Anxiety levels are destined to soar when confronted with an initial meeting with your partner’s parents. To minimise the risk of things going awry, here are three topics to simply avoid in such situations.
1. Politics – You can’t guard against this topic coming up, but you can surely avoid raising it. The problem with discussing politics with people you barely know is the high probability of inadvertently offending them. The whole point of meeting the parents is to win them over to augment your relationship. Getting the folks on side will make the relationship run so much smoother for years to come.
One opposing view shared openly will distort the way the parents view you. They will begin to formulate rules and assumptions about your upbringing and worldview and will inevitably start to worry about the impact this could have on their child and future grandchildren. By all means contribute a moderate opinion that includes educated points for both sides, but do not push a view that could alienate you.
2. Religion – Much the same as politics, raising views on religion in a first meeting exposes you to unfavourable appraisals.
If it becomes clear the parents follow a particular denomination and the topic comes up, you should feel free to offer some relevant benign insights (e.g., your impression of the Vatican City where you holidayed last year). Do not go into the downsides of religion or how you were raised following a different religion or agnostic. This could be interpreted as a criticism and it will make rapport building very clunky.
3. The past and the future – The parents will inevitably have sussed out your background through your partner prior to the meeting, so their main aim is to meet you and see how well you ‘click’ and ‘fit in’ with their family. Sticking to topics related to the present moment means you are less likely to step on a past or future ‘landmine’.
For example, discussing why you brought a certain bottle of wine versus your hopes and dreams for the future. It also bodes well in terms of shutting up and asking about them. People rarely remember what people say but they always remember how someone made them feel. Asking meaningful questions about the parents will show them you care enough about your partner to truly get to know them.