Top 10 Tips for Meeting the In-Laws

By Elizabeth Kuhnke

In-laws, out-laws, whatever you want to call them, these are the people who might view you with suspicion, distrust, and outright resentment. These are the people who can make your life miserable or magnificent. These are the people whose favor you want to garner. How you behave towards them influences how they behave towards you.

Demonstrating respect to in-laws

When meeting your beloved’s parents for the first time, treat them with respect. Of course, you should always treat people with respect, and no less so than when you want them to like you.

Following the leader — letting your in-laws show you the way

Observe how they behave and model what you see and hear. For example, if you notice that they’re contained in their gestures, measured in their movements, and restricted in their use of facial gestures, you’d be misadvised to bound into their territory like an unbridled stallion during mating season.

Standing tall when dealing with in-laws

Pull in your stomach, lift your chest, and lower your shoulders. Plant your feet firmly under your knees and hips to give you a sense of strength and pride.

Shaking hands with your in-laws

Unless you’re the one doing the entertaining, wait for the in-laws to offer their hands as a sign of greeting. Striding into their territory while thrusting out your hand, even as a sign of friendship, is a bit presumptuous.

Looking the in-laws in the eye

Unless your culture decrees otherwise, establish and maintain eye contact. Avoid staring as that can make others feel scrutinized, and while that may be what you’re doing, you don’t want to come across as an interrogator.

Showing interest in your in-laws

Even if his passion for star gazing makes you shudder and her penchant for needlepoint leaves you bleary eyed, pretend that you’re interested. Lean into the conversation, nod in appreciation, and keep your eyes focused on the other person and what they’re showing you. The more interest you show, the more interesting people think you are.

Smiling for success when meeting the in-laws

When you’re meeting someone for the first time, especially if this person is potentially important to you, smile. Most people respond positively to a warm and welcoming smile. Just leave the raucous laughter and black slapping for a night out with your friends.

Minding your manners around your in-laws

Scratching your head and picking your teeth and nose at the table are unacceptable behaviors. Get your elbows off the table and don’t gesture while holding your cutlery. When engaging in conversation over a meal, never speak with food in your mouth.

Keeping calm around the in-laws

Fidgeting fingers and flipping feet are clear signs of nervous energy. Unconscious body signals can indicate worry, anxiety, and a state of unease. Give yourself mental messages to contain your energy and put it to positive use. You could offer to set the table, pour the drinks, or help serve.

Breathing around your in-laws

Meeting people who you hope will like you can be a nerve-wracking experience. To make your nervous energy work for you, breathe deeply into your core, allowing your lower abdomen and rib cage to expand while your upper chest remains still. By breathing deeply, you gain physical and mental strength.