.
- When you're not sure whether or not you can talk about a particular topic, ask him; this attitude can jeopardize existing trust, for fear you'll give in to the temptation to tell someone. For example, if your cousin tells you she's pregnant, you can ask "Should I keep it a secret or are you telling everyone?"
- Respect the person's decisions. Whatever the answer, your obligation is to respect her wishes; after all, we are not talking about your life.
Part 2 of 2: Keeping a secret
Step 1. Ask your friend to open up
If you know he has a secret, just ask. His answer must be the law and you must not disrespect him – just get on with your life.
- Be patient and avoid leaning against the wall to get the information.
- Reassure him that you only want to know so that you can help him with more knowledge, and that you will keep the information to yourself.
Step 2. Offer support
Many people with a secret feel overwhelmed, like they're a goner. Offer help and support in whatever way you can, according to your friend's needs.
According to studies, keeping a secret can cause emotional and physical stress. Tell him you want to help, that opening up will help him feel better
Step 3. Close the nozzle
Be the secret something very serious, be it a very happy news, don't open your mouth to tell other people. Your friend certainly has good reason to want to keep his privacy at this point, and probably only close friends can know what it's about.
Avoid all temptations to tell others, as this can have serious consequences for your relationship
Step 4. Talk to some authority
If the secret is serious news and needs a solution, such as abuse, bullying or health problems, talk to a professional. Make it clear that your intention is to help and that you need advice to deal with the situation.
- Avoid mentioning your friend's name, or giving details about him that might reveal his identity.
- Consider whether to talk to someone, such as a lawyer or a police officer, depending on the nature of the secret.
- If you need to talk about your feelings about the subject with others, let it be someone who doesn't know your friend.
Step 5. Tell your own secrets
If your friend shares something very personal and intimate with you, it's good manners to share something equally private with him. Knowing that he has information as sensitive as yours can make him more comfortable trusting you.
- Remember that what to count must be of a similar nature. The idea is not to compete in misery, but to show you both are in a similar situation and reassure you that you understand.
- Say “Please don't tell anyone about this. The fact is, I understand what you're saying and I have the same problem."
- Be ready to listen to the information, whether it is true or not. Remember, depending on what is said, you may be shocked. If you think you might end up overreacting, wait to hear it when you feel more prepared.
- Rehearse your answer privately until you feel calm and confident enough; you know yourself better than anyone else, and if you suspect you will overreact, train yourself to ride the wave in facial and physical expressions.