Oh-oh. This year it’s your turn to visit (insert name of relative). Mom and Dad. Aunt Sue and Uncle Phil. Cousin Larry. You recall the last visit and tense up. A spat broke out between your hosts and yourself/your spouse/whomever. This may be the time when you want to avoid a Tough Conversation at any cost.
What steps can you take to ensure a pleasant and even memorable visit?
1. Vow not to bring up your hosts’ children (especially the one in rehab) unless you have only POSITIVE things to say about them. Sure, ask how they are doing, but keep your opinions and advice to yourself, unless asked.
2. Take how long so-and-so has been out of work off your conversational agenda. Don’t suggest possible new occupations when he or she has already mailed off 38 resumes in the last two weeks.
3. Depending on the thickness of the walls of the guestroom or whatever space has been designated for your sleeping, try not to gossip or discuss, among other things, the overcooked vegetables and the soggy salad at last evening’s dinner.
4. Make sure your hosts know your arrival and departure times. If in doubt whether you should rent a car or not, weigh the expense of a rental versus the emotional cost of being stuck in your host’s home without wheels. There may come a time when you wish you could snatch a few hours’ respite on an otherwise dull Saturday afternoon.
5. Don’t text in front of your hosts, especially during meals.
6. Pets: You hate it when Aunt Jean’s dog begs for food while you’re trying to enjoy Christmas dinner. What should you do? For starters, don’t kick it.
7. You just learned you’re allergic to gluten/turkey/green beans/you name it. Should you share this with your hosts before your visit? Absolutely!
8. Your teenage daughter has become a vegan. And your annual visit to your in-laws is during the holidays. Should you inform your hosts-to-be that your daughter has decided to enforce her new-found dietary rules? By all means.
9. If you want to reciprocate by taking your hosts out for a meal, plan that before the visit, not after Aunt Rose has spent a handsome sum on steaks for Saturday night’s dinner.
10. If you’re sharing a bathroom, resist taking your usual 20-minute shower and remember to clean your hairs out of the bathtub and the sink before leaving. Take your toiletries back to your room unless you are clear that the bathroom you’re using is exclusively for your use only.