One of the most-asked questions at Thanksgiving dinner today will be “How are they related to me, again?”
Figuring out what to call a relative, especially distant ones with a complicated and extended family tree, is one of the fun challenges of family get-togethers. Once you've figured out what to call them and how you're connected, trying to find common ground, shared family experiences, or just making it through the day is the next challenge.
We can help you with both.
Firstly, use this handy chart, courtesy of Lifehacker, to figure out exactly how the person is related to you and what to call them:
Secondly, here are 6 tips on how to interact with family members that you don't know very well or have perhaps never even met before:
- Immediately befriend the oldest person in the room. Whomever that is, they probably know all — or at least most — of the stories and the relationships. If you can ally yourself with the most senior attendee to the feast, you're on your way to successfully negotiating through the introductions and recollections of history. And then pay attention, you'll likely learn a lot.
- Remember that you're not the center of the universe. For most people, the thing that they're most interested in is themselves. If you spend your post-introduction conversation focused on them and their world, not only will they maintain an interest in talking to you, you'll also be perceived of as a safe person to sit next to throughout the day. You'll also likely learn a lot and have a better time.
- Use your new-found knowledge to make connections for others. Everyone else is asking the same “Who are you?” questions that you were, so take responsibility to make sure to assist everyone's obtaining an answer.
- Don't talk politics or religion. Everyone has their own opinions and have very good reasons for them. If someone else makes the critical error of bringing either of these topics up, smile and refrain from jumping in. A deftly stated “well, I certainly understand where you're coming from” will work if you're put on the spot, as will a “I really haven't given XXXX-topic much thought.” Everyone else will appreciate it.
- Make plans to get back in communication again. Of course, just because someone is related to you doesn't mean that they necessarily will be your new best friend; on the other hand, the family connection is one that is literally life-long and certainly provides a basis for establishing a relationship. Twitter and Facebook make ongoing interactions easy and fun, so make sure to find out how they can be contacted via social media.
- Have fun. Everyone likes fun and it's obvious when someone isn't having any. You do not want to be the one, afterwards, that everyone else thought was disagreeable and to be avoided in the future.
Now that you are armed with these useful tips, you'll be able to handle even the most intimidating family dinner with ease.