Having Thanksgiving with your significant other’s parents can be a rough time. They might be complete strangers to you, or people you’ve visited a few times before, or they might be people that you have come to know quite well if you and your wife/girlfriend have been together for a long time; still, no matter how long or short you have known them there is no guarantee that they like you or are going to make the special holiday easy for you. So it is best to come prepared with an arsenal of rapport building maneuvers, smooth off-the-cuff remarks, and a generally laid back attitude that is hard to disrupt. Here are a couple of skills you can add to your repertoire to lubricate the joints and keep everything running smoothly.
Read the latest issue of The Economist before visiting. Chances are if they are the parents of your girlfriend or wife they are at least twenty years older than you, which means they pay more attention to current events, politics, and real world issues than they do reality TV, pop culture, and recent romantic comedies. A simple understanding of current events from the last week or so will make you appear to be well read, intelligent, and worldly and won’t take you more than a couple of hours to attain. Even if they don’t pay much attention to world politics, harmless comments regarding what you have gleaned will make you seem wiser than your years – a great demonstration of your value in front of a girl’s parents.
Make sure you know how to cook something; anything, really. Either bring something fabulous that you made on your own (don’t cheat and buy something, they’ll probably out you as a poseur) or make something there with them watching your amazing kitchen prowess. This shows that you aren’t a complete fool at domestic tasks, which always makes you appear in control and gives you a great subject for conversation i.e. your cooking skills, your history with learning to cook, how you made the dish etc. It’s a nice harmless conversation that can’t offend anyone by accident.
It’s not that hard to have a smooth holiday with the in-laws, especially if you come prepared. Don’t just show up with nothing to share and nothing to talk about, take the time and apply the effort to add to the conversation, contribute to the meal, and try not to bring up politics, religion, or previous girlfriends – as long as you stay away from those three conversation killing subjects you should have an easy holiday with no regrets.