Making Friends Without Drinking

Part 2 -- How to Develop Your Social Skills

Go to Part 1 of this article

There are two steps to socializing without alcohol. The first step, which is the focus of part 1 of this article, involves figuring out what you would like to do with your time that doesn't involve alcohol. The second, which is the focus of this part of the article, is a process of building up the social skills that you feel you lack, so you don't need alcohol as a prop.

Many people who have relied on alcohol as a way of making friends, do not know how to connect with other people without the social lubricant of a drink. Not only does drinking give you something to do with your hands, it gives you something to fill those awkward gaps in the conversation -- by taking a sip -- and it reduces your inhibitions, making it easier for the tongue tied to open up. As the mental processes of your companions will also be weakened by alcohol, many drinkers also feel less concerned about what others think of them while drinking. After all, if you say something foolish, no-one will remember afterwards anyway.

Read The Effects of Alcohol Intoxication

This is no way to conduct a true friendship. In fact, you are more likely to say something foolish if you have been drinking, and you will increasingly lose confidence in your own ability to speak in a way that other respect if you conduct friendships in this way.

The first step to connecting with other people doesn't depend on your ability to speak, it depends on your ability to listen and pay attention to the other person. You really only need to say a few words to get someone else talking. Ask an "open" question -- one that requires more than a yes or no answer -- and the other person will start speaking.

Then you will find the conversation is well underway, simply by looking at them while they are talking, and encouraging them to keep going, using body language, such as nodding your head. If you find you don't like what you hear, nothing is lost, you can simply end the conversation, and try connecting with someone else.

The second step is speaking with confidence. This might seem difficult, but if you stick to saying only what you know to be true, and express accurately what you feel, you are on to a good start -- provided if does not cause offense. Then paying attention to how the other person reacts will help guide the conversation. If they look distracted or disapproving, encourage them to give their thoughts on the subject.

The trick to a good conversation is keeping the other person interested. This doesn't mean trying to entertain them with all of the interesting things you can think of, but instead, noticing whether they look interested, and if not, either changing the topic of conversation or encouraging the other person to talk.

A few other tips to bear in mind are to let the person finish what they are saying without interrupting them; disagreeing in a respectful way (or better yet, keeping your disagreement in your head without the words coming out of your mouth), and avoiding topics that can be sensitive, such as political views, religious practices, personal and family matters, at least until the friendship is established, and you are sure the other person is comfortable with these topics of conversation.

If you have recently quit drinking, making new friends in non-drinking contexts is a great idea. The time may come when your friendships become deeper, and you can tell the other person about your past. However, drinking and other issues related to addiction are highly personal, and it is better to leave discussing alcohol until you have established a friendship, and know the other person's views on the issue of drinking.

Read How to Control Your Drinking

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