Boyfriend’s parents are coming for a visit. I never know what to say and always end up feeling awkward and weird. Could you guys give me some suggestions for parent-in-law appropriate conversations?
First of all, it’s normal to feel a bit awkward around in-laws. That’s not necessarily a sign that something is wrong. Being around in-laws is weird because they’re often close to your partner and not you. They also are often close to your partner in ways that you are not, and they probably cross all kinds of boundaries with him that you are careful to avoid crossing.<p
It’s a confusing and complicated relationship, and it feels awkward for a lot of people.
That said, there are principles of how to talk to in-laws that sometimes work.
Ask about stuff they do and care about:
- If they are active in a club, ask about the club
- If they have a hobby, ask about it
- If they like talking about work, ask about work
- In conversations like this, listen more than you talk, and don’t offer advice unless they ask for it
Sports is a safe topic among sports fans
- Did you see the game last night?
- (this works best if you also watched the game, but it can also work if you didn’t but know they like to talk about sports)
Fandoms you share:
- Did you see the latest episode of (show you both like?)
Regarding professions and names:
- If you are in a college or university setting, asking someone what their major is is considered an acceptable small talk question, and it can lead to actual conversation.
- Asking someone what they do (for work) is socially acceptable in some crowds, but not others. It’s acceptable if it’s perceived as similar to asking about a major, and rude if it’s perceived as an attempt to determine how much money someone has or how much social status they have
- Making jokes or disparaging comments about someone’s job or major is considered boorish unless you have the same job/major and it is also self-mockery. It’s not nice to insult people you just met.
- Similarly, don’t make jokes about people’s names upon being introduced. They’ve heard them all before.
- A lot of people like to talk about sports as a primary form of small talk. I don’t really understand this. Maybe some of y’all can chime in?
- In the US, outside of New York, people are likely to dislike the Yankees, and some people find Yankees fans annoying, and some get really angry about Yankees fans. (This is especially true in Boston).
- Many areas, particularly college towns, have intense and scary sports fandoms. If you don’t understand the sports fandom in your area, it’s probably better to avoid wearing sports logo clothing, and this is especially true if there is a game on.