Sometimes just the words “peer pressure” spark anxious, judgmental and negative feelings — especially when we attach verbs such as succumbing to or giving in to “peer pressure.”
And many times we are directing our guidance of avoiding peer pressure to the young adults, teenagers and children in our lives. No doubt there are more temptations and access to trouble now than in any previous generation. So our advice and steering to avoid peer pressure has never been more valuable, as long as it doesn’t fall on deaf ears or comes across as, “Well when I was your age ... ” because that never goes well. Or if it sounds overplayed like, “If all of your friends jumped off of the top of the mountain, would you follow, too?” Yikes!
Avoiding peer pressure can be turned from a negative to a positive as we encourage those that look up to us with confidence boosters and nurturing self-esteem-building words and actions. You know how it goes — when we tell or ask someone not to do something, especially our youth, what do they do? Exactly what we told them or asked them not to do. Having open dialogues about previous errors in judgment or examples where peers may have misled us, or perhaps we were the peer misleading others. As my friend Bert reminded me last week, sometimes when we think we are following, we could actually also be in a position of leading all of those who are following us, too.
Another awesome and positive side of peer pressure is playing itself out right now before our very eyes, ears and through our contributions. I am talking about the ALS ice bucket challenge. If you haven’t seen this yet or heard of it, the challenge has gone absolutely viral. People have been challenged to fill a bucket with water and ice and then dump the bucket over their head or have a family member or friend participate and tip the ice filled bucket onto their head. Then each participant that has accepted the challenge gets to challenge others in their circle of friends, associates or family to take the same challenge. Now if they don’t take the challenge and want to avoid the fleeting moment of freezing water spilling over their head and body, then they can elect to make a donation to ALS. And in some cases I know people that have done both, accepted the ALS ice bucket challenge and also made a nice financial contribution to ALS.
JUMPING ON BOARD
And it’s not just ALS — just look at all the fundraisers for breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, SMA, diabetes and so many others and include events like 5K runs, walks, auctions, golf tournaments where we sign up to sponsor runners, walkers, golfers and place our names on those silent auction sheets all for the greater good. And you know how it goes — sometimes we are on the fence of whether or not we will participate or sponsor someone, and then one of our friends, one of our peers does it and before we know it we have jumped in as well. And that is just incredible.
Peer pressure in business is also extremely positive. There is nothing better than some healthy and friendly competition. As a salesman I was always interested in how well my peers were doing. I used their productivity as a motivator to try and beat them the next day, week or month. And it went both ways — my lifelong friend and fellow salesmen would always contact me just to see what I sold that day so we could compete the following day.
So the next time we feel like cringing when we hear the words “peer pressure,” just remember it can absolutely be leveraged as a positive influence in our lives and not always a negative. How about you? Have you had a positive experience with peer pressure? I would love to hear all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org, and when we focus on the positive peer pressure in our lives it really will be a better than good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of www.candogo.com. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.