Picture this: You think you’re on your way to go out with friends and watch Avengers: Endgame, then out of nowhere during dinner after watching the movie, your friends start trying to get you and your friend Jenny to date and the ensuing awkwardness approaches. Of course, we’ll be talking about peer pressure and how it can be beneficial while most of the time it isn’t.
Peer pressure can range from the minor and insignificant, like the example I previously mentioned, to tackling massive issues such as race, gender and even political viewpoints. It’s cool and all that a lot of people can relate on one subject, but I feel a lot of people aren’t necessarily agreeing out of honesty but just out of fear and peer pressure.
It’s OK to not agree or go with an idea that the masses have. It’s perfectly fine to say “no” even though the whole group you’re a part of says “yes.” It doesn’t make you a bad person. If anything, it’s helping the group as a whole.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Disagreements – when managed well – have lots of positive outcomes” such as better work products, opportunities to learn and grow, better relationships, and a more inclusive work environment. To reap these benefits, you have to get over any fear you have of conflict. Start by letting go of wanting to be liked.
Showing multiple angles to arguments and important issues can help tackle the issue from more than just one angle. Take gun control, for example. If we all agree to one extreme — like banning guns altogether or allowing automatic weapons to be owned by anyone — we aren’t addressing the main issues with having guns. Maybe there are some places in the U.S. that need guns to protect their livestock from wild animals and maybe we don’t need an AK-47 in the hands of city folks because it may be perceived as not necessary.
Agreeing right off the bat to an argument because you don’t want to cause conflict doesn’t help find a dialectic between extreme answers that need to be found.
And maybe for smaller issues, it helps tremendously by challenging the peer pressure and just naming it for what it is. Saying, “I don’t want to be peer pressured into doing this” can help with self-confidence and not doing something you’d rather avoid.
With all this said, peer pressure isn’t inherently bad. When taken to an extreme on an issue you feel very strongly about, that’s when it’s unhealthy. When a situation calls for it, let’s say a general agreement is to not talk in a movie theater, and you’re pressured into not talking, then it’s for a good reason.
At the end of the day, we can’t stop the awkwardness and discomfort of peer pressure, but we can do our best to confront it in a healthy way. And in the long run, it helps us find better solutions to problems that are in desperate need of answers. So if you disagree, voice your disagreements.