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For those who don't drink or prefer to limit the amount of alcohol they consume, holiday parties, especially office parties, can be difficult to navigate. On the plus side, research indicates millennials are making a conscious effort to drink less and could influence more sober parties in the future. Until then, here's how experts recommend getting through a few hours of mingling with officemates in boozy conditions.
If there's flexibility, arrive at the start of the party "when there are fewer people who haven’t had a chance to imbibe too much," notes a counselor in Psychology Today. You'll have the opportunity to mingle with co-workers and getting some face time in with management while most are still on their best behavior.
Stick Close to Your Best Work Buddy
Having a wingman or wingwoman will help deflect the situation if too many people ask probing questions about the choice to eschew alcohol. Ask your buddy to pipe up in the middle of an awkward conversation or whisk you away to a different part of the room to physically separate you from nosey coworkers.
Volunteer to be the Designated Driver
For those who wish to avoid talking about why they don't drink or are in situations where co-workers or family members might need a good reminder, it's always an option to make it known that your role is the sober driver.
Make Friends with Other Non-Drinkers
If you need some time with others who don't drink, either for conversation or moral support, look for others who are nibbling on the stale pretzels while sipping water or who have been clutching the same glass of wine for the last hour. It's an easy way to mingle and enjoy the party without being around too much alcohol.
Sip a Mocktail
For those who recently became sober or made the decision to not drink alcohol, the easiest way to avoid questions is to fake it. While it's not a long-term solution, ask the bartender to whip up a fancy mocktail or even soda water and lime, and the rest of the gang will assume you're drinking just as much as they are.
Make Plans to Leave
If it will be a challenging evening or you expect that the party might get out of hand a few hours into festivities when others have been drinking for too long, make a pre-determined exit plan. You can always tell your colleagues or manager that you need to leave by a certain time to attend to other holiday obligations.
If you truly think the situation will be tempting or you are worried about other coworkers who drink too much, stay home. If it's the kind of office that highly encourages everyone to come, explain to your boss (with as much or little detail as possible) that there are extenuating circumstances and you won't be able to attend.