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Peer pressure and it's influence on decision making

Tips for learning how to be your own person and not following the crowd

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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People who are your age, like your classmates, are called peers. When they try to influence how you act or try to get you to do something, it's called peer pressure.

What is peer pressure?

Peer pressure is a type of pressure or influence pushed on a person by a group of their friends/colleagues/other students. It has to do with people trying to force you into doing something you actually don’t want to do, and wouldn’t do if they weren’t around pressuring you to do it. It is traditionally thought of as being limited to the teenage years, but even adults can be pressured by their peers into doing something they do not necessarily want to do. Peer pressure can also be focused on trying to get you to change your opinions, as well as your behaviours.

Peer pressure isn't always easy to spot, as peer pressure can happen even when you are not explicitly told to do something. It can happen when you get a feeling from the group or person that you should be doing it (just because they are). 

Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it can be helpful when friends encourage us to do something positive. However, generally peer pressure refers to people forcing us to do things we would rather not do.

Why does peer pressure happen?

There are lots of reasons why peer pressure happens. It can be common in the young adult years because this is the time where you might be hanging out with people from school or your local area but who you might not want to be friends with. It can also happen when you want to seek approval from new friends, and struggle to say no to something you might be uncomfortable with.

Peer pressure is also common when people are younger because it takes time to build up confidence and to learn to say no. Confidence is something many people struggle with in their younger years, and it tends to get better with time. 

Many people in a group will turn against someone if they do not go along with what most of the group wants. A lot of people don’t have the confidence to walk away from a sticky situation and risk being left on their own.

When might peer pressure happen?

There are a lot of different times when you might be feeling pressured to do something you don’t want to or are unsure about. Some of these are listed below:

  • Sex. Deciding when to have sex is entirely up to you and you should be confident and comfortable about your choices. Don’t feel pressured into having sex because you think everyone else is - they’re not.
  • Alcohol and drugs. Sometimes it might feel like it’s impossible to escape alcohol and drugs with most of our socializing taking place in pubs and parties. But there are a lot of things you can do on sober nights out. It's also important to inform your friends you’re not drinking and learn to say ‘no’!
  • Sexting. You might feel under pressure to send pics to a person you’re in a relationship with or flirting with online. It may seem like a bit of harmless fun at the time but you could end up regretting sending a photo or video so find out more about protecting yourself.
  • Smoking. There are lots of different reasons why people might start smoking but it’s important to remember it’s ok to say no. There are plenty of great reasons not to smoke and don’t worry if you’ve already started, find out how you can quit.

Tips for dealing with peer pressure

  • Learn how to say no. Being assertive can be tough if you’re feeling pressured but just be honest and explain your reasons. Try using sentences that start with 'I feel' or 'I think' to express your thoughts. If people don’t understand then maybe it’s time to find new friends.
  • Try and work on your own confidence levels. If you are confident within yourself and have good self-esteem, it might be easier to say no. 
  • Find friends with common interests. A friend is someone who likes you for who you are and respects you. If you are hanging around with people who don’t like your decisions, it might be time for find more like-minded individuals to befriend.
  • Get talking about the issue to others within the group and find out if there is someone who sees things from your point of view. This way, it won’t be the group versus one, as someone will have your back.
  • Talk to someone outside the group such as a parent, a friend not involved in the group, a teacher or even a counsellor. They might be able to make suggestions that help the situation.
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Published Jan­u­ary 15th2013
Last updated March 16th2018
Tags friends peer pressure
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