Impressing your new girlfriend is one thing, but getting on her parent's good side requires an entirely approach. Even though you've got the girl, the fact of the matter is her parents' opinion is important, and if this girl really likes you, she'll be eager for you to get a thumbs up. So, when she asks them sixty four thousand dollar question, "Mom, Dad, what do you think of him!?," give them something good to talk about.
Do some RECON
Getting some background information about her folks is your prime directive. Doing your homework will reduce the pressure you feel about making a good impression and you'll walk in with confidence because it's like you know them already. You'll have insight into things to talk about, the subjects you should stay away from, and the things you have in common.
Use your girlfriend to get the inside scoop. Ask her what she thinks you need to know for the meeting to go well, and don't assume that her parents are going to have the personality that's similar to hers. Find out the basics, such as their family structure (how many siblings, previous marriages, etc.), what they do for a living, have they taken any trips in the last year, and what their passions are, e.g. sailing. If you're still feeling a bit unsure about it all, do some research about their interests and use what you've to engage them.
Even though you aren't meeting her siblings, if she's got brother, get some background on him too. Mentioning stuff you have in common with the bro e.g. you both played competitive football or you're in the same line of work, will automatically make her folks warm up to you because you remind them of their son.
The fact that you're doing all this fact finding will probably win you some points with girlfriend. Your efforts demonstrate that it's important to you to make a good impression on her family and that you're interested in getting to know the people she cares a lot about.
How to talk to Mom and Dad
Hopefully her folks aren't the type to scrutinize or judge, and even if they aren't, if you aren't on the ball, things have a way of going from good to bad in a matter of minutes (think Greg Focker from Meet the Parents).
Since you don't know them very well, start off with some basic small talk to ease into the conversation and feel each other out. Avoid taking over the conversation; it's more polite to give them the first opportunity to direct the flow of conversation. If there are moments of silence, don't try to fill them in with the first thing that pops in your head. Let them happen! They're an opportunity for everyone to soak up what's just been discussed and a chance for you take a mental rest.
The best thing you can do is focus on listening to their responses rather than preparing for what you're going to say next. Doing so will not only ease your nerves, it'll make the dialogue more engaging for all parties. Be polite yet personable, and remember to stay relaxed!
How to deal with the tough questions
If her folks are protective, you may face a barrage of questions, ranging from "what are your intentions with my daughter?" to, "are you aware that she's planning to apply to Yale next year?" They key here is to keep your composure. Be confident, answer realistically, and most importantly, anticipate their concerns with some thoughtfully constructed responses. (See next section)
Prepare your case
If you're going in with some strikes against you, e.g. no job, no car, no schooling, etc., prepare an explanation that would appear reasonable -or at least forgivable- even the most protective parents. Use your goals and future plans to fill in the cracks, and above all, try to stay as close to the truth as possible. Otherwise, you'll trip up on the facts of your story, especially if get nervous or they ask for more details. Even if you're a stand up guy, you don't want to give the slightest hint of being a bullshitter.
Getting on their good side
Since you've done your meet-the-parents homework, you've more than likely come across information that you can use to your advantage. Touch upon the topics that you know will appeal to mom and pop and don't forget to slip in some personal details about yourself that you know they'll appreciate like, "Susie tells me you'd like to take up motorcycling. I've been riding for a few years now and I really enjoy it. Are you considering taking any courses?"
Compliments go a long way but but they can easily be construed as sucking up, so the rule of thumb is be gracious but don't overdo it. Additionally, be punctual for the meet up, avoid using curse words, and dress appropriately, erring on the side of clean and conservative. Also, keep jokes and long, drawn out anecdotes to a minimum until you get a sense of their humor and personalities.
1. You're picking her up for a date
Since you've made plans to go out and do something, you've only got a short amount of time to work with. Approach her family with a relaxed, congenial greeting, make some small talk, and give them some deets on where you're taking their daughter. Tell them about the restaurant you're taking her to --"They make the some of the best pasta dishes in town"-- or some interesting quips about the activities you've planned --"Your daughter has been raving about this band for months. I heard they put on a great show!"
2. You're coming over for dinner
Here's the low down on good meet-the-parents dinner behavior. Since they're going all this way to prepare a meal for you, don't come empty handed. If they're comfortable with alcohol, bring a bottle of wine, or if there aren't any diabetics in the house, dessert. Bringing flowers is also an option -it's usually instant points with mom- but you should probably find out from your girl which niceties would be best received.
Parents can tell a lot about a person from their table manners and dinner conduct, so politeness is critical. Pass food to others first -especially your girlfriend- before plating up yourself, and you can even go so far as to spoon it out for them. Try to eat all or most of what you're served, and take small helpings from a dish you're unsure of. If something appeals to you, pay a sincere compliment to the chef; don't go overboard or you'll sound like a git. At the end of the dinner, thank them for the meal, maybe slip in another compliment or two, and subtly offer to clear the dishes.
If you want to give yourself an "out" to avoid having to stay there too long after dinner, mention that you have an early start to the day or that you have to put the finishing touches on a paper that's due the next day -they'll probably like that you're being so responsible.
If her parents' first impression of you is a thumbs down, all hope isn't lost because at the end of the day, it's the two of you that need to be happy together. Even though you aren't the son-in-law of their dreams to begin with, they will eventually warm up to you when they realize how happy you make their daughter.
Posted: 24 Aug 07:50
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