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These 8 Tips Will Help You a Lot When Meeting Your Partner’s Parents for the First Time

These 8 Tips Will Help You a Lot When Meeting Your Partner’s Parents for the First Time

Meeting the parents is an important milestone in any intimate relationship for all involved.  As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and first impressions matter.

Not convinced? First impressions matter so much that scientists study them. As shared by Forbes, Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov and student researcher Janine Willis asked a wide cross-section of subjects to look at a microsecond of a video of a political candidate. With only that microsecond to go on, research subjects obtained a 70% accuracy rating in predicting who would win the election. What can we all take away from this study? People can make accurate snap judgments in a tenth of a second.

Are you worried about how to navigate those potentially rocky waters of meeting your partner’s parents for the first time? Keep these 8 tips in mind and your relationship will be off to a smooth start.

1. Remember that it’s about all of you.

Most men and women worry about the parent’s impression, the partner’s impression, the cat’s impression, and everything under the sun when they meet the parents for the first time. Remember that this occasion is also about you. This meeting is a valuable opportunity to learn more about your partner. Pay attention to their parent’s mannerisms, home, and how they treat each other. No matter what the current state of your partner’s relationship with them is, the parent’s influence was a powerful one in shaping future expectations of intimate relationships.

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What can you learn about your partner from this new perspective into their family life?  Do you like what you see?  What troubles you?  Did you enjoy their time? How you do you feel at the end of the evening? Be honest with yourself – like anyone you know, there will be things you consider positive and those that deter you. The more clarity with which you view them, the better you can evaluate your bond with your partner and stay on the same page as you move toward the future.

2. Maintain perspective.

How big a deal is “meeting the parents?” It depends. If families are far-flung and meeting them requires travel, a holiday, or another momentous occasion, then yes, it’s definitely a big deal. If everyone lives in the same neighborhood and your partner first introduces you when you run into each other in the supermarket, then things are more casual. Ask your partner how important this occasion is to them, and be clear about where this meeting falls on the “serious, committed relationship” scale to you.

Some people highly value their parents’ opinions, or have unique care taking or other logistical arrangements with their parents, and prefer partners to meet them early on; some don’t give two shakes what their parents think and will see them in the pew when you two are at the altar. Bottom line – don’t stress, and don’t assume that meeting the parents necessarily means more than it does.

3. Realize how much you don’t know.

Whether you meet the parents in their home or in a public space, you are guaranteed to learn something about your partner during the meeting. Remember that these folks have decades of history together, complete with insides jokes, embarrassing stories, and detailed knowledge of each other. Work hard not to react to anything you hear – there is likely context that your partner will explain to you later, and there’s a good chance that jokes and stories that sound like they happened yesterday actually took place years ago.

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If you are past the age of 18, there is also an extremely good chance that you are not the first one your partner has ever brought home (really, would you want to be?), and that “meeting the parents” likely hasn’t gone swimmingly well in the past every time. The first meeting is all about composure – maintain yours.

4. Be there for your partner.

Most folks resort to humor to cut nervous tension, and families pretty much exist to share embarrassing stories. Some families also include nosy or maliciously minded individuals who will pry and push for information. Remember that this first meeting is just that – a first meeting. You wouldn’t have teased your partner incessantly on your first date, embarrassed them, or revealed exceedingly personal information, would you? Of course not. So don’t do it now.

Sure, down the road you can tease your partner with their family, but save that for later. Giggling is alright; ganging up on your partner in a quest to be accepted by the parents is not. Respect your partner’s privacy and the sanctity of your relationship at all times, and deflect all attempts to learn private information about your relationship with your partner.

5. Cut the parents some slack.

Think you’re nervous, excited, stressed, eager, or every other emotion under the sun? So are they. You’ll probably say something you wish you could take back, blurt out a joke that isn’t that funny, drop your napkin, or some other detail you agonize over on the car ride home. So will they.

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Take a deep breath, relax, and don’t judge any more than you wish to be judged. Remember, these people are important to your partner. It may have taken a few meetings to realize that you partner is amazing, your best friend is great to hang out with, that dog you eventually adopted is the right pet for you – give the parents some time, too.

6. Have a gift in hand and kind words on your lips.

No matter what you’re doing, where, when, what time of day, in what season – never arrive empty handed. But what gift to bring? Go for something the mother will like, and present the gift directly to her. Not only do classic rules of etiquette dictate presenting the hostess with a gift, but there are valuable “family goodwill” points to be gained by courting the mother’s favor. Not sure about her tastes, food allergies, or other considerations? Pick up a bouquet of flowers. On a super tight budget? Bake something – whether they like it or not, the effort will be noticed and appreciated.

Be appropriately generous with compliments throughout the evening, whether on a style of dress or the parents’ home, and send a handwritten “thank you” after the event.

7. Reciprocate.

Did the parents pick up the tab for the evening, or welcome you to their home? Reciprocate by hosting them the next time, or treating them to a meal or experience. Establishing you and your partner as mature adults who care about the parents will go a long way in the good will department and lay the foundation for the mutual respect that is a part of every ideal relationship. Added bonus: you’ll likely be able to relax and enjoy the second meeting a little more, especially on your home turf or a bit more on your terms.

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8. Relax, and enjoy.

The point of meeting the parents is that because you care about your partner, you could see them in your life for a while to come…. maybe even forever. That time is a lot happier, more peaceful, productive, and supportive if you all get along. They don’t have to be your favorite people, but you all do have something in common – love for your partner, who happens to be their child. So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your time with new folks. They did something right if your partner turned out the way they did, so no matter how this meeting goes, it should be an occasion to celebrate.

Mastered the parent thing? Check out these other 10 Keys To A Successful Romantic Relationship.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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