What do you do if her parents flat-out don't like you? Don’t like your attitude, don’t like what you do for a living, don’t like your trendy hairstyle. Do you say sayonara to your lady and make off with your pride still intact, or do you make them like you? If you’re feeling valiant and actually really, really like (or dare we say love) your girlfriend and see marriage down the line, take a look at this study published in the journal Human Nature. Researchers say the key to dealing with disapproving parents or future in-laws is showing or telling them what a good influence you are on their daughter.
That’s right. Save the gifts.
The first part of the study involved 106 Greek men and women living in the Turkish state of Cyprus. They were asked to answer open-ended questions about 41 manipulation tactics on their partner’s parents. These acts included explaining “how appropriate they are for their child, inviting them for dinner, buying gifts, and even standing up to the parents by telling them they were not worthy of their behavior,” according to the study.
The second part involved a questionnaire where 738 people identified the manipulative acts they’d most likely use if they were trying to win over a significant other’s parents. From most common to least:
1. "I am right for your child." (Try to show they are worthy, a good influence, caring, sincere, and reliable by saying how they feel, dressing well, and keeping their house clean.)
2. "I do not deserve this!" (Try to show they don't deserve rejection and poor behavior by acting kind, polite, and showing good qualities.)
3. "Why don't you like me?" (Try to find the source of dislike and talk through the problem in hopes of changing the parents' minds.)
4. No confrontation tactic. (Don't make a big deal of negative comments, and don't make any negative comments about parents in retaliation.)
5. "You have to accept the situation!" (Say they're going to be together whether the parents like it or not, and they don't want to raise future grandchildren away from them, so it would be beneficial to accept the relationship.)
6. Approach tactic. (Invite parents over for dinner, buy them gifts, and spend time with them.)
7. "Tell them I am good!" (Persuade partner to vouch for them and say they're a good person.)
In the third part of the study, the lead researcher questioned 414 parents to find out if these tactics are effective at all in altering parents' minds. They said the "I am right for your child" and "No confrontation" tactics were most likely to be successful, whereas "Approach" and "Tell them I am good!" were least likely to work.
No parent wants a bull-headed son-in-law anymore than they want a whiny one with a soft spine. Can you really blame them? Oh, and if they really do have good reason to dislike you, odds are these tactics won't distract them for long.