The Drinks Chicken Cycle

There is a tick that every pre-SVP in Hollywood has, brought on by asking for information or a favor. Whether on the phone or in an e-mail, somewhere in between the real reason for the e-mail/phone call and the signature/hanging up falls a line that goes something like this:

"And hey - it’s been way too long. We should get drinks!"

I have a theory that most people regret that statement shortly after it’s uttered, and yet can’t quite get themselves to not say it, or even to delete it in an e-mail. It’s like we feel bad about asking for information without rewarding the information holder by gracing them with our presence over post-work alcohol. I mean, when it’s put like that, shouldn’t we just get over ourselves?

Guess what? If you’re feeling more obliged than excited to participate in said drinks, the other person probably wants to go even less. AND they already had to do a favor or give you information. You’ve really put a damper in that person’s day, and have prompted a trajectory of excuses that can last up to several months:

Drinks chicken (AKA Let’s Do Lunch Avoidance AKA Networking Hooky).

I like (love) alcohol. I like (love) food. I like (just like) most people. Yet…there is something so abhorrent about obligatory work drinks.

That thing is called networking. 90% of people secretly hate networking, and the 10% of people who actually enjoy networking are the reason for that. Anyone who knows where you work within 3 minutes of a conversation, has deduced what they can gain from you professionally within 7 minutes of the conversation, and often forgets your last name within 10 minutes of the conversation is to be avoided.

Most people aren’t like that, but it’s that 10% chance that you’re going to end up talking about “how we can work together,” “real synergy,” and “building with each other,” for an hour and a half AFTER work is enough for most people to default to drinks chicken.

Here’s how to get the most out of works drinks. Start them with something really straight up (but also charming), such as “let’s expense this, not talk about work at all, and e-mail tomorrow about all the great ways we’re going to work together.” Then, I don’t know, ask them about themselves outside of work. If you’re with a 10 percent-er, they’ll probably still try to get to a commission by the end of drinks, but you tried your best. With everyone else, you can spend the drinks figuring out if this is someone worth be-work-friending, without listening to his company’s points of difference. The bonus of this is that you’ll probably get further professionally out of that one post e-mail than a strained and mooch-y networking convo.

Before you even get to that point, you should figure out if the initiator actually does want to get drinks with you, or if you can stay at home watching The Closer over a bottle of wine instead.

Here’s how any socially-adjusted individual frames an e-mail if he/she actually wants to meet up:

1.) “We should get drinks” is followed by information-gleaning questions that are needed to schedule the drinks.
Examples include: “Where is your office again?” “When are you free?” “Is there anywhere close to your office/apartment that sounds good?” “Do you get out in time for happy hour?”

2.) The above-listed questions are followed by information-filled statements that are also needed to schedule drinks.
Examples include: “My office is in Burbank, but let’s try to meet on the other side of the hill,” “I’m free Tuesday/Thursday of next week and most of the week after,” “I’m usually stuck at work until 8, but I think I can fake an apartment emergency to meet for happy hour on Thursday.”

3.) A group is summoned. 
Once a third person (and beyond) is summoned, it’s clear there is an interest in drinks.* It is considerably harder to cancel on more than one person without running the risk of turning one drinks into multiple drinks if the schedules don’t align for the make-up drinks.

Anything more vague than this warrants a “sounds good!” response. Drinks chicken averted.

*Exception to this rule - and this is only if the person is really good at drinks chicken - the third person is not someone you know at all, but is very closely tied to the person who invited them. That person, who has nothing to lose and typically does not have to be involved in a reschedule, is the opt-out agent that allows the inviter a guilt-free out of drinks. “Oh man, random friend has a (7PM) dentist appointment now - let’s reschedule for sometime when she’s free again.” Note the artful use of the word “sometime” and basing it around someone else’s schedule. Those drinks are never happening. Respect.