“Be genuinely interested in everyone you meet and everyone you meet will be genuinely interested in you.”—Rasheed Ognlaru
If you’re lucky, you’ve already met bae’s parentals by now, but for many, the holiday season is prime time to introduce their significant other to the family. To many, the idea of introducing a new flame to their family all at once is appealing. You don’t have to set up separate lunches or dinners, and if all hell breaks loose and your mate doesn’t hit it off with them, a family gathering makes for plenty of opportunity to step out of the spotlight.
But if we’re being honest, there’s a significant amount of pressure that comes with meeting your mate’s family, especially during the holidays. Here are a few dos and don’ts of meeting the family this festival season.
1. Do Have a Pleasant Demeanor
While it’s good to be honest, it probably isn’t a good idea to unload all of your problems on your mate’s family during your first encounter. I remember when I interviewed famed comedian Charlie Murphy a few years back. We were talking about always having to be “on,” even in moments when everything is falling apart behind the scenes. No matter what you’re dealing with, try to remain pleasant and kind to everyone you meet while in their presence. First impressions aren’t necessarily everything, but they do mean a lot.
2. Don’t Be Fake
You can never go wrong by being genuine. It’s a little easy to hold back a bit when you first meet someone, but being someone completely different is never the answer. After all, the reason why you even made it to the “meeting the family” stage is because your mate saw who you were. Don’t allow your uncertainty or the pressure of making a good first impression dull that fact.
People will either like you or they won’t. Whatever the outcome, it’s always best to be adored for who you really are, as opposed to being liked for who people think you are.
3. Do Find an Authentic Connection
You’re not going to mesh well with every single person. Some folks will not like you because they do not like themselves, but elevator conversations are the worse. If you can, attempt to find an authentic connection with your mate’s family members, especially his or her parents. Ask them questions about themselves, like where they work, their hobbies, vacation plans. Once you find a commonality, you can move on from entry-level conversations and work to foster a deeper connection. People love talking about themselves, and having an exchange about something you both can relate to makes it more enjoyable for everyone.
4. Don’t Show Up Empty-Handed
It might seem a little petty, but showing up empty-handed could be frowned upon, depending on the type of family your mate was raised in. Bringing a pound cake, a bottle of Prosecco or an apple pie could never hurt… unless Mama Dukes bakes her pies from scratch.
Besides saving yourself from possibly being called a freeloader, bringing a contribution says that you are considerate and thoughtful of others. So stop by the store and bring a family favorite—after consulting your significant other, of course.
5. Do Keep an Open Mind
No matter how many fun facts your mate can tell you about his or her family, there’s no real way to have a rock-solid expectation of how the meeting will go. People are riddled with emotions, unpredictable, and are navigating life at all times, so things are bound to switch up on occasion.
If you happen to witness or be a part of awkward moments, family drama or any other unflattering behaviors, brush it off your shoulder and don’t allow the situation to affect your relationship. Open mindedness is not an excuse to ignore potential red flags about your significant other’s family. It simply provides room for you not to get bent out of shape if things don’t go as expected.
Usually, when someone brings you around his/her loved ones, they’re thinking about or are already serious about you. Often we can learn more about our mate’s behaviors when we’ve met those closest to them. Meeting your mate’s family can be a very fun, informative and rewarding experience that you definitely should not shy away from.
Shantell E. Jamison is an editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Not confined to chasing headlines, this Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic is also the author of Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self.