How can I, a boring 30-something, begin to connect with a bored, depressed 25-yr-old who isolates himself?
January 3, 2010 3:27 PM   Subscribe

How can I, a boring 30-something, begin to connect with a bored, depressed 25-yr-old who isolates himself?

He's my little brother. While we both love and admire each other, we haven't been in touch very often since I moved out over 10 years ago. I live several hundred miles away from him.

It's my plan to find his preferred mode of communication and just touch base with him on a regular basis without being overbearing, and without expecting much in the way of reciprocation. I expect, when I ask him about what's going on in his life, that I'll get a brief "nothing much." What kinds of things could I write/talk about? What kinds of things could I ask him to make him comfortable and draw him out? What specific questions could I ask him about himself to get to know him better as he is now, without it seeming like a cold interview or uncomfortable, stilted exchange?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My sister isn't particularly chatty, so I'll find out from others in my family what she's done recently, and ask her about that. If there's something in the news which I think may have been of interest to her, I'll bring that up, as well as anything I've done recently.

We've had communication problems for a while, and finally discussed them this Christmas, agreeing to make more of an effort and just generally be extra nice to each other, is this something you two could try?
posted by ellieBOA at 3:41 PM on January 3, 2010

Offer him the opportunity to vent. If he is bored, depressed, and isolated there are things that are bothering him. Oft times, depressed persons would love the chance to express the ills of the world if only someone will pay attention, and not be condescending.

As you get him to open up to you, this will provide more avenues to pursue such as what he would really like to do with his future if given the chance. Eventually it can expand to books he has read, movies he has watched, girls he has crushed over.

If you can get into his head even just a little bit about why he is feeling the way he is, perhaps you can find that spark the will warm him to you. As someone who has previously been treated for depression, it was important to me when people demonstrated that they actually did care, and that what I was saying was more than just wind.
posted by netbros at 3:48 PM on January 3, 2010

If you want to express actual interest, don't ask general questions like "what's going on in your life?" It sounds like just a small talk "wassup?" and someone not prone to chattiness isn't just going to start listing stuff off. Ask what he did today, or yesterday, or for New Year's, how the job is going and what he does in his job (or school), or what he's trying to do. Ask about specifics.
posted by rhizome at 3:50 PM on January 3, 2010

Best answer: What about inviting him to stay with you for a weekend and showing him the kind of a good time you would show a regular friend, including behavior that your parents might frown upon? I think a huge barrier between family members whether siblings or cousins is the feeling that you have to set a good example and not "corrupt" the younger family member. If he spends some time with you on your turf without any parental vibes in place, he may open up, and based on what you learn, you can foster a deeper connection with him.
posted by katemcd at 4:05 PM on January 3, 2010

Best answer: In addition to finding the right topics, it will be important to find the right mode of communication. Follow the path of least resistance. If he's that age, he's online a lot via computer or phone or both, and it's just a question of his favored method/zone of communication. You or I might pick up the phone, or failing that do email, but he might do something else most often. Facebook is a probable example, but his isolation could complicate that for all we know. Maybe he texts. Tweeting would be a bit public. Maybe he IMs. Maybe he's in an MMORPG or MMO social world a lot. Maybe he blogs or hangs out in an online community.

If you can communicate via his native method (and it doesn't seem lame or intrusive like when Mom tries to friend you, becoming an unwelcome invader in your personal space), you'll be more likely to be welcomed in, will have more exposure to the types of things that naturally interest him, and will cater more towards his preferences in terms of the duration, frequency, and level of detail of his communications.
posted by kookoobirdz at 5:11 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My brother and I frequently discuss (read: gossip) about family members and mutual friends--is that something you guys could do at all? Also, I think sharing minutiae can be a good way to start build a relationship...can you talk about something you've cooked lately, or books/tv/movies, or complain about work, something like that? You might get better responses if you ask specifics, like "what was the last movie you saw?" vs "what have you been up to lately?".

Or you could share metafilter with him, if he might be interested--then you could talk about recent posts or links.
posted by min at 5:32 PM on January 3, 2010

He plays World of Warcraft. I don't know a lot about it. How viable a meet-up place would it be? I imagine he'd be busy shooting dwarves, and not keen on being interrupted while he's doing it. Have I got the wrong idea?

I, on the other hand, hang out in Second Life quite a bit. I've considered inviting him in, but I think he'd grow bored of it pretty quickly, in light of the more game-like WoW waiting for him.

Maybe we could show each other our virtual worlds.

I suspect I'll need a texting plan.

Seeing each other face-to-face last month sans parents gave us a great kick-start, so you're right on the money, katemcd. We won't have another opportunity for at least a year.

Great suggestions so far, thank you.
posted by moira at 6:19 PM on January 3, 2010

Oh excellent moira, I was just going to ask you what he's into!

You don't want to come off as overbearing. Nor do you want to make him feel like you're stepping into his private "thing" and making it public. He probably considers WOW to be a refuge from that sort of thing.

Would you be willing to set up a WOW account and start playing on your own? You could email him questions about the game, ask for advice, that kind of thing.

In other words, put it out there that you're playing, but make it clear that you're letting him come to you. It may take a while before he trusts that you aren't planning to use WOW to ambush or snoop on him.

If you can build that trust, I think the two of you could have a lot of fun together.
posted by ErikaB at 6:27 PM on January 3, 2010

I wouldn't think of WoW as a meeting place so much as a vehicle for getting to know each other. Sort of a "Hey bro, I tried ABC because this one time in real life CDF, but want to know XYZ" etc. Conversations can play off of that naturally. And maybe you two can go kill some trolls or whatever in the meantime. I'd consider that alone bonding time, in a guy sort of way, so long as you aren't depending on him to get you through things too much.
posted by jwells at 5:44 AM on January 4, 2010

Best answer: You should both get Google Reader and do the "share" thing. that is working for me in a similar situation. We share our favorite "people of walmart" and "there, I fixed it" blog posts, and serious news too, of course.

I've found that the subject of food is the best ice breaker. You can discuss favorite junk food, recipes, cooking techniques. Favorite tv chefs, hated tv chefs, favorite restaurants, worst restaurants. Discuss whether to eat vegetarian, why is everyone so fat these days, anorexia, bulimia, agriculture policies, world hunger. You could share favorite foodie blog posts on Google Reader. There has to be something about food that you can agree on and share.
posted by cda at 7:44 AM on January 6, 2010

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