Hello everybody, welcome to episode 23 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today’s question is something that I think people of all ages, backgrounds, whatever can relate to, as it's to do with peer pressure. It’s easy to let friends walk on us a bit sometimes, and today we’ll discuss how to address these dynamics in a practical way.
So let’s hear what this viewer had to ask…
QUESTION: “I don't like the taste of alcohol very much. I do drink fruity frozen drinks occasionally, but I don't prefer the taste and I don't like beer. My husband and I will go to dinner with friends and all of them drink alcohol and I am often chastised for not consuming some alcoholic beverage. I'm sick of being asked why I'm not drinking and being told I will eventually because they will pressure me into it. How do I tell these people to leave me alone about not drinking? To me alcohol is expensive and why would I want to waste money on something I don't even like! Thank you!”
Good question; we haven’t really addressed peer pressure or confrontation here yet, so we’ve got some new ground to cover. And a study in 2010 mentioned that alcohol use is considered as a negative coping strategy, with peer pressure (drinking along with friends) being a significant influencer in continued usage of alcohol. So, the pressure is real!
Before we get to discussing what you can do to get your peers to leave you alone, though, let’s first make sure we know who or what exactly you’re responding to – or at least make an effort to do so. A hole a lot of us fall into is deploying these sort of flailing responses to people that are built more upon frustration than they are understanding. Most often this is because we create enemies out of these people in our minds based on the images of them we have.
The problem is, these images aren’t necessarily true, and it takes a lot more effort to get to the truth of those images than it does to box these people up and start screaming at them.
So let’s talk first about who these people are and what their intentions might be.
Assuming the Intentions of Others
Now, before proceeding, I will interrupt myself to ask everyone listening to raise their hands if they have done too much thinking for other people and jumped to assumptions about their intentions…if the sound on this episode was wobbly for a second there, it’s because I shot my arm straight up. I, for one, am guilty guilty guilty of this, but here’s the thing: assuming the intentions of others is something we do naturally. We sorta have to.
No, we won’t get the answers and we don’t want to put words in people’s mouths, but while we’re generating our assumptions anyway, it’s important to give equal opportunity to all potential sides of the story.
Let’s see how this works for you.
I’m feeling as though there might be some tension rising between you and these friends vis-à-vis peer pressure. I might be wrong. Either way, let’s look at all the options. Sure, they might be bullying you. They might be annoyed with you. They might be wondering what’s wrong with you. They might be thinking you’re cheap.
Or, they might be trying to help you unwind. They might be trying to form a bond with you. They might be trying to get you to challenge yourself. They might be light-heartedly joking with you. They might even be trying to get you to drink with them because they wish they had the courage to stop drinking and having you drink as well makes them feel better about their inability to stop.
Aim for Healthy Communication
The point is, there are a lot of options based on any number of ways that they might express themselves and their feelings towards you, and the only way to hone in on these forms of expression and feelings is through healthy communication – not by jumping the gun and communicating based on an assumption that revolves around one of the many options that I listed, not to mention roughly a trillion other possibilities that I didn’t list. The bottom line is, let’s make sure you’re not misinterpreting friendship as an attack, or maybe even vice versa.
Let’s also bear in mind that not everyone is a master of reading body language or picking up hints, especially after getting cross-eyed from a few frozen margaritas. If you’ve not asked them at all up to this point not to chastise you, they have no reason to. As long as they feel you’re taking their chastising in stride, you shouldn’t expect them to just stop without you taking action. Why would they?
There has clearly been a lapse in communication, and though it might be nice if they were more aware of your feelings, they’re not, and it’s your responsibility to make them aware so long as you feel there’s a problem. How do you do that? You do that as any adult would. You tell them your feelings and get vulnerable in a way that is both direct and polite.
There’s both more power and more progress made in this approach if there’s not an element of attack or aggression, because the chances are they aren’t intentionally attacking or being aggressive with you, and therefore this tension you’re feeling is probably news to them.
Focus on clarifying what is being observed, experienced, and needed instead of judging or trying to second-guess others.
Visualize Holding Your Ground amid Peer Pressure
Confrontation of any kind can be hard, though. Especially if you feel you’re at the point of boiling or aren’t used to confrontation. So if you’re still feeling uneasy or uncertain as to how you can confront them gracefully, don’t be afraid to take your time and plan the process out first.
After all, mental visualization has great potential to help you come up with original problem-solving.
Don’t be afraid to take a few minutes, close your eyes and visualize yourself confronting them. Recreate the peer pressure scene in detail. Imagine what restaurant you might be at, what time of day it might be. Maybe you’re at the same table you’re always at. A few drinks have been had. Maybe your husband’s getting a little frisky under the table, maybe someone’s already throwing up in the corner. They tease you once more, and what a perfect time it is to say what you need to say. Envision your feelings in this moment. Consider what language you can use that your friends will identify with and practice out loud saying to them what you have to say about them in a way that speaks to both your feelings and theirs.
Practice this as much as you want. Get a script together. Say it out loud. It doesn’t make you a weirdo, it makes you prepared.
It might seem a bit scary or difficult at times while you’re preparing this masterpiece, but it’s important to realize that a confrontation like this goes beyond just whether or not you want to have drinks, it’s a means of strengthening your relationship with these people by being vulnerable, speaking your truth, and therefore giving them a chance to get to know you better. It’s in moments like these that friendships reach the next level – whether they’re ended because of incompatibility or elevated because of better mutual understanding for one another.
Peer Pressure and Strengthening Relationships
And strengthening this relationship with your friends, regardless of the outcome, also strengthens your relationship with yourself. You’re making a choice to live in a way that’s more in line with who you are, and through it you’re either better preparing yourself to filter out the people that no longer serve you -that’s if your friends are still not respecting your wishes or having open communication. Or your developing better friendships that are based on who you really are, thus making your friends not only more fulfilling to you, but also reminders of how powerful it can be to express your individuality. This of course would happen if they’re responsive to the confrontation.
Either way, it’s clear that you have something to address and therefore a change is ready to be made. Whatever your friendships look like after this will indeed be a better reflection of who you currently are and what you currently need.
And that’ll wrap us up today, team. I sure hope the asker of this question got what they needed from this episode, and I sure hope all of you listeners also took from it, at the least, a reinstated value of communication and honesty and how it can sort of shape the world around you to be more what you need it to be.
Sometimes communication starts by just getting your feelings out to any old person, though, and if that old person is me, you can email me and the rest of the Optimal Living Advice team with questions of your own at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Thanks for tuning in for this episode, friends, and we sure hope you’ll do the same next time. Take care.