We shouldn’t ask people why they don’t drink

Whether it be medical reasons or a personal choice, they don’t need to explain their decision

People sitting around a table drinking and looking at the camera.
Intrusive questions disrespects other people’s choice to avoid drinking. PHOTO: Yuliia Bas / Pexels

By Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

Asking questions can be a great way to learn more about your peers, but it is important to be mindful of the types of questions you ask. Asking someone why they don’t drink might seem harmless, but for the person on the receiving end, it may not always be. 

People may have various reasons for avoiding drinking. They may be abstinent because of health concerns. For people who take medicine that causes drowsiness, alcohol can worsen these side effects. Also, people who are allergic or intolerant to alcohol may experience nausea and hives. 

If someone does not drink, it is also possible they did drink in the past but decided to stop for a variety of reasons. Given that “excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, or stroke,” someone may choose abstinence. If people don’t want to reveal their personal or medical history to you, respect their privacy and do not dig for more personal details. If they consider telling you about possible health conditions, it is better for them to tell you when they are ready, not on your terms. Also, not everyone enjoys the taste of alcohol, which is completely okay. Based on genetics, some people “perceive alcohol to be more bitter.”   

If you act like you’re entitled to know why someone avoids certain substances, you are infringing on their boundaries. This turns the conversation into a one-sided interrogation and may even lead to peer pressure.

If you are in a conversation where you notice that someone is asking intrusive questions, remind them they should be respectful of others’ personal choices and redirect the conversation to another topic. People may not want to explain their reasons for not drinking, and it’s not anyone’s place to intrude

We shouldn’t ignore other people’s boundaries to satisfy our curiosity or pressure someone to drink. Whatever the reason behind someone’s abstinence, recognize they are more knowledgeable about their situation than you are to make an informed decision about their lives.