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Peer pressure and its 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.

It’s not always obvious when peer pressure is happening, but understanding peer pressure and its influence on decision making can help you to make sure you’re choosing to do things because you want to, not because you feel that you have to.

What is peer pressure?

Peer pressure is a type of pressure or influence pushed on a person by a group of their friends, colleagues or other students. It involves people trying to force you into doing something you actually don’t want to do. Peer pressure 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. When people try to get you to change your opinions or behaviours, it is also known as peer pressure.

Peer pressure isn't always easy to recognise. It doesn’t have to involve words. You might simply get a feeling from others that you should be doing something just because they are.

Of course, peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it can be helpful when friends encourage us to do something positive. However, peer pressure usually 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, when you might hang out with people from school or your local area, even if you don’t want to be friends with them. 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 do. 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 socialising taking place in pubs and at parties. It’s important to remember that it is possible to have a good time without drugs or alcohol, and your friends should respect your decision not to drink or take drugs if you don’t want to. You are still a fun, interesting person without needing to take drugs or drink alcohol, and it’s okay to say no. There are a lot of things you can do on sober nights out.

Sexting

You might feel under pressure to send pictures 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. 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, but don’t worry if you’ve already started. We can help you to find out how you can quit.

However, there are many situations where peer pressure can happen, and it’s not just limited to these examples. Any time you do something you don’t want to do simply because you feel you have to in order to fit in with or keep your friends, it can be considered peer pressure.

How to deal with peer pressure

It can be difficult to handle peer pressure, and it may take a while to realise that it’s happening to you. Here are some ways you can deal with peer pressure:

Learn how to say no

Saying no to peers can be difficult. It is also hard to be assertive when you’re feeling pressured. If you don’t want to do something, try to be clear and direct when you say no. Try using sentences that start with 'I feel' or 'I think' to express your thoughts and explain why you don’t want to do something. If people continue to pressure you, remember you can always leave the situation - and know that you deserve to have friends who respect your feelings.

Build confidence

Take some time to work on your confidence and self belief. If you are confident within yourself and have good self-esteem, it can be easier to say no. This can also help you to build up your resilience, which makes it easier for you to get back on your feet when you experience setbacks in life.

Remember that it is possible to build your confidence after bullying.

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 to find more like-minded people to befriend. Try joining youth groups or looking into ways to meet new people to find new friends.

Talk about it

If there’s someone else in the group who you think might feel the same as you, or a friend in the group who you trust, try talking to them about it and ask how they feel about it. If they are experiencing similar feelings, you will have each other for support.

You can also 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.

Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now?

If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.

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Published Jan­u­ary 15th2013
Last updated March 16th2018
Tags friends peer pressure
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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