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You have been dating for a couple of months and believe he may be the one. Both of you have hinted at getting together with friends, and now she is asking you to come to a party this Saturday where many of her close pals will be. You are concerned about making a good (great) impression on these friends who mean so much to your significant other AND who could greatly influence where (if) your relationship goes. After all, they are a large and very tight knit group and your new love has related several "horror" stories about other first meetings that have occurred with this clan.
The main question you are probably asking yourself is, "How can I put my best foot forward and help them get to know the real me?" The answer is simpler than you may think, but will require you to shift the focus away from YOU and onto your girlfriend/boyfriend and the relationship the two of you have. You are not in this alone. You have met this right person who means a lot to you and the two of you are going into this as a team. Therefore, working together to prepare for this meeting, presenting a loving and united front to the friends, and demonstrating an openness and interest in his/her life and friends will be all you will need to have a successful beginning. The following tips will put you on the right path to winning acceptance and perhaps the beginning of many new friendships.
Don't try too hard. If you become focused on getting them to like you, you will probably come across as insecure, overbearing, too opinionated or just plain narcissistic. Relax and follow their lead as you let them decide what they want to hear/know.
Show an interest in them. This works especially well when you are a little anxious. Ask them questions about their career, interests and where they are from. Encourage them to tell stories about their group and some of the experiences they have shared together. You get to sit back and laugh and enjoy listening to them instead of feeling like you are on an interview.
Go with the flow. This is not the time to counter someone's opinion or to have a lively debate about politics, religion, etc. The last thing you need is to come across as confrontational or controlling, etc.
Don't get defensive. You will be a little sensitive to their words, expressions, etc. and need to be careful to remain neutral and not to take yourself too seriously. If someone says something that hits you wrong or is just downright argumentative, let it go. The others will see you as a good sport who handled that well.
Don't monopolize the conversation. In a first meeting, it is best to present yourself as a good listener who cares about what others have to say.
Join in and offer to provide assistance with preparing, serving or cleaning up a meal or with any task that need to be done. Nothing makes you feel more like family then rolling up your sleeves and working side by side with the others.
Watch your alcohol intake. It can be tempting to have a few drinks to try and relax; but remember that this can backfire if you have one too many and become sloppy or exhibit poor judgment or bad behavior.
Remember that you and the friends want the same thing- his/her happiness. You have at least one important thing in common- and may find you have many others as well.
As you prepare for this first encounter, make sure you discuss the different people and personalities beforehand with your partner. If there is something they or you should know about in advance, discuss it so there will be no surprises or ambushes. Then make a plan that covers the where, what and how questions and one that you are both comfortable with. Most importantly, go and have a good time.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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