The weekend comes and you decide to take the edge off after a stressful week at work. You’re thinking about going to the bar and having a drink – who doesn’t love to have a drink, right?
Well, that’s the thing: a lot of people don’t. Because of that, sometimes we have to be extra polite when we invite someone else for a drink, especially with people we are not that close with.
If you want to know if someone drinks, you have to ask them the right way. Don’t lead the conversation with that question but work your way into the subject instead. You don’t have to dance around it either, when the time is right simply ask: “Do you enjoy having a drink every once in a while?”
It’s important to understand that some people might have issues with alcohol. Not everyone likes to drink and some people like to drink a little too much – both scenarios lead to a life away from alcohol.
Some people might shut down after you ask such a thing, but don’t worry about it: move on and talk about something else.
How to ask someone if they drink?
Work the subject into the conversation
The first rule about asking if someone drinks is to build your way into the question. You might think this is like beating around the bush for such a simple thing, but it isn’t.
If someone has a problem with alcohol and you ask about it right off the bat, they are going to feel like you are talking about their possible alcoholism and not alcohol itself.
The best way to do this is to work your way from personal experience. An anecdote from last weekend or similar “I was at the bar last week…” and as you finish your story, you sense whether that person is okay to talk about alcohol or not.
If no issues arise, simply ask “Anyways, do you like to have a drink every once in a while?”.
Be casual about it
Always remember alcohol is a sensitive topic, but you don’t have to treat it like one. Casually bounce from one subject to the other, just in case you have to bounce off the topic of alcohol when the time comes.
Think about it like talking about sports or any other recreational activity. Imagine you want to know if someone likes to watch football on Sundays. You would simply say “I was watching the game last night… do you like football?” and depending on the answer, you’d continue or move on.
The same thing happens with alcohol.
Casually mention the subject, and, if you sense tension, casually drop the subject the same way you approached it “ah, never mind, it was a silly story. Anyways, what did you do last night?“.
Don’t dance around the subject
Even though you have to build your way into asking if someone drinks, don’t think you have to tread lightly as if you were scared to know the answer. It’s a casual thing that you casually started talking about.
If you dance around the subject, you’re going to make yourself look suspicious. Something like “So, uh, anyway, I was drinking, and uh, you, well…” makes you sound uneasy about the subject. If it’s casual conversation, you shouldn’t feel uneasy.
It’s important not to do this to avoid any paranoia or resentment once you ask. If someone has a problem with alcohol, you can bet several people tried to talk to them about it – and you don’t want to be another one of those guys who is nervous because of a hidden agenda.
Be direct enough to show there are no hidden intentions but indirect enough as not to come off as too blunt or rude.
If you feel tension when you mention drinking, avoid the subject
As you know, alcohol is a sensitive subject for several people. You need to pay attention to body language cues and voice tonality when you’re talking about it.
If you were having a great conversation and it begins to die off when you mention alcohol, it’s time to back off and change the subject.
Since you’re asking whether a person drinks or not, you have no idea what their relationship with alcohol is like. You have to be extra careful to see what’s going on in their lives – even though they won’t tell you directly.
If you ask and they look down, stutter, face their body away from you, or anything similar, it’s time to move the topic of the conversation elsewhere.
Don’t get too hung up on the result
Once you ask if someone drinks, there’s a small chance the conversation turns sour or dies – even if you asked in the best way possible. This is not about you or how you asked. It’s about their relationship with alcohol.
You might have made them remember terrible memories or indirectly brought up something they do not want to talk about.
The best thing to do is excuse yourself for asking and move on. “My bad, I killed the vibe, let’s move on”. A little joke goes a long way – as long as it’s completely unrelated to alcohol.
Why is it important to be polite when you ask someone if they drink?
You don’t know what the other person has been through
Alcoholism is a terrible thing. If you cannot control your relationship with alcohol, it ends up controlling you. This might seem like something weird for someone who has their alcohol intake under control – but several horror stories, unfortunately, confirm this to be true.
Most alcoholics cannot control themselves around alcohol. So, they should stay away from it.
If you ask if they drink and they don’t want to talk about it – it might be because simply talking about it makes them want to drink again. It’s not only rude to push any further when this happens but dangerous as well.
Even though it’s a social activity, it’s a personal decision
There are a lot of people who, even though they have no issue with alcohol, have decided not to drink. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a healthy choice to make. But, here’s the thing: a lot of people don’t understand that.
Some people cannot accept such a personal decision – and that’s always the wrong attitude about it. Even though someone might come from a good place when they want to drink with another person, accepting personal choices it’s always the right thing to do.
If someone tells you they don’t drink, the right answer always is “Oh, you don’t? That’s okay”.
Some people don’t like to talk about it
By now, you have probably realized alcohol can be a difficult subject for some people. Some people prefer to stay away from alcohol, and that’s okay. It’s also okay not to talk about it if you don’t want to. There’s no need to keep pushing if someone doesn’t want to answer.
If you ask if someone drinks, you might get something other than a yes or no answer. You might get an “I don’t want to talk about it”. That’s okay too. Move on. They don’t want to or are not ready to talk about it.
What to keep in mind when you ask someone if they drink
It’s a touchy subject for some people
Always remember alcohol is a touchy subject for some people. Approach the subject casually and if you sense tension, move on. If a person finds alcohol to be a touchy subject, someday soon they’ll trust you enough to talk about it, but that first time might not be it.
Several religions forbid it
Multiple religions have a prohibitive nature when it comes to alcohol. If someone doesn’t drink because of religious reasons, there’s nothing you can do. Don’t try to convince someone to drink if they believe it’s wrong. It’s one of the rudest things someone can do.
You should avoid any remarks about it as well. “Oh, come on, God doesn’t care if you have a drink”. That’s not what you should do, ever. The only thing you can say is “I respect that, let’s move on”.
If they don’t drink, it’s not the end of the world for anyone
If you wanted to have a drink and a good time with someone, it’s only natural to feel let down if they don’t drink. It’s what we usually do when we want to get to know one another or catch up. But it’s not the only thing you can do. Grab a cup of coffee, go bowling, join a club. There are countless alternatives for you to try!
The answer to the question is set in stone
If someone says they don’t drink, that’s it. They do not drink. Don’t try to reason your way out of their statement. Don’t try to convince them otherwise. If they don’t drink, they have a reason to do so. Even if it’s a matter of personal taste. You accept it and move on. It’s the polite thing to do!
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.