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I'm seeking a word the opposite end of the conversation to a confidante. Somewhat like the opposite end of the conversation to a confessor and indeed any word used in this religious context as the counterpart to a confessor might be a good figurative fit.

I am describing the solace that a hurting human being can find in having someone sincerely listen to the story of their distress, without judgement, moralizing or "advice". Just finding someone who will empathize with them sincerely.

All the usual words I can think of (like "supplicant", "pleader", "petitioner", ....) are in roughly the right neighborhood, but imply someone who seeks a particular goal or someone perhaps seeking gain.

I want a word that conveys the vulnerability of a pleader in this case. Someone who just needs to connect sincerely with someone else, without material gain.

For context: i am writing about trauma someone like a cancer patient or a parent of a child with a profound disability sometimes experiences when they cannot find someone who will simply sincerely listen without needing to judge or solve the problem, the latter being a behavior that i feel many people unconsciously slip into to soothe their own awkwardness with the situation of the person seeking comfort. Here is my sentence in progress:

"They .. sometimes seem to have little concept of the solace that a hurting human being can find in having someone else listen to and quietly acknowledge that person’s story, however awkward a listener might find it, without judgement, dogmata, moralizing or 'helpful advice' ('I was only trying to help!!!') that many use to soothe their own discomfort at the imperfect and awkward situation of their interlocutor."

I'm looking to replace "interlocutor" (which i so hate but it's all i can come up with) in this sentence.

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  • 1
    A victim? Can you include a sample sentence for context, as is required of this type of question?
    – Laurel
    Nov 4 '20 at 19:50
  • Thanks @Laurel. No, victim is too extreme. An everyday vulnerable person seeking empathy. See the example i give. Nov 4 '20 at 20:03
  • Solace-seeker. There’s a title-question conflict; does this person want help or just to be heard?
    – Xanne
    Nov 5 '20 at 5:58
  • I think you'll need an adjective to import the connotations you seek. "... suffering friend" "unfortunate soul" "unhappy wretch"
    – Ben
    Nov 5 '20 at 8:04
  • @Xanne Your use of the word "just" is interesting. The person wants to be helped by being heard. It is uniquely important to them and the crux of OP's point, who specifically calls this out... "they cannot find someone who will simply sincerely listen without needing to judge or solve the problem".
    – Colm
    Nov 5 '20 at 9:18
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"They .. sometimes seem to have little concept of the solace that a hurting human being can find in having someone else listen to and quietly acknowledge that person’s story, however awkward a listener might find it, without judgement, dogmata, moralizing or 'helpful advice' ('I was only trying to help!!!') that many use to soothe their own discomfort at the imperfect and awkward situation of the sufferer." (or person who is suffering)

Is this too obvious to be useful? I understand what you are looking for.

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  • No, i actually think it's a good suggestion, and it may be my fallback. I can't help thinking there might have been a counterpart to "confidante". In any case, it's heaps better than "interlocutor", which comes from my "conversation"- fixated view of the situation. Maybe i just need to look at the person differently: i'm focussing on the "conversation". Nov 4 '20 at 21:05
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Difficult. I suggest suppliant (noun from adjective) as a possible alternative to supplicant although the meanings are almost identical.

Suppliant = humbly imploring : ENTREATING “a suppliant sinner seeking forgiveness”

Merriam Webster

A suppliant seeking advice. A suppliant seeking opinions or help.

“humble” has the specified connotation of vulnerability.

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  • I wasn't aware of this word. It is a really good one. The only hesitation i have is its lack of common use, definitely if it bears the connotation of entreating. Unfortunately i don't have usage experience for and thus the feelings evoked by this word, and i suspect not many of my readers would either. Nov 17 '20 at 20:18
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Etymologically, the word ought to be

  • "miser" in the sense of "one who should be pitied" but that is archaic, or
  • "wretch" in the sense of "one who is outcast",

But both those carry such heavy connotations that they would not be understood rightly in this sentence.

If it must be a single word, "sufferer" is probably your best bet, or perhaps "confider", but consider using an adjective, e.g. "unhappy soul"

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To go by the title, the counterpoint to "confidante" is "confider" - the person who is doing the confiding.

I'm not sure in your example "their own discomfort at the imperfect and awkward situation of their confider." reads quite correctly but "of the person confiding in them" seems more accurate if a bit longer.

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You might consider complainant. While it has a legalistic meaning, it can also mean "one who complains" in a general sense; and the word thereby focuses on what the "interlocutor" is telling the "confessor". The OED definition is

2.a. gen. One who complains, a complainer. b. spec. One who complains of ill-health.

However, the legalistic connotation may conflict with your desire to avoid meanings involving "personal gain".

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It's completely normal with SWRs that the answer is simply

"There's no such word."

In this case ... "there's no such word."

No need to search torturously.

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