As a teen, there’s a decent chance you will be offered alcohol or other drugs at some point. Maybe by a stranger at a party, an acquaintance, even a friend. And for a multitude of reasons I won’t get into right now (teen drinkers are more likely than their non-drinking peers to become alcoholics—sorry, just had to slip one in there!), we at Omni Youth Programs encourage you to turn down their offer.
Easier said than done, right?
Like, how exactly do you say no? Or how should you respond when people ask why? What if you decide to be sober but still want to hang out with friends who drink or go to a party where alcohol may be present?
Of course, Omni Youth Programs advises teens to avoid situations that involve underage drinking completely. The best way to turn down a drink is to not be in a scenario where someone would offer you one. Furthermore, even if you are staying sober, an alcohol-infused environment could still prove dangerous. Intoxicated people are more prone to bad decisions, crazy antics, and violence, all of which could put you in danger—not to mention the trouble you could get into with the law, even if you did not personally consume any alcohol.
That said, we also recognize that avoiding alcohol entirely is not always possible when leading a typical teenage life. You might show up to a pool party, not realizing there would be booze present, or go to a concert with a drunken crowd. Maybe you don’t have a safe way to leave the situation or perhaps you simply don’t want to miss out on an otherwise fun time because of the poor choices of others.
These top ten tips can apply to everyone, whether you never drink, just aren’t drinking for the night, or simply want to drink in moderation when everyone else is getting hammered. Furthermore, while I will mostly be addressing teens, these tips can be just as helpful for non-drinking adults at the bar.
#1 Trust Your Friends
As I’ve explained before, telling my friends I didn’t want to drink was one of the most nerve-racking moments in my life. I was scared my decision would weaken our friendships, and we’d drift apart. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
While it’s possible your friends may be initially disappointed, they’ll quickly adjust. Friends don’t need to like all the same things
or have the exact same opinions on everything to be able to appreciate one another. Your real friends will accept you for who you are.
Also, once you tell your pals the first time, it’s either not a problem anymore or it gets infinitely easier to deal with. My buddies came to accept that I was a non-drinker, and if they or anyone else asked me to drink it was increasingly easy to say no. Furthermore, whenever we were at a situation with a lot of new people, I felt like they always had my back about my choices and would support me in the face of anyone who gave me trouble.
#2 Go Where You’re Comfortable
As I tagged along with my friends to various events where alcohol was present, I gradually discovered what types of gatherings I could have fun at and those that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. A significant part of that was the “level” of alcohol or how much the event centered on drinking.
Some non-drinkers are comfortable with even the wildest of frat parties, some only enjoy low-key BBQs with a few beers present, while others don’t like being around booze at all. For me, I was cool with kickbacks and small-sized parties, but anything much crazier than that and I’d decline the invite.
Figure out where you are comfortable. If you’re feeling weird, don’t feel awkward about leaving the situation. Always know that your decision not to drink does not define you. Don’t think it dictates who you can or can’t be friends with or where you can or can’t go to have fun. That’s up to you.
#3 You Aren’t Alone
Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one in the world not drinking, and pop culture often portrays being drunk as a requirement for a good time. But did you know roughly 70% of teens don’t drink?
Lots of people choose not to drink or do so only in moderation. When you are at a party or other social situation with alcohol, it’s likely there will be other people not drinking. Whether they’re the designated driver, totally abstain from alcohol, or need to get up early, you can usually find others who are sober.
Also, countless entertaining activities don’t involve alcohol, everything from playing sports to hiking to shopping at the mall and more. Sure, a lot of my buddies like to drink, but that’s far from the only time we get together. Your friends will also be into doing other fun things. Capitalize on those opportunities.
#4 It’s All in How You Say It
The number one part of telling people you don’t want to drink is in the way you say it. No matter the exact words you use to say no or explain your reasoning, you need to be confident but polite. Go ahead and repeat that to yourself.
Confident but polite.
Confident: If you sound wishy-washy people might think you don’t really believe you don’t want to drink and just need a little convincing. Be assured in your decision and show it. I was at a kickback with a lot of people I didn’t know once, and it took at least three times as long for everyone to finally understand I wasn’t a drinker, all because I was too meek in my initial response.
Polite: On the flip side, you shouldn’t sound so over-confident as to be arrogant or aggressive. Doing so may seem like you are attacking everyone else. Make sure to thank them for offering—sometimes people ask you to be a good host—but then politely decline.
#5 Short but Sweet
Simplicity is your friend.
It is the greatest tool in your belt, the strongest weapon in your arsenal. When it comes to turning down a drink, simplicity is often the best tactic.
“Hey, do you want a shot?”
“Nah, man, I’m good.”
Boom. Drop the mic.
Sometimes, less is more. You don’t need to go into long-winded explanations as to why you aren’t going to shotgun that beer if no one asks. Save yourself the time and effort and keep things short and simple. “No thanks,” “that’s alright, I’m fine,” and the like are all perfectly great responses that tend to garner equally great results. You didn’t make a big deal out of turning down a drink, so why should anyone else?
And if the first “I’m good” isn’t enough, you can always use the Broken Record Technique (aka the B.R.T.). Someone asks you again and again and again to drink? Just repeat the same short phrase again and again and again. They’ll take the hint.
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By Tyler Wroblewski
Click here for the remaining five awesome tips for non-drinkers!
Beer: From Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Group Picture & Picture of Hands: From the author.
Dancing: From www.audio-luci-store.it at www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore
Microphone: From Robert Bejil at www.flickr.com/photos/robnas/