Here at Arammu, we’re experts in understanding people and their relationships. And since we’re big on being pro-active in your personal and professional relationships, we’re going to begin a blog on a wide variety of topics. We’ll do fun light-hearted lists (like the one below), poignant pieces on love and intimacy, and more scientific posts rooted in empirical studies of the field of Psychology and relationship health. We’ll touch on professional and personal relationships, and anything related to life, love, and work.
Me? I’m not the scientist of the group. I’m the plucky comic relief to James’s and Tatiana’s science. Kind of like Beaker to Dr. Bunson Honeydew. Hopefully you get a few helpful nuggets out of this, but mainly, I hope to make you chuckle.
Here we go on the tips:
1) Have a Fall back Topic
In the lead-up to T-Day, spend some time grilling your spouse, in the nicest way possible, about some of the family members that will be attending the festivities. Find out who’s into what, what they do, where they grew up, hobbies, friends, etc. You should know a decent amount already, but dive deeper. That way, when you walk in, you know some places you can turn a conversation if things get…awkward.
Worse case, you can fall back to what Netflix or Amazon show they’re currently binging. Just be careful of dropping a spoiler. Spoiling will likely land you next to the turkey giblets and scraps.
2) Wine, lots and lots of wine.
Don’t show up empty handed, and as long as there isn’t a recovering, or current, alcoholic in the room, wine is a great gift. Remember, white typically goes with turkey, but honestly, wine is wine, no one will turn you away if you bring a heavy red. Our friends at Vanderbilt Wine Merchants say Zinfandel is the safe bet.
It’s always nice to have some wine with dinner, but don’t get sloppy. I repeat - don’t. get. sloppy. You know what people aren’t thankful for? The person who ends up drunk crying on Thanksgiving.
3) Be polite, no one likes ‘that guy’ or ‘gal’
The only thing worse than drunk crying on Thanksgiving is someone who is meeting the extended family for the first time and forgets their manners. Most families want the Brady Bunch Thanksgiving, minus someone breaking their nose on an errant football pass. Help them create that feeling by being on your best behavior.
“Please” and “Thank You” go a long way. Use a napkin, push in your chair, help gramdma or grandpa stand up or sit down. Thanksgiving is such a great opportunity to leave having them all sing your praises for being such and nice and thoughtful person. This one should go without saying, but it’s worth putting in a little extra effort to be consciously kind.
4) If you didn’t cook, make sure you clean
Yes, there’s a mountain of dishes on Thanksgiving. Yes, tryptophan is real (99% of scientists say it’s real). So you’re tired and full and there’s a lot of cleaning but tighten your belt and suck it up. Chances are you’ll get the “thanks so much for offering, but we got it”. Big win for you if that’s the case, but if not, roll those sleeves up and try not to drop the family heirloom serving platter.
5) Take time for the two of you
The holiday season can be draining. Dealing with tons of extended family can also be draining. Take some time to step back, find a quiet corner, and just check in with each other. Ask your Sig-O what they’re thankful for, how the day is going, what the crazy Aunt who trapped them in a conversation was talking about, etc. Check in and decompress.
Sometimes it’s just the recharge you needed, sometimes it lets your partner get something off of their chest, or give you a heads up that someone’s going to bring up something annoying. Think of it like going back into the locker room at halftime, chatting about the 1st half, and preparing a gameplan for the 2nd half.
6) Tough Convo Topics
If you’re engaged, everyone’s going to ask about wedding prep. This can be a stressful topic. Married already? Be prepared for the “when are we seeing grandkids?” convo. Someone getting super political? Got a sketchy past someone’s asking questions about?
Being able to gracefully deflect or evade a potential conversational landmine is a must. That’s a topic better broached when you have a handful of holiday dinners under your belt with the new group. As such, my advice is simple. AVOID! Don’t stir the pot, just politely deflect and re-target.
What does the mean specifically? Someone starts talking about the healthcare debate, rather than engage, spin the conversation about someone you know who’s a nurse or doctor, or in the medical field, or share the story about the last time you had to go to the hospital. Worse case, find some sort of common ground, such as, “no matter your politics, premium prices are so high”. When all else fails, just say “Canada!”.
7) Find the elder-statesman and make nice
Want to really make a good first impression? Find the oldest matriarch or patriarch of the family and sit down and talk to them. Ask them their life story. Nothing will make them more proud than to share their early life and how they helped create such a large, and loving family that surrounds them today. Seeing one’s offspring, and their offsprings’ offspring all in one place is one of the greatest sources of pride for people.
Also, you’ll learn a ton of really interesting stuff about your Sig-O’s family history and probably a few things they didn’t even know. You MIGHT have to fix their phone for them, but it’ll be worth it. Again, it makes a great impression if your in-laws see you genuinely caring and speaking to the eldest in the room.