In any environment where there’s a variety of people working together, peer pressure is often present. In fact, some of the best (and worse) leaders have reached high-ranking positions in large part due to their ability to influence others.
Being influenced can be good, when others are encouraging you to consider options that help you achieve or enhance your goals. But being influenced can be bad when it distracts you from your goals and shifts your focus to unhealthy behaviors.
Negative influence or peer pressure is a form of manipulation that is often used to make people do things they normally wouldn’t do. Sometimes peer pressure is a form of bullying, while sometimes it is a friendly offer from someone who wants you to feel included. Regardless of the intent, you should not be forced to do anything that goes against your values.
These three tips will help you resist peer pressure and maintain control of your life.
For years, I didn’t want to offend people, so I found passive ways to say no. If I don’t like sushi, but a coworker asks me to go to a sushi bar for lunch, saying “thanks, but I already ate” does not address the issue directly.
Even though I was telling the truth, my response implies that if I had not eaten yet, I would be willing to eat sushi. This indirect and passive response often leads to people making the same request in the future. Being direct addresses the issue and allows both parties to move forward. It also paints a clear picture of your values to others, often allowing you to avoid awkward encounters down the road.
Misdirection is a key tool that can be used against you. Imagine wrapping up your lunch break, when you see some of your coworkers beginning their break. When you tell them your break is over and you’re headed back to your desk, they may say, “we just passed by your department and no one is over there. Just stay for a few minutes.”
Recognize that your department being empty is irrelevant to the fact that your break is over, and you are supposed to go back to work.
Establish your brand and reputation as someone who does not condone or participate in misconduct. Although it may be challenging in the beginning, the direct and consistent communication of your values will soon reduce the number of inappropriate requests you receive.
Author and entrepreneur August Turak said, “While we often think unethical behavior is the result of bad people doing bad things, actually it usually comes from good people doing bad things, out of fear and insecurity.”
I encourage you to stand firm on your values and have the courage to make the decision you believe is right when others try to convince you otherwise.
Always remember, Leadership is a Lifestyle.
– Ryan W. Hirsch
Program Manager, NASBA Center for the Public Trust