My oldest mate has put on a lot of weight. He’s a heavy drinker and his diet is pretty awful. On top of all that, he’s got a stressful job and his marriage looks to be on shaky ground. I’m worried about his health both physical and mental. What’s the best way to encourage him to look after himself? We don’t really talk much about this type of thing.
The Expert: Dr Kieran Kennedy, Medical Doctor and Psychiatry Resident
1. Show that you care
It can be pretty difficult for a lot of guys to broach this sort of topic with mates, but there definitely are some tactics. One of the things that can often hold us back is the fear that your mate might react to your words as criticism. We worry they might hear it like: “Man, your life’s getting out of control – you need to sort it out!”
That’s why approaching the subject from a position of concern can be a good way to lead into it.
Let your mate know that you are feeling worried about him and that you’re coming from that place first and foremost. A tip can be to lead into it by opening up and being vulnerable and frank yourself. So you might say something like “Look mate, I’m saying this because I’m actually worried about you and I care about what happens to you.”
2. Talk shoulder to shoulder
What often helps make these situations less confrontational is by doing something at the same time as your conversation. Men are often active thinkers and ‘doers’.
With difficult or vulnerable topics, men tend to communicate best shoulder to shoulder. So you might talk about this when you’re, say, driving in the car or going for a run. That way, you’re not face-to-face and it’s less confrontational for you both.
3. Get involved
We also know that when it comes to men’s physical and mental health, your social circle can have a big impact. If your friends display what we call “positive health behaviours”, then you’re more likely to adopt some of those benefits. So if you’re mixing with people who exercise regularly for example then you’re more likely to do the same. Alternatively, if you’re closest with people who are taking more risks with their health like heavy alcohol or drug use, then you’re often more likely to partake in those things as well.
With that in mind, you might try broaching this discussion with your mate through your own involvement. You might say: “I’ve been thinking about cutting down my drinking or I might start running again. I wondered if you might want to join me on that?”
4. Share your own problem
Another trick is to equalize things by confronting the issue from the perspective of what’s happening for you in your life. So in this case you might start by sharing something about how things have been stressful lately for you and your partner too. This can be a great lead in to then asking: “So how are you finding things with your wife?”
It’s a way to show you’re both on the same page. You don’t want it to seem like you’re saying he needs to sort his life out while you’ve got everything under control. It’s more about trying to present it as a normal issue that a lot of men share.
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