How to Say No to Peer Pressure
Did you just read “peer pressure” and immediately get flashbacks of elementary school? Many people do! While peer pressure is a term commonly used among children, it is something that can affect individuals at any age. Peer pressure can work positively or negatively, but here we will look at how to say no when peer pressure seems too strong.
What Is Peer Pressure?
Peer pressure is a term used to describe the act of letting others around you influence you to do something. “Peers” can refer to people of the same age, social group or interest to you. “Pressure” refers to the strong influence they can exert as a group (large or small). Peer pressure is commonly used to refer to making people do something negative, such as participating in bullying, drug use or illegal activity.
Why Do People Use Peer Pressure?
Unfortunately, peer pressure can be a natural part of human behavior. Power in numbers can be a strong influencer on an individual, and people may use it to get desired results to achieve uniformity. For example, a group of teenage girls may influence another girl to cut her hair into the popular “bob” style so they can all match, or to achieve uniformity. An example of using peer pressure to achieve a desired result could be when that same group of teenage girls influences another girl to steal a pack of cigarettes from a gas station for them all to enjoy.
While peer pressure is usually considered a negative part of growing up, it’s a lifelong social mechanism. Adults may peer pressure one another to go to the gym, dress a certain way or get married at a certain time. These can be considered positive or negative forms of peer pressure depending on the situation and methods of influence. Using a group to influence an individual is seen as a natural behavior in many species, and humans are no exception.
Peer Pressure and Drugs
Often times, individuals and groups use peer pressure to encourage someone to do something they initially refused. For example, your family may have said, “Let’s go to the park this morning.” If you said “No, I don’t want to,” and they continued to tease and taunt you until you changed your mind, that is peer pressure.
Many individuals use this kind of peer pressure to engage children, teenagers and adults in risky behavior such as using alcohol or drugs. It is likely that, at some point in their lives, everyone has heard about the dangers of drug use and binge-drinking. So, why do so many people choose to partake anyway? One explanation is peer pressure. A group of individuals can continuously tease, taunt, bully and encourage someone to do something they don’t want to until eventually they “crack” and agree to do it. For some, this takes minutes, but for others, it may last weeks, months or years.
How to Say “No” to Peer Pressure
Saying no to someone with the opposite mindset as you can be extremely challenging. Standing up to someone or a group of people using peer pressure takes confidence, courage and conviction. The most important thing to do is not let these negative influencers change your mind about anything, good or bad, until you have thought about it yourself. Making decisions for yourself is the best way to achieve a healthy and happy life, which is part of what you can share with others. Here are some tips for standing up against peer pressure:
- Stay calm. Showing any signs of stress can encourage people to pressure you more, as they can tell their method may be working to change your mind. Using a calm, slow speech pattern is the best way to convey to someone you believe in yourself, and their efforts are wasted on you.
- Be succinct. Saying “no” to something should not take more than a few sentences. Make sure your message is short and clear, so people have no question about what you are communicating. After you speak, it should be clear to everyone that you are not changing your mind.
- Try an “I Message.” An “I Message” can be useful if the person you need to stand up against is someone you love and/or respect. It can be difficult to have these conversations with people when we don’t want to sacrifice our relationship.
An “I Message” helps you focus on yourself and helps the other person/people understand how to avoid the problem in the future. Use and “I Message” by filling in these blanks: “I feel ______ when you _______ because _______.” Here’s an example: “I feel betrayed when you ask me to smoke cigarettes with you because I’ve told you that I don’t ever want to smoke.” Simple is best!
Ask for help. While these tips can be helpful, sometimes situations can become so dangerous or serious that you need strength in numbers, too. Confide in a friend, family member or adult who understands your point-of-view and can help you determine the best course of action. Showing negative influencers that you have an ally can sometimes be all it takes to make them back off for good.