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Americans love to drink. The pastime is so pervasive it crosses cultural boundaries.
Women and men, old and young alike consume alcohol at sporting events, at parties, quiet dinners, or even at work functions.
Whether the setting is formal or informal, alcohol is likely to be available, and all too often there is a stigma non-drinkers may experience about conforming to social pressure.
Scholars have discovered that not only are the non-drinkers uncomfortable in these settings, drinkers alike might feel ill at ease about the non-drinkers.
As a non-drinker commented on the unspoken social contract in these situations, the feeling from drinkers is, “Look, I’m lowering my inhibitions [by drinking] and you’re supposed to, too.”
One study in the spring of 2013 published by the Journal of Applied Communication Research, interviewed thirty non-drinking adults who were employed full-time.
Researchers noted that the desire to conform to an organization’s social customs is normal. This, though, poses a problem where alcohol in the workplace, or at off-hour work functions, such as seminars or networking events, is being served.
The study found that non-drinkers use a variety of tools to communicate that they don’t drink. Some of these labeled techniques include:
1. Bald on the Record
This is where non-drinkers simply stated they don’t drink when offered an alcoholic beverage.
People noted this minimized future drink offers, but did leave drinkers with possible questions as to why they didn’t drink.
2. Off the Record
Non-drinkers who wanted to keep their preference “under the radar” merely declined a drink.
The refusal in this case doesn’t imply that they never drink, just not in this instance.
A few of the study’s participants said their first line of defense in a setting where alcohol is being served is to have a non-alcoholic drink in their hand.
They stated that even a visibly non-alcoholic drink, such as a bottle of water, limited drink offers from others.
4. Personal Choice
Here non-drinkers turned down a drink by saying they choose not to drink.
They then added they didn’t have a problem with anyone else consuming alcohol, in order to put those around them at ease.
5. Health Reasons
Many non-drinkers find that presenting a “health reason,” such as being on medication or trying to lose weight a socially acceptable “excuse” to refuse alcohol.
6. Honesty and Humor
Finally, there were those in the study that chose to inform anyone offering them a drink that they didn’t drink because they were an alcoholic.
They noted that using humor or being lighthearted about their answer downplayed the seriousness of their condition, but got their point across at the same time.
Not everyone enjoys drinking, or for that matter can drink. For some, it’s a matter of religious beliefs. For others, abstinence is a lifestyle preference. There are still others that are recovering from alcohol addiction, and having a single sip of alcohol can be life threatening.
Serving alcohol at work or after hour functions, sporting events, parties and dinners will continue despite the fact that alcohol abuse is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Those who consume alcohol can reduce the stigma of not drinking by making sure that non-alcoholic drinks are readily available for anyone choosing to abstain.
Non-drinkers can develop communication tools that suit their personalities, and lessen their anxiety so they can lead their lives in the way they like.