They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and there’s even scientific evidence demonstrating that a first impression largely influences a person’s perception of another from that point forward. So, when it comes to meeting your partner’s parents, it’s never been more important to be at the top of your game and make a positive impact.
Even if you’re nervous, stressed, or don’t know what to expect, keep these tips in mind so you can make a positive first impression.
Prepare Ahead of Time
When meeting your partner’s parents for the first time, it’s important to enter the situation with as much information as possible. What are their names? What do they do? Are your partner's parents divorced? Is one parent deceased? Are they close with your partner?
When you head into the situation fully informed about the nuances and unique dynamic of your partner's family, you’ll be better equipped to make a more dynamic first impression.
Find Out the Details
Along the same lines, if you’re going to meet your partner’s parents for the first time, it’s also worth finding out the general plan for the day (or night). Are you having dinner at a restaurant? Eating Sunday brunch at their stepmother’s house? Staying at their dad’s place for the weekend?
Do your best to lessen any anxiety and stress that you’re feeling and go into the situation with a basic picture of what to expect.
Once you have a general idea of where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing, it’s important to dress in a way that’s respectful to yourself as well as the people you’re meeting. While you may be most comfortable in leggings, sneakers, and a torn tank top, this may not be the best clothing choice when it comes to meeting your partner’s parents for the first time.
While you shouldn’t dress in a way that’s the complete opposite of the type of person you are, you can choose suitable and appropriate attire that compliments, highlights, and accentuates your awesome personality and is fitting of the situation in every respect.
Mind Your Manners
When meeting your partner’s family, it’s important to keep in mind some of the fundamental etiquette techniques that are crucial toward making a good first impression. It may seem simple, but saying “please” and “thank you” can speak volumes when meeting your partner's parents for the first time.
You should also try to refrain from staring at your phone, burping, swearing, and screaming, to name a few. Since you’re spending time with your partner's parents and not your BFFs from college, being well-mannered, courteous, and polite can go a long way.
Bring a Gift
In terms of proper manners, it’s also a good idea to bring a small gift to your partner’s parents when you meet them for the first time instead of arriving empty-handed. While this can include flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine, you can also take it a step further by asking your partner for any specifics regarding their parents’ interests and taste.
Perhaps your partner's dad loves peanut brittle from a specific store in town. Or maybe their mom spoils her dog, and a present for the pooch is the perfect offering. By personalizing your gift to your partner’s parents, you’re truly presenting yourself well.
Offer to Help
If you’re looking to make a great first impression, it’s also important to show your gracious side. That means offering to set or clear the table, freshen others' drinks, or just generally inquiring if there’s anything you can do to help.
This simple gesture is always much-appreciated and well-received by others, and being cordial, considerate, and kind are qualities that any parent would want to see in their child’s partner. In a word, offering to help can actually end up helping you.
Any expert on body language can tell you that smiling is crucial to making a favorable first impression. When you exude happiness, joy, and contentment, others are more likely to feed off of your positive energy and mirror it right back to you.
Even if you’re nervous, intimidated, or bored out of your mind, it’s important to remember that you should stay smiling.
Keep It Light
You may have very strong opinions about certain hot-button issues, whether it’s politics, religion, or any other polarizing topic. While it’s great to have strong beliefs and convictions, they aren’t necessarily the best topics of conversation when you’re meeting your partner’s parents for the first time.
You shouldn’t be afraid to voice your thoughts and opinions, but that doesn’t mean turning your time together into a debate fit for primetime TV. Instead of getting argumentative and defensive around your partner’s parents, keep the small talk light.
A great way to spearhead possible conservation topics when meeting your partner’s parents is by asking them questions about themselves. Most people enjoy sharing personal facts, stories, and anecdotes, and they’ll appreciate your showing interest in their past and pastimes.
Don’t be afraid to inquire about how your partner's parents met, their work, favorite leisure activities, and more. By showing that you care, your partner's parents are more likely to care for you.
When it comes down to it, the best way to make a great first impression is to be your best self. You should be confident and assured in yourself about what you have to offer. After all, your partner recognizes how truly amazing you are, which is why they want to introduce you to their parents in the first place. Don’t forget that!
Gilron R, Gutchess AH. Remembering First Impressions: Effects of Intentionality and Diagnosticity on Subsequent Memory. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2012;12(1):85-98. doi:10.3758/s13415-011-0074-6