What Is Peer Pressure? How Does It Influence You?
Humans are social beings with an inherent need to be attached to their communities, social groups and families. We strive…
October 2, 2020 | 6 mins read
Humans are social beings with an inherent need to be attached to their communities, social groups and families. We strive to follow all stated and unstated norms and practices to be accepted by others. According to American psychologist Abraham Maslow, the need to belong is a primary human motivation and the need to be accepted is universal.
People of the same age, status or ability as us are our peers. They could be our classmates, friends, acquaintances, colleagues at work, or relatives. They play a large role in our social and emotional development and make us want to be like them.
What is peer pressure?
Most of us grow up with parents comparing our performance at school or our social habits with our peers. This makes us believe that it’s natural to compare ourselves with our peers, and to emulate the way they speak, dress and behave.
The pressure to do so is called peer pressure. People feel the effects of peer pressure when they are growing up and when they start working.
Peer pressure is healthy when it motivates us to do better and improve ourselves. However, if it gives rise to feelings of inadequacy or defeat, or if we start feeling anxious that our friends are able to easily accomplish things that we are struggling with, then the same examples of peer pressure can be harmful to our well-being. One of the significant effects of peer pressure is on our ability to form and maintain significant relationships.
Peer influence is the pressure wielded by a peer group in influencing our attitude, behavior, morals and other aspects of life. The desire to fit in and be considered part of a group is normal, especially during our growing years.
But the constant urge to fit in, be accepted and respected can be tough to deal with. We may be very different from those around us in terms of activities or interests but still find ourselves being influenced by them. Coping with peer influence can be challenging, but it is essential to reflect on our own strengths and values to make decisions.
As long as we are surrounded by peer influence where the values, preferences and behaviors are similar to ours, we feel safe and secure. However, in life, we need to work with people with different attitudes, habits and behavior, opening ourselves to examples of peer pressure.
Take strength from knowing where you stand and act accordingly. You may feel pressured to act against your judgment. So analyze the potential consequences of trying to modify your choices and behavior, driven by peer influence.
It is perfectly ok to avoid people or walk out of situations that don’t feel right. Always do what is best for you.
Ask yourself, “Does this seem right to me?” “Do I have anything worthwhile to gain by playing along?” “Am I simply giving in to peer influence?”
Others can’t pressure or force you to do things you don’t want to do. Don’t let anyone shame or criticize you for your choices. Avoid spending time with people who behave in this way.
As much as possible, surround yourself with people who respect your decisions and do not put unfair pressure on you to conform in any way.
It is perfectly all right to use an excuse if the truth is too challenging. Examples of peer pressure could include someone forcing you to drink. If you feel awkward to refuse outright, say you are on medication or have to get up early the next day.
Always remember that you cannot please everyone or be liked by everyone, nor should you force yourself to “like” others.
Stand up for others when you see them feeling the effects of peer pressure. “Outside intervention” can be an effective way to support others and send a message.
If you ever feel that you are a helpless victim to peer pressure, please seek help on information about peer pressure from experienced elders or trusted family members, a mentor or a counselor. Unchecked peer pressure can lead to dire consequences.
Workplaces are often closed networks adhering to a unique set of codes, norms and values. In an environment that thrives on kinship, ambition, growth and job security, the pressure to conform can be immense and you may be expected to change your behavior or actions to match those around you.
Peer pressure at the workplace is a double-edged sword. The positive effects are the pressures that bring about stability, adherence to work ethics and the need to stay competitive.
However, between the push and pull of influencing forces, peer pressure can also take on a negative hue. These are the forces that typically pollute the informal dynamics of any organization. Strong leaders ensure that peer pressure is carefully managed to maintain a positive and productive work environment.
When there are negative examples of peer pressure, people begin to play it safe to maintain established positions and privileges. Sadly, they also compromise on their own beliefs.
For example, we may adopt a negative attitude towards a co-worker simply because the people we hang out with at work don’t like him.
Without even realizing it, we change our attitude, behavior or actions at work just to fit in, giving in to peer influence. We give a great deal of importance to what our colleagues think of us and end up doing things simply because we feel obligated to play along with them.
Giving in to peer pressure at work is the same as allowing others to think for you. Once you are consciously aware of why you are doing what you are, you will have the courage to stand up to peer pressure.
It is common at workplaces to be disliked for your independent thinking abilities. Find a way to work around it, instead of giving up your independent thought.
If you come across co-workers habitually ridiculing the management and their decisions, ask yourself if it is worth having to agree with them. Surely you have better things to focus on.
Peer pressure will follow you everywhere, regardless of where you work. You need to fulfill your job responsibilities. So, learn to keep your cool and be upfront about your own beliefs and points of view.
Staying true to yourself in the face of challenges by reflecting on your core values and belief system goes a long way.
Find and surround yourself with people who respect and validate each other’s experiences, reinforcing positive peer influence.
Acknowledge the fact that criticism usually comes from a place of insecurity, and you don’t need to respond to it all the time.
By being conscious of our integrity and constantly examining our actions and behavior, we can hold on to our values and belief systems. Yes, it requires courage to do what is right and not what is easy.
At workplaces, managers can build a strong sense of teamwork by staying focused on productivity and continuously reinforcing positive values. Leaders can ensure a healthy environment that allows employees to feel free to disagree and pose their own opinions without being worried about negative consequences.
Whether you are a student, a young intern or a senior manager, you have many resources available today to help with information about peer pressure. One excellent resource is Harappa Education’s Managing Teamwork course. It helps you learn to calibrate your work to your team’s goals and equip you with tools to imbibe team culture.
The course has a specific section on the GRIN Framework that will take you through the four key characteristics of effective teams. Such teams are the cornerstone of successful organizations. Productivity and profitability go hand in hand with groups that work in harmony with each other. Effective teamwork creates a positive culture where no-one is above anyone else and everyone can contribute freely. Sign up now to learn how to build your dream team.
Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about the topic related to the Collaborate habit such as Managing Conflict, Types of Negotiation, Strategic Management, Building Relationships & How to Say Sorry professionally in order to develop your collaboration skills.