How To Defeat Peer Pressure



“There’s one advantage to being 102. There’s no peer pressure.” — Dennis Wolfberg

Peer pressure is when members of your peer group influence your emotions, opinions or behaviors.

Peer pressure is a powerful form of social influence–It can make smart people do dumb things.

You are not above peer pressure.

Peer pressure is not just for teenagers.  Research shows that two-thirds of the people will go along with the crowd, regardless of age, gender, or background.

The good news is that you can defeat peer pressure with one simple skill:
Polite Doubt

When you express Polite Doubt, you give others permission to express their silent concerns, and defeat peer pressure.

The Benefits of Following the Crowd

To be fair, there’s a good reason why peer pressure is such a powerful source of influence.   “Wisdom of the Crowd” helps us make better decisions as a group versus rely on a single expert opinion.

We’re also social creatures.

As social creatures, we are also social learners.  And fitting in is baked into our survival instincts.

But the downside is that we can fall prey to peer pressure and “Groupthink”.   When Groupthink happens, individuals in groups tend to be more dogmatic, they justify irrational actions, they are more likely to see their actions as highly moral, and they are more likely to form stereotypical views of outsiders.

So how can you get the benefits of the crowd, but avoid the downside that comes with peer pressure?

Defeat Peer Pressure by Expressing Polite Doubt

You can handle peer pressure with one simple skill: express Polite Doubt.

You don’t have to be an outcast to express your difference of opinion.

You simply have to express doubt in a respectful way.

You don’t have to scream and yell.  You don’t have to call others names.  You simply need to say that you see things differently.   For example, you might say, “Maybe I see it differently,” or “I guess I see it differently”, or “I might see it differently, but I think it’s…”

That’s enough to open the door for others to express their silent concerns.

By expressing doubt in a polite way, you avoid creating a polarizing effect, or escalating opinions into a win-lose war, or an emotional debate.

The Power of One

All it takes is one person to break the power of peer pressure.

When you’re the odd person out, you don’t have to stifle your concerns.

You simply need to express your concerns respectfully.

By expressing your concerns in a respectful way, other people see how they can chime in with their silent concerns.

One Simple Skill to Overcome Peer Pressure

In an experiment inspired by  Solomon Asch, David Maxfield and Joseph Grenny of VitalSmarts show how we can handle peer pressure with skill.

Here is the video of their peer pressure experiment:

Video: One Simple Skill to Overcome Peer Pressure, by The Behavioral Science Guys

In the experiment, you can see how two-thirds go with the wrong answer, but then, one person expresses Polite Doubt, and shifts the group to where  95% go with the right answer.

To get the most from the crowd, remind yourself to be open and respectful and encourage others to do the same.

It can be easy to doubt or second-guess yourself in a group.

But sometimes the way to find the truth is to doubt the crowd in a polite and respectful way.

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Image by Casa Fora do Elxo Minas.