Manners Matter: A New Guest for Holiday Dinner

Dear Mary Pat,

I can’t wait to see my family for Christmas. This is the first time in a long time that we will all be around one table again. The only hiccup is my brother’s new girlfriend. She’s nearly half his age and we barely know her since they have only been dating a short time. On the few occasions that I have spent time with her, I found it very difficult to converse with her. She’s in her early 20s and I’m in my late 40s and we don’t have a lot in common, apart from my brother. My other brother and two sisters haven’t even met her yet. I’m trying to keep an open mind and I want things to go smoothly.


Older Sis

Maplewood, Wis.


Dear Older Sis,

There is no reason why things shouldn’t go smoothly. If your brother is serious about this woman, this might be the first of many holidays together and you’ll all want to start off on the right foot. If this relationship doesn’t go anywhere, you can use this as a chance to sharpen your small talk skills.

You’ll want to avoid talking about politics and religion as when first meeting anyone new. Stick with safe topics and ask her questions without interviewing her. You can ask her how she normally celebrates the holidays or what kind of work she does. She will hopefully reciprocate and ask you questions as well. If she doesn’t and the conversation isn’t going anywhere, you can just excuse yourself and visit with your family. Your brother will be there to talk to her as well as your other siblings. It doesn’t all have to fall on you to keep the chatter going. On the other hand, it will most likely be intimidating for her meeting you all at once. The most important thing for all of you to do is to make sure she feels welcome when she arrives. A wide smile and direct eye contact does a lot to put people at ease.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

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