Social drinking is a pretty normal part of American culture, so whenever we meet someone who doesn't drink, it may seem a little strange at first. We instantly become curious about their lives, their choices, and their ultimate decision to pass on beer, wine, cocktails, and all the other alcoholic beverages we regularly enjoy. We want to find out everything there is to know about them, and without thinking, we start to say and ask things that are invasive, offensive, and potentially harmful.
The truth is, there are a variety of reasons people abstain from drinking. In the end, it's a deeply personal decision that every person has the right to make on their own. So why is it that we tend to react so inappropriately to people who say they don't drink? Let's all put a stop to that.
Things You Should Never Say to Someone Who Doesn't Drink
When someone tells you that they don't drink, you should respect their choices and their right to privacy. Instead of putting them through the ringer about their personal decisions and their private life, you should support their choices — and you should definitely never say any of these things.
1. "Why not?"
It seems like an innocent question, but it's a lot more loaded than you think. There are dozens of reasons people might have for not drinking, from health conditions, allergies, and pregnancy to addiction and dependency. Some people don't drink simply because they don't like to. Whatever the reason, it doesn't need to be explained to you or anyone else. Also, they don't even have to have a reason!
2. "Are you preggers?"
Unless this is a good (like, really good) friend, this is not a question you can ask. Why? Because it brushes upon two things that are none of your business. First, see above. And second, consider this: Perhaps she's been trying to get pregnant for years. By asking this question, you have invaded her privacy and possibly brought up an upsetting subject. Or maybe she is pregnant, but she's not far enough along to start telling people just yet.
3. "Come on, just have one drink?"
This is not your invitation to try to get someone to do something they don't want to do. It doesn't matter what you're celebrating or gathered for. This person might have a hard enough time dealing with the temptation and she doesn't need you egging her on.
4. "Oh man, I could never not drink!"
Good for you. You like to have a glass of wine after work to unwind, and this person may have her own ritual that works for her. You don't need to know what it is and you don't need to start comparing your daily lives.
5. "You're really missing out."
If someone doesn't drink, it could be their own choice, or it could be because they have to for health or other personal reasons. Don't make non-drinkers who wished their situation was different feel bad about what they're supposedly "missing out on."
6. "That's so weird!"
Because we live in a culture where social drinking is a norm, it may seem strange to find out someone doesn't drink, but the truth is around 30 percent of Americans did not drink in the past year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Don't single non-drinkers out by calling their choices weird, strange, or bad because they're anything but.
7. "But aren't parties boring for you then?"
Drinking is not the only way to have fun, but when you're a non-drinker it seems like everyone is trying to convince you otherwise. If someone tells you they don't drink, don't comment about how much fun they could be having if only they did drink. Instead, support them by making sure they have a good time in your company — no booze required.
8. "Have you ever been drunk before? I bet you're a fun drunk!"
When you ask a non-drinker about their past with alcohol, you could be opening up an old wound or triggering past bad behaviors. Do not make people relive something they might not want to.
9. "Yay! Automatic sober driver!"
Taking advantage of someone's sobriety just because they don't — or maybe can't — drink is the ultimate party foul that so many drinkers are guilty of. This non-drinker is out because she wants to have fun. Not because she wants to drive everyone around all night.
10. "Bummer, that sucks!"
When someone makes the choice not to drink, they deserve your support, not your pity. They don't need it, nor do they want it.
Here's what you should say: "I didn't know that. Can I get you a water or something else?"
Simply say you didn't know and see if she needs anything. Just because she doesn't want a glass of wine doesn't mean she's not thirsty for a mocktail. If you're headed to the bar, get her a seltzer (or whatever she asks for). And when you return with it, pick up the conversation as you would with anyone else.