Imagine that you work at a small business. Every employee knows every other employee by name, and you all work closely together on a regular basis. Christmas is coming up, and every year the staff participates in an optional Secret Santa gift exchange. After last year’s Secret Santa, you told yourself that you would not participate in another, but every person in your office has been talking up gift ideas for weeks. You eventually change your mind, deciding to participate in the gift exchange after all, I know the feeling because I always end up buying the holzuhren jewelry gift after saying I won’t participate.
Whether or not your coworkers explicitly encouraged you to participate in this year’s Secret Santa exchange, just being around and participating in their conversations about gift ideas, hopes, and expectations was enough to change your position over time.
Though we all like to think otherwise, especially as we grow older, most people are susceptible to peer pressure.
Our common conceptions about peer pressure center around children. Indeed, a lot of peer pressure research focuses on children and young adults. The consensus does seem to be that children, and teens especially, are more heavily influenced by peer pressure than are adults. It is a mistake, though, to underestimate or discount the powerful effects peer pressure has on all people, particularly when the behavior being influenced is low-risk, or trivial. So powerful is the human need to conform to larger social groups that some peer pressure is pervasive, and some occurs unintentionally.
How can you best defend yourself against the pressures of peer groups?.
First, it should be noted that not all peer pressure is negative. An Alcoholic’s Anonymous peer group might, for instance, help pressure a recovering alcoholic into sticking to the AA plan. Not all peer pressure, then, need put you on the defensive. You must use your own critical thinking skills and good judgment to devise the best approach to any form of peer pressure.
There are practices you can adopt that will help moderate the effects of peer pressure on your decisions and actions, and a few will be discussed here; however, the best you can do is to practice awareness. Think critically, be objective, examine your feelings. Are your justifications for behaving in any particular manner reasonable? Are they in your best interests? Just knowing that peer pressure occurs normally throughout human interactions, realizing that the pressure can be subtle and powerful, can help you recognize when you are being pressured.
Recognizing that peer pressure is occurring is the first and most important step, but you will also need some means of mitigating its effects.
One strategy, especially useful when you know that you will be in an environment—a house party, perhaps—where you are likely to experience peer pressure, is to set firm and definite limits beforehand. Want to make sure not to get drunk? Set a maximum drink limit for yourself. Instead of saying “I will only drink a little,” say “I will only have two drinks.” Say it aloud, in front of a mirror; or, if someone you trust will be going with you, say it to that person.
A different strategy, one that works well with big decisions like choosing a career or purchasing a house, is to make a rule not to decide on anything without taking at least a day to consider the decision first. In the heat of the moment, especially when an idea is first being considered, your decisions are more easily influenced by external factors, especially others. Take some time to consider how your decision will affect you, and what you would like to get out of any particular decision.