Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD
“Be yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking of you, because they’re probably feeling the same kind of scared, horrible feelings that everyone does.” – Phil Lester
“Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.” – V.S. Naipaul
In this short article, we are going to talk about peer pressure and the ways of dealing with it. Every person has peers. Peers are your friends and colleagues. They are the same age as you and they usually have the same life experience as you. In the case of schoolchildren, peers are their classmates and friends. Although your peers are not necessarily your friends, you may inadvertently listen to their opinion and care what they think about you. In other words, their opinion matters to you and it affects you too.
There are two types of peer pressure. On the one hand, there is positive peer pressure. In this case, your peers are motivating you to be a better version of yourself. For example, if your peers are pushing you to study harder, this time of peer pressure will benefit you. Likewise, if your peers are disapproving of your rudeness and other types of bad behaviour, you will refrain from them, thus becoming a more polite person.
Oh, the other hand, however, there is negative peer pressure. And this type of pressure is usually a source of concern for many parents and teachers. Negative peer pressure is when your peers are pushing you to do something that they think is acceptable. But, unlike positive peer pressure, negative peer pressure will not benefit you. in fact, negative peer pressure may have a detrimental effect on you and others.
There are many examples of negative peer pressure. For example, your peers, seeing that you are doing your homework, may laugh at you, saying that doing homework is for losers. They may assure you that “Cool” people always cheat and copy from others. Sometimes, you may be pressured into not including certain people in social activities. You may even be encouraged to bully some of your classmates. Negative peer pressure is also usually associated with drinking alcohol, taking drugs, bullying teachers, and so on.
It is obvious that negative peer pressure is not something that should be tolerated at school. And if you are facing negative peer pressure, then you need to be able to resist it. Although resisting peer pressure is very difficult, after all, human beings are highly social creatures, who value the opinions of others, but it is still possible.
So if you feel that your peers are trying to convince you to do things that you don’t want to do, and especially, if you think that these things may be dangerous for your and other people, there are several ways that will help you handle peer pressure.
Just Say No
Say “no” and make sure your peers understand that you mean it. Be firm about it. If you stand up to peer pressure once, it is very likely that your peers will refrain from pressuring you in the future. An important thing – make eye contact with your peers when saying you are not interested in what they are offering to you. Some of the phrases that you may use: are “I don’t do that, thank you”, and “I would rather not”. Sometimes your peers may call you a “coward” or use other offensive words to make you prove to them otherwise. But this is just their trick to get you to do what they want – so do not fall for that and be firm.
Anticipate Peer Pressure
Try to anticipate situations that may be good for negative peer pressure. For example, if someone invites you to a party house or something like that and you feel that they will be drinking alcohol or doing drugs, politely refuse. It is in the environments like that that teenagers usually feel pressured to do things they don’t want to. Remember, you are still a school pupil and you have a whole life ahead of you. For now, you need to concentrate on your studies.
Seek Out Friends with Similar Interests
Also, make sure that you are making friends with people who have the same interests as you. Try to avoid making friends with people just because they are popular at school or something like that. If you have a genuine friendship with the people who like you and care for you, you will be less likely to face situations when you will be pressured to do things that you don’t want to.
Make An Excuse
If it is difficult for you to come up with an assertive response. Make an excuse. This may make things easier. This will also help you not be rude to your peers (in fact, being rude may only complicate your relationships with them). There are many different types of excuses to which you may resort. You can say something like: “Oh, I forgot that I have an important meeting with my dad – I promised him to help with his car.” It is important to prepare these excuses in advance so that they sound real and like you have just made them up.
If your peers do not believe you and insist that you do what you don’t want, you can ask your real friends or parents to give you a call during the time when you think negative pressure may happen. When your peers see that you actually have a commitment and you actually talk about it on the phone, they will back down.
Think About It
If you have second thoughts about something that is being offered to you or if you are not sure whether you should accept your peers’ invitation take your time to think about it. Ask yourself – is it something that is going to help me in my future life? Is it something that will make me healthier? Is it safe for me and other people? One thing to remember – is not to allow your peers to shape your opinions.
Dealing with Emotions
If you are experiencing strong emotions because of negative peer pressure, work with them. The ability to be able to work with your feelings, recognize the bad ones and address the most overwhelming ones is called emotional intelligence. In our Shiminly blog, we have talked a lot about the concept of emotional intelligence and its various aspects (have a look at other articles on our blog). One of the best tactics to deal with emotions is journaling them, that is, writing them down on a piece of paper.
Writing about the situation on a piece of paper may help you look at the situation more objectively and come up with a plan of action that you think may be the most correct and efficient. It may also help you see if you have achieved progress in handling your emotions and social situations.
Talk To Your Parents
Yes, peer pressure is a very sensitive thing and you probably would not like to discuss your problems with peers with your parents. That is completely understandable. But if you feel like none of the strategies that we have offered you are helping, it is time that you talked with your parents. Your parents wish you well and they may offer some useful advice. Even if they don’t, they will still be able to listen to you – that in itself may be of great help. Emotional support from your parents is particularly important and when you feel that you have it, you may look at the peer pressure you are experiencing from a whole new perspective. You may even naturally come up with some efficient solutions you did not know existed.
In this article, we have talked about negative peer pressure and how to handle it. Unfortunately, peer pressure is common not only among children but adults as well. So learning how to handle negative peer pressure is an important life skill and mastering it will stand you in good stead in the future. Check out our other articles on emotional intelligence and school life and find more useful tips on how to handle your relationships with teachers, parents, and teachers.
Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.