How to Deal with Secretive People—Even If They're Your Friends

Updated 03/11/19

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Has your friend been hiding something from you? Were you the last to know a friend's big news? Secrets can rip apart a friendship for a variety of reasons, but they can also bring people closer together. Knowing how to deal with secretive people when they are friends is key to maintaining relationships.

Perhaps you feel slighted that your friend didn’t trust you enough to let you in on the news. The simple act of withholding information could hurt you. On the other hand, you might look at your friend differently after you learn about the secret—so he or she was hesitant about sharing ​it or did not yet know how to approach you with it. Whatever the case, dealing with secretive people can be difficult, especially when he or she is a friend.

Put every friendship into perspective before you get angry with a friend for not spilling all the details. Some of your network may qualify only as acquaintances while other friends have deeper relationships. You may not have the kind of relationship to share important information, even if it is a friend you may have known for ages. If it is a very close friend that is keeping a secret from you, however, your concern is probably genuine.

Even if you are angry in the moment, it is important to approach your friend when you are calm and can articulate your feelings. Read on to learn more about how to identify and deal with secretive people. 

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You Heard It Through the Grapevine

Word travels fast. Perhaps you found out about the secret from another friend, or from someone your friend is not close with. Maybe you heard about it via social media. If you heard about the secret from someone other than your friend, it may feel like a betrayal that your friend did not yet share the news with you. Be patient with your friend and try not to take it personally. There could be a host of reasons why they haven't spilled the details on their secret. Among them:

  • The secret you've heard isn't entirely accurate.
  • Your friend is embarrassed about the matter.
  • Your friend doesn't realize that other people know about their secret.
  • Your friend is waiting on more information to inform you of the situation.
  • Your friend doesn't trust you.

Considering all the possibilities, it is important not to jump to conclusions about your friendship. How you deal with the information withheld can prove to be a turning point for you in the friendship, for better or worse. If your friend trusts you and shares it, it's likely you two will become closer. If not, a conversation about it might be beneficial to understanding why not—when both of you feel comfortable and safe. 

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Trust in Your Friendship

If you feel that your friend is holding out on you because they simply do not trust you with the information (or not to tell others about it), it's time to take a look inward. Have you given your friend a reason to doubt you? If you've made a habit of gossiping about your friend or others, then you may not be the person people confide in. The only way to build up trust again is to prove that you have what it takes to be a great friend

If this is not the case, there may be another reason why your friend has not told you about the news. Simply bring it up in a non-accusatory manner to find a solution. 

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Confronting Your Friend

If you feel your friend's secret is destructive (if they are having an affair, struggling with addiction, engaging in domestic or other violence, etc), approach the subject gently. Be patient when you confront your friend and make sure that your motivation centers around kindness rather than trying to "call them out" on information they had not shared with you. 

Start by saying that you care about them and are concerned about their behavior. Then broach the secret without judgment. Your friend may open up to you, but if not, wait until they are ready.

If your friend's secret is not destructive, you can still inquire about it. Before you do, consider if the secret directly involves you—if it doesn't, it may not be worth the confrontation. Again, their reasons for hiding it may have nothing to do with you at all. Some people keep stricter privacy than others. Not every friendship means sharing every tidbit of important information; a friend may feel completely justified by keeping you in the dark, and may not intend to hurt you in doing so. 

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