Science Reveals the Best Ways to Win Over the In-Laws

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Trying to woo prospective parents-in-law with gifts and dinners might be a waste of money, according to a study.

A new study, published in the journal Human Nature, shows that tactic is one of the least effective ways for people to convince the parents of their boyfriend, girlfriend or fiance that they are the right spouse for the parents’ child.

The three-part study was led by Menelaos Apostolou, assistant professor at the University of Nicosia, which has campuses in Greece and Cyprus. He is author of the book “Sexual Selection Under Parental Choice: The Evolution of Human Mating Behavior.”

Apostolou explains the basis for his study in a news release:

“Parents do not always find their children’s mate choices to comply with their own preferences and engage in manipulation in order to drive away undesirable boyfriends and girlfriends. To avoid this situation, individuals engage in counter-manipulation in order to change their prospective parents-in-law’s minds to accept them as mates for their children.”

The study aimed to identify the counter-manipulation tactics adults use to try to win over their prospective in-laws, which of those tactics are most commonly used, and which are most effective. Hundreds of Greek and Cypriot adults and parents were interviewed in the process.

Out of 41 tactics identified, the most effective were:

  • The “I am right for your child” tactic, which involves one member of a couple demonstrating to prospective parents-in-law how good he or she is as a mate for the parents’ child.
  • The “No confrontation” tactic, which involves a person in a couple avoiding disagreements between his or her mate and the mate’s parents by not replying to or making any negative comments.

The least effective were:

  • The “Approach” tactic, which involves a man or woman trying to grow closer to prospective parents-in-law by inviting them for dinner and buying them gifts.
  • The “Tell them I am good!” tactic, which involves asking one’s mate to persuade the mate’s parents that he or she is a worthy suitor.

The study findings also reveal that mothers are more likely to be influenced by some of these counter-manipulation tactics than fathers.

The study’s limitations include that it’s based on a single culture, however, and the publisher notes that the results might not readily apply to other cultures.

Have you ever used a counter-manipulation tactic to try to win over or avoid conflict with in-laws? Let us know what worked in your experience — leave a comment below or on Facebook.

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