What Is Peer Pressure?
Psychologists, education counselors and practitioners have often talked about the influence of peer. Peer influence is probably one of the greatest factors in social and academic learning for anyone. Heard that adage, “You are known by the company you keep”? Well, that holds true for most of us. A growing body of research has shown that the ways peers influence each other’s attitudes is probably greater than any formal education system. So it’s important to keep the right company.
Direct and Indirect Peer Pressure and Its Influence on You
Do peers pressure? Sometimes they do. At other times, the pressure is perceived, though no direct pressure is applied. Take for instance, peer pressure in school. Students who are overachievers have an impact on the ones who are in their immediate circle. They may not do or say anything directly, however, the others in the group either feel compelled to rise up or drift away. In either case, there has been indirect peer pressure. This kind of influence helps to raise the bar, improve group performance and foster healthy competition.
Sometimes, peer pressure can be direct. Have you ever been under pressure from your friend or colleague to take a particular decision or to change your decision? Have you been pushed to a corner, hustled, or simply bullied into accepting peer decisions?These kind of influences, can have a negative impact on you.
Peer Pressure on Students Abroad in Foreign Campus
Peer pressure is not only on campuses abroad. It is felt by students in their home country too. Peer groups are complex, intricate, and diverse. It is a web of relationships that have an effect on the learning of everyone in the group. In a classroom of diverse individuals, coming from different parts of the world, peer influence can be rich, energetic, and highly impactful. Heard the word ‘culture shock’? Well, a lot of culture shock comes from interacting with the peer set in a foreign educational institution.
Having studied all your life in India, with little or no exposure to global cultures, cuisines, beliefs, and values, you may initially find the peer influence a little overwhelming. There will be occasions when you question your own belief systems, and try to juxtapose them along with the beliefs of your peer group. While living abroad, away from your native social environment, you develop an ability to appreciate and look beyond your limited horizon.
Positive Effects of Peer Pressure
Students often worry about feeling alienated in a multi-cultural, diverse foreign country, with few fellow Indians to befriend. They also find themselves at a constant pressure to cope with social behavior, conduct, and foreign cultures. Some even feel homesick initially, because they are unable to conform to the new environment. However, these feelings are natural, and often unfounded. The sooner you realize that the peer influence is positive, and will help you grow develop a broader perspective, the better your chances of early adjustment.
What You Can Do to Negate the Ill Effects of Peer Pressure
1. Don’t do anything that makes you very uncomfortable.
If you are not comfortable, don’t let peer pressure undermine you. Change has to be voluntary, and should lead to personal or academic growth. If the peer influences undermine your success, you should not accept it. Don’t do something merely to ‘fit in’ or not ‘stand out.’
2. Don’t buckle under pressure to be cool.
You don’t have to conform to peer standards just to be the ‘cool’ kid on the block. Sometimes, students fall into a trap, when they try to be cool, hip, or fun. Rest assured, that people want to know the real you.
3. Learn to say, ‘No!’
When you are pressured without your consent, say, ‘no!’ People respect those who have a strong, and assertive personality. Soon, your peers will learn to respect your wishes. The sooner you set the bar, the better for you.
4. Do not be judgmental.
Often, we are unwilling to accept peer influence because we are being judgmental. Don’t draw conclusions without evaluating your own prejudices. You have been raised with different social conditioning, social parameters, and influences. Realize that others have also been influenced by their own set of social parameters. Once you stop judging others, you will be less critical, and more accepting of peer influence.
5. Recognize unhealthy group dynamics.
Is the group influencing you to change for the better? Are you going to be equipped to handle life challenges based on the peer influence? If not, then stay away from unhealthy group dynamics. They can seriously impede your growth.
6. Look for people who respect you for who you are.
You don’t have to be a part of the most happening group on campus. Find your own pond of like-minded people. Mingle with those who enrich you, intellectually, spiritually, and socially. Find those who respect you for who you are, and appreciate your differences.
So, Does Peer Pressure Undermine Success?
Peer influence is a two-way street. As much as you get influenced by others, others are also influenced by you. Your culture, attitude, behaviour and social signals are also a part of the same environment. It is important that you don’t allow peer pressure to undermine your success, but instead build on it. If you let negative elements stray you from your goals, it can hinder to your personal and professional success. However, if you sensitize yourself to the immediate surrounding, become culturally aware, understand your personal dynamics, and stand strong under adverse conditions, then peer influence provides a great platform for future success.
Peer influence can undermine your success or enhance it. It is up to you to take it in the right spirit, with the right attitude. Allow the positives to stay with you and stay away from negative influence.
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