How to avoid feeling awkward at a party when you’re not drinking
If you are going to a party and not drinking, this advice can help you avoid feeling awkward or anxious about it
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Many people use alcohol as a social lubricant when attending a party or night out. Alcohol can make you feel less self-conscious (decreased inhibitions), so it can evolve into a crutch for people, especially if they experience social anxiety. For this reason, going to a party when you are not drinking can seem daunting.
You might be staying away from alcohol for any number of reasons. If the idea of attending a party and explaining that you are not drinking makes you anxious, here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable saying no to a drink.
How to feel confident when not drinking on a night out
Start the night with a positive mindset
If you have decided not to drink on a night out you can still have a great time. You can have fun and enjoy yourself without alcohol and you do not have to feel like you are missing out. You are in control of what you do on a night out. Stay for as long as you want once you are enjoying it. If you are not, you can also leave whenever you want.
Know that it’s okay if you don’t want to drink
Whether you have decided not to drink that night, or you don’t drink at all, you should feel confident in your decision. There’s no rule that says you have to drink when you go to a party, and chances are you won’t be the only one taking who has decided not to that night. Be comfortable in your decision not to drink, and have confidence going in that you’re still going to enjoy yourself, and you don’t need alcohol for that.
Be prepared for questions or comments
It’s best not to get into the subject too much, but you might find people will ask you why you’re not drinking. Be prepared for this by knowing what you’ll say in response ahead of time. You can keep it simple without going into detail, and it’s best to avoid getting defensive about the topic. Some things you could say if someone asks include:
- I just decided I’m not drinking tonight
- I’m not a big drinker and I don’t feel like drinking
- I don’t actually drink, it’s just not for me
- I have an early start in the morning so I’m avoiding it tonight
Drink a non-alcoholic drink
One way to avoid feeling awkward, especially if you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you’re not drinking, is to always have a drink in your hand. This way, you can avoid questions about why you’re not drinking anything, and people are less likely to offer to get you something.
Avoid feeling pressured to drink
Sometimes people can try to encourage you to have drink at a party, even when you’ve already told them you don’t want to. Don’t feel pressured into having a drink just because someone else wants you to. If anyone offers to get you a drink, just politely decline and say you’re fine.
Some people may want you to drink because it makes them feel better about their own drinking if those around them are also participating in it. Try to keep this in mind if you are bothered by the pressure someone might be putting on you to have a drink.
Saying no to a drink
If someone brings you a drink after you said no, or without asking, it’s okay to let them know that you’re not drinking tonight. If they insist on you taking it, you can accept it, but you don’t have to drink it. Give it to someone else or simply leave it on the table.
Be firm but polite when declining a drink. If you get too defensive, the other person may get offended, but if they persist after you’ve said no, stand your ground and have confidence in your decision.
Avoid spending all of your time on your phone
When you’re feeling uncomfortable in a social setting, it’s easy to gravitate towards looking through your phone just to have something to focus on. As awkward as you may feel, it’s best to try and avoid your phone altogether during a party and instead focus on what’s going on around you.
Try to ask people around you questions instead if you have the urge to use your phone, or even take a small break to go for a walk or get some air, as you might be drawn to using your phone out of a sense of anxiety or discomfort.
Remember how good you’ll feel the next day
If you’re getting worked up about the fact you’re not drinking, remember that the next morning you’ll be feeling much better than many people who are drinking. It might be helpful to make a plan for the morning after the party to give you something to look forward to. You could even use this as a reason for not drinking if people ask you about it.
If you think you have a problem, confide in someone you trust
If the reason you don’t want to drink is that you feel you have a problem with alcohol, speak to a friend you trust and let them know why you want to avoid drinking. Ask them to support you in your decision by sticking with you on the night, helping you to avoid questions about why you’re not drinking, and maybe even staying sober with you for the party. Knowing someone else is there to support you will make it easier.
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