Yes, this delightful marketing ploy born out of boredom on Navy vessels has become a beacon of life. This magical timeframe in the mid-late afternoon with discounted drinks and appetizers can be a great escape from the perils and savagery of adult life. Happy hour is a chance to gather and relax, share ideas, let off steam, all while saving a couple of bucks.
We often spend most of our time in two places; work and home. In each of these places, we are expected to act in a certain way. Whether it’s the corporate professional or the loving partner and/or parent, there’s always a pseudo character version of us we are playing. Happy hour strips us of these disguises and gives us a break from ourselves. It’s adult recess. A short break between work and home. Happy hour isn’t just a chance to catch up with yourself, but also with your friends.
Finding the time to catch up with friends is never easy. Schedules get complicated and seldom is anyone’s home “ready for company.” Once again happy hour is here to help. Most of us commute to and from work anyway, so adding a weekly happy hour that is in everyone’s route makes gathering together easier! Being able to catch up is great, even if it’s just for one drink or a plate of mozzarella sticks. Over time, this weekly assembly of your brain trust becomes an island of fun in your workweek.
If the idea of going out of your way to find a happy hour feels like too much of a burden after a long day’s work, just think about how delicious that two-for-one margarita will taste as you vent to your friends how big of an asshole your boss was. Enjoy a meditative moment with your $4 well cocktail. Your workday is done and it’s time to celebrate being alive. If we don’t hit up a happy hour every now and again, then what is all of this work for?
We have a nasty habit of setting long term goals and punishing ourselves until we get there, only to feel unsatisfied for some reason. If we don’t give ourselves small rewards occasionally, then we forget life is living. This small reprise from the day re-energizes our souls. It brings our playful selves back and reminds us not to take life too seriously.
You arrive to the restaurant, everyone turns and is staring at you. Remember to smile and say hello. Maybe follow that up with a “So this is where you all hide after 5pm”, or some other corny office-esque statement that is safe, slightly accusatory, but friendly. Now to jump in.
You’ll want to have 1-2 drinks, to show everyone that you can let loose, but not too many because you don’t want to get that loose. A safe bet would be to order a pint of your favorite beer, or if you’re classy a scotch – neat. Don’t ask the waiter any questions, just move things along. Don’t return your food or drink – even if there’s a rat crawling out of your $4 spinach artichoke dip, do not return it!
Be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Small talk. Basic information at first, but it may get deeper as the night goes on. Be prepared to tell the group how you became interested in your industry, where you went to college, possible affiliations, whether or not you’re married, have kids, coach softball, play poker, watch movies, etc. etc. etc. Answer questions, with thoughtful answers, but don’t monopolize the entire conversation. Be curious. Don’t let everyone ask you questions all night without returning the favor. The truth is they want to talk more than they want to listen. Give the group the opportunity to talk about their jobs, ask them about their lives, softball, movies, etc.. Don’t bash the boss. Don’t gossip. Don’t hint at wanting to gossip. Some of you know exactly what that means. Some of you don’t. If the group starts gossiping, don’t participate. Don’t ignore them or make a statement about how gossiping is bad. Just don’t participate. Smile, nod, stay relatively quiet until the conversation shifts.
Try to demonstrate the same level of interest in everyone that is there. They have invited you into the “group”. Take this opportunity to show each of them that you are interested in them, and not just the most outspoken member of their group (probably “Steve from finance”). It’s also probably best for you to leave a little early. Avoid the awkward bill issue. Close out your tab separately. Give the rest of them some time to “debrief” what they think of you. They’ll appreciate it. They wont know that they’re appreciating it, but they will.