In my professional and personal life I've been trying to listen more and talk less. I tend to offer my thoughts/opinions/judgments where they're not needed and I'd like to stop doing that. It's been bugging me to find a name for a person who isn't so loose with their thoughts/opinions/judgements. The name for a person one might say "Oh yeah, David, he's a very ______ kind of person." Someone beyond reproach keeping gossip and such to themselves...

  • James 1:19 ESV "let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak..."
    – thomj1332
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 15:10
  • 4
    maybe "Swedish" ?
    – Fattie
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 16:16
  • 1
    The closest match to what you're looking for, I think, is discreet, which Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) defines as "having or showing discernment or good judgment in conduct and esp in speech : PRUDENT; esp : capable of preserving prudent silence." Another possibility is circumspect, which MW defines as "careful to consider all circumstances and possible consequences : PRUDENT." And of course prudent itself is a valid option, albeit one with a wider of breadth of meanings than either discreet or circumspect.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 19:22
  • This isn't a single word, but I've always liked "he plays his cards close to his chest."
    – Ghotir
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 14:01
  • I would say 'judicious'.
    – user207421
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 22:50

20 Answers 20


I like "reserved" for this purpose.



Slow to reveal emotion or opinions.

"he is a reserved, almost taciturn man"

  • 5
    I like reserved over reticent because reserved suggests a behavior one adopts consciously, intentionally while reticent suggests a more reactive behavior. I choose to be reserved versus I am forced to be reticent.
    – Lonnie
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 17:47
  • 1
    I'd agree that being reserved or considered are positive virtues whereas reticent or tight-lipped suggest reluctance, possibly refusal to engage or hiding something (a reticent or tight-lipped politician, for example, would likely be a negative thing).
    – John U
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 10:07

I like tight-lipped.

: reluctant to speak; taciturn [Webster's]

She was tight-lipped when asked about her last boyfriend.

Taciturn isn't bad either.

  • 2
    I wouldn't use this. Tight-lipped has a negative connotation. It's almost like when you are tight-lipped you are withholding information rather than just being careful with your words and speech.
    – ashley
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 18:53

I believe reticent is exactly the word you're looking for. It means you don't talk about your own thoughts and such readily.

From Oxford Living Dictionaries

(adj.) Not revealing one's thoughts or feelings readily.
‘she was extremely reticent about her personal affairs’

  • 2
    To me reticent carries a connotation of 'not wanting to reveal'. Our OP otoh 'wants to not reveal'. I can't actually decide if that's a real difference or not, perhaps he wants to be reticent? Either way, good word.
    – Spagirl
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 9:28
  • 1
    @Spagirl. I would say that reticent is a reference to the individual's behavior; their motivation is irrelevant. Commented May 10, 2017 at 16:11
  • Interesting. Before reading your answer, I was unaware that reticent had any definition other than "reluctant, hesitant." Upon looking it up, I discovered that that's a lower-ranking definition, established within the last century. I had no idea! Honestly, I'm curious how many younger speakers would even be aware that reticent can mean "reserved, taciturn" and such.
    – bubbleking
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 17:26

I believe 'judicious' is a good word to describe such a person who doesn't offer unsolicited advise, doesn't pass judgement easily.

Judicious -

using or showing judgment as to action or practical expediency; discreet, prudent, or politic: Example: judicious use of one's money.

having, exercising, or characterized by good or discriminating judgment; wise, sensible, or well-advised: a judicious selection of documents.

  • 1
    It's a great word but I have two objections here: 1. it doesn't really suggest one's outward behavior in a social situation; it only suggests how one comports oneself and guides oneself. 2. today, most forms of judgement are viewed negatively. For example, as undesirable prejudice. So, many who hear "judicious" will assume the speaker meant that the person was arrogant, obnoxious, vocal in their opinions - and this would be almost exactly the opposite of what was intended to be implied.
    – Lonnie
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 17:48
  • 2
    @Lonnie 1) In social situations, this person weighs every words before they speak it. so this person may appear to be reserved while they're just thinking about possibly the impact of their words / implications of sharing them at a certain time / in a certain setting. 2) Based on this definition, a judicious person is not judging others. The person is judging his options and using the wisest / most sensible one.. Commented May 9, 2017 at 22:20
  • I am talking about the interpretation of the word "judicious" versus the user's intention and its accurate meaning. I agree that a judicious person is not judgmental.
    – Lonnie
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 18:59

Considered is sometimes used with the opposite sense to 'hasty / outspoken':

He is a considered and reflective man.

Notice that 'He is considered' sounds weird without the padding.

I think one would need to look in OED for this sense.

  • I think this is a good answer. Have you had a look in the OED? What did it say? Commented May 10, 2017 at 10:20
  • OED requires a subscription or a visit to the library. Commented May 10, 2017 at 20:04

I think your question is actually asking for two different words. Someone who listens rather than speaks could be described as reflective as suggested above.

Someone who does not pass on gossip could be described as discreet

  • I agree that the description in the question is of two separate but complementary aspects of personality. I think discreet is good for the "beyond reproach keeping gossip and such to themselves" part. But for the first part, I think reflective is not quite right. Reflective implies self-reflection, whereas the description is really only talking about how much the person shares their thoughts, not how much the person thinks or what they think about. I think reserved, reticent, and taciturn are all better for that part. Commented May 9, 2017 at 22:29
  • May I suggest that you include dictionary references which will better support your solutions. I believe that reflective fits the bill quite nicely because (to me) it suggests someone who is quiet and thinks before they speak.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 6:30

Tactful. Addresses beyond reproach, gossip and such elements. Discreet also ticks these boxes, credit to the response by @Christian Palmer.

Reflective. Emphasises the listen more aspect.

  • 1
    +1 but I'd place the suggestion in bold for the TL;DR crowd. A dictionary citation would also be a bonus.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 6:28

If a phrase would suffice consider 'keeping one's (own) counsel'

keep one's counsel

  1. To keep one's own business private; to be discreet, careful, or circumspect in what one says concerning one's own thoughts, deeds, or situation.  
    • 1850, William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Pendennis, ch. 6: As he held his mother to him, he longed to tell her all, but he kept his counsel.
    • 1982, "Personal Power, Personal Hate," Time, 26 Jul.: Khomeini's approach to decision making is to keep his counsel at first, allowing the advocates of different options to debate issues openly.
  2. To keep a secret for someone else; to be discreet, careful, or circumspect in what one says concerning someone else's thoughts, deeds, or situation.  
    • 1822, Sir Walter Scott, The Fortunes of Nigel, ch. 8: I am sorry this is a matter I cannot aid you in—it goes against my conscience, and it is an affair above my condition, and beyond my management;—but I will keep your counsel.
    • 1871–72, George Eliot, Middlemarch, Chapter 49 Standish will keep our counsel, and the news will be old before it's known.

Source: Wiktionary


Thoughtful. This works well because it's a combination of someone who thinks things through before acting, and because it also means considerate.

  1. a. Given to careful thought; reflective

  2. Having or showing heed for the well-being or happiness of others and a propensity for anticipating their needs or wishes. (American Heritage)

"Oh yeah, David, he's a very thoughtful sort of person."

I chose this word over the others because this is a description you can feel good about if you overhear it by chance. Whereas the other words suggested so far don't have that warm, fuzzy feeling, feeling good about yourself if you overhear it.


David is a very trustworthy kind of person.

You can depend on him to behave with maturity, consideration and care in his personal and professional interactions.



  1. Capable of being depended upon: dependable, reliable, responsible, solid, sound, trusty.

  2. Worthy of belief, as because of precision or faithfulness to an original: authentic, authoritative, convincing, credible, faithful, true, valid.

The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

My answer is more general and speaks to the underlying quality missing when someone gossips, offers unsolicited advice or passes judgment. This behavior causes people to be defensive and feel unsafe. Trustworthiness is the antidote. If you haven't already, go listen to Aaron Burr's advice to Alexander Hamilton in the song, "Aaron Burr, Sir" from the Broadway musical Hamilton. Burr says to Hamilton, "Talk less. Smile more."


The word close may be used as an adjective describing a person, meaning taciturn, guarded, careful in speech. It also shows up in the idiom "he keeps his cards close to his vest", a reference to games of cards, where you do not want others to see your cards.


The word restrained works here.

"Oh yeah, David, he's a very restrained kind of person."


restrained ADJECTIVE

1 Characterized by reserve or moderation; unemotional or dispassionate.
‘he had restrained manners’

‘The count displays the inner calm, the ideal of restrained, and learned manners required of a gentleman.’


Taciturn: "tending not to speak much" (Cambridge English dictionary). "inclined to silence; reserved in speech; reluctant to join in conversation." (dictionary.com)

'Reserved' can apply to manner and behaviour; 'taciturn' applies specifically to speech.

If you mean 'thinks before they speak', perhaps 'measured' might work too.


To offer something different, laconic works here.

Using as few words as possible; pithy and concise.
From Latin Lacōnicus (“Spartan”), from Ancient Greek Λακωνικός (Lakōnikós, “Laconian”). Laconia was the region inhabited and ruled by the Spartans, who were known for their brevity in speech.

Has similar meaning to other suggestions but with less emotional connotation.


Meek: According to the New Testament, this person could be described as meek. James 1:19-21 ESV "...let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak...receive with meekness the implanted word." Of course, in context, it is referring to someone's humility to hear God's Word, but I think the quality could be applied in other contexts as well depending on what one is being meek to?


In common parlance a general term would be to say ' David is a really decent guy' this means that in general we have a high opinion of his character and behaviour. You could say he was ethical if he doesn't gossip. You could say was cool or trustworthy - meaning that you could share information with him without being sorry that you did 😎 however what you're talking about is very specific and words descibing that would really belong better in a sentence that discusses conversation.... Rather than discusses the person himself overall. I agree with 'discreet' if you say you have a problem you want to discuss with someone " try talking to David don't worry he's very discreet" for example.

It tends to be the case that there are a lot more words to describe a negative ! and a negative is more often discussed than a positive . in this case it would be more likely that somebody would say that you were : Indiscreet a Blabbermouth a Chatterbox a Windbag a Gossip that you like the sound of your own voice that you never stop talking that you go on and on ....that you're not a good listener that you're opinionated ... that you love to talk and so on


It sounds to me like the idea of what you're trying to convey is that of self-discipline. As in: "Oh yeah, David, he's very self-disciplined in his speech".

It also seems you might be hinting at intentionality. As in: "Oh yeah, David, he's very intentional in his choice of words".


"equable" seems like a good fit:

adjective (of a person) not easily disturbed or angered; calm and even-tempered. • not varying or fluctuating greatly: an equable climate.

  • How does this apply to someone who isn't loose-lipped? You can be equable but still gossip.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 10:38
  • My reasoning was that the impulse to talk out of place is triggered by emotions not kept in check. An even tempered person may still have the inappropriate or irrelevant ideas but doesn't feel compelled to express them. As for gossip, I don't believe that was a concern of the OP.
    – Alain T.
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 10:52

sto·ic ˈstōik/

noun: stoic; plural noun: stoics; noun: Stoic; plural noun: Stoics

  1. person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.

adjective: stoic; adjective: Stoic

  1. another term for stoical.

How about guarded?


guarded: Cautious and having possible reservations.

Example sentences:

‘he has given a guarded welcome to the idea’

‘Skylar stared at him for a minute, his expression carefully guarded and inscrutable.’

‘The drop in the number of serious firearms offences in West Yorkshire, against the national trend and for the second year running, deserves a guarded welcome.’

‘As for how that future might look, Nick is more guarded than others who've recently talked enthusiastically about what possibilities lie in store.’

‘But when asked to review Brigham City, an independent feature film by and about Mormons, I could only approach the task with guarded curiosity.’

‘In as far as he allows personal sentiment to show, he indicates a guarded, sceptical, knowledgeable and shrewd affection for both in about equal measure.’

‘There was a sort of guarded idealism of the need to promote democratic values, coupled with the tragic acceptance that such sacrifice would always be misinterpreted and caricatured.’

‘The Refugee Council gave a guarded welcome to the proposals, with particular support for the ending of the ‘demeaning’ voucher system.’

‘She gave a slight grin as well, though this one was carefully guarded.’

‘She quickly hid it back again, however, her eyes becoming guarded and wary yet again.’

‘In the light of all this, Paul probably would wonder about the times that we live our faith in guarded or cautious ways.’

‘He tried to entertain Holly the best he could, though she was probably scared senseless by the smell of tobacco and the guarded expression Poppy always wore under all circumstances.’

‘The question took him by surprise, and his eyes grew guarded and cautious, his own grip tightening as well.’

'The British Government gave a guarded welcome to the statement while stressing the need for the Good Friday Agreement to be implemented in full.’

‘At the same time, it is not to be denied that his words, when he answered, were carefully guarded, and that he rose to take his leave.’

‘I watched him carefully through guarded eyes and waited until I thought he had calmed down before I spoke again.’

‘There, though, the problems raised are only touched upon in a guarded fashion, with careful reservations and with a noticeable reluctance to arrive at a positive resolution.’

‘At present, his guarded manner and his reluctance to discuss his previous symptoms or violent behaviour make a detailed examination of his mental state extremely difficult.’

‘When she looks back on her days as a child actor, Follows is generally less careful, less guarded than she would have been at the time.’

‘It's easy to see why MacLeod has to remain guarded and wary of all those he encounters.’

‘Without specific or new intelligence, a guarded and selective response must be better than a blanket one.’

Your example sentence:

"Oh yeah, David, he's a very guarded kind of person."

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