How to decline drinking for networking repeatedly while not appearing uptight.
August 9, 2012 1:04 PM Subscribe
In the past year, a lot of networking opportunities have involved drinking. "Let's grab a drink together," "We're having drinks and reading our work at my place," "You should grab a drink with my friend so-and-so, he'll tell you the downlow on this job," etc. Which is all fine and dandy except for the drinking bit... how do I decline to drink and still take advantage of these?
posted by iadacanavon to Human Relations (52 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It seems like drinking is the way a lot of people relax and meet strangers. It's an established social ritual. I haven't had a problem *not* drinking and still being friendly and open, but I like making other people comfortable by mirroring them if possible. I'm a twenty-something, and it's not like I've never drunk alcohol. I have, many times, and I'm not opposed morally or anything. But in the last two years, I've had a really hectic schedule, and noticed that alcohol (even just a beer) pushes me over the edge into sick, almost invariably, and for that reason I've begun to avoid it. I have no problem just scheduling dinner with friends instead of drinks, and they mostly know I don't drink much if at all these days.
Unfortunately, this also seems to coincide with a time where I'm trying to do a lot of networking with acquaintances for my career, and where many of the people I'm connecting with are drinkers or that's just the easiest/most casual thing for them to suggest. In my experience, hanging out with a person at a bar and not drinking an alcoholic beverage, even if you're totally friendly, still makes them perceive you as "stiff" in some way. In other words, it sabotages the very bonding you're trying to do. I don't mind if they're drinking, I just don't want to make them uncomfortable. Several of these events have been group things, like "I'm getting drinks with this person at a bar, do you want to join?"
At least 4 separate occasions, I've wanted to say, "Yes, but I also don't want to drink anything..." and thought this would sound too uptight/awkward so I declined altogether or just avoided setting anything up until I can think of something else. I live in a city where I walk and bus everywhere, so I can't pull the driver card. And really, I don't want to have to make excuses, because if I meet them again I'll have to think of something else...
What to do? Should I simply say, alcohol makes me sick except for when I'm in perfect health, but I'm happy to join you at a bar and get a soda or a virgin margarita? Is that TMI? Should I order a non-alcoholic beverage in secret? Should I say, can we do coffee instead, or dinner? (Those feel more formal to me.) Do you have any strategies you've used to repeatedly decline drinking while still making the other person/people feel comfortable, and not lying? This is really starting to affect my groove.