How Your Brain May Trick You Into Conforming With Peers Against Your Beliefs

4 Ways To Psychologically Manipulate Someone

How Your Brain May Trick You Into Conforming With Peers Against Your Beliefs

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.


Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which ly includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

Decide on the progress you’d your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this you normally would with a close family or friend. It is having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting.

A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:


The science of regrettable decisions

How Your Brain May Trick You Into Conforming With Peers Against Your Beliefs
Javier Zarracina/Vox

As Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her husband await their next court date, they stand accused of paying a $500,000 bribe to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits. Their defense is said to rest on the belief that they were making a perfectly legal donation to the university and its athletic teams (their children never rowed a competitive race in their lives).

Legal strategies and moral considerations aside, this strange behavior has left many observers wondering, “What were they thinking?” Surely, Loughlin and her family must have considered someone at the university would audit the admissions records or realize the coach’s high-profile recruits had never rowed a boat.

We may never know exactly what Loughlin and her family were thinking. But as a physician who has studied how perception alters behavior, I believe that to understand what compelled them to do something so foolish, a more relevant question would be, “What were they perceiving?”

Understanding the science of regrettable decisions

Several years ago, I joined forces with my colleague George York, a respected neurologist affiliated with the University of California Davis, to understand why smart people make foolish choices in politics, sports, relationships, and everyday life. Together, we combed through the latest brain-scanning studies and decades of psychological literature.

We compared the scientific findings with an endless array of news stories and firsthand accounts of real people doing remarkably irrational things: We examined the court testimony of a cop who, despite graduating top five in his academy, mistook his gun for a Taser and killed an innocent man.

We dug through the career wreckage of a once-rising politician who, despite knowing the risks, used his work phone to send sexually explicit messages.

And we found dozens of studies confirming that doctors, the people we trust to keep us safe from disease, fail to wash their hands one every three times they enter a hospital room, a mistake that kills thousands of patients each year.

When we read about famous people ruining their lives or hear about normal people becoming famous for public follies, we shake our heads in wonder. We tell ourselves we’d never do anything that.

But science tells us that we would, far more often than we’d to believe.


What alters our perceptions

In the scientific literature, George and I noticed an interesting pattern: Under the right circumstances, a subconscious neurobiological sequence in our brains causes us to perceive the world around us in ways that contradict objective reality, distorting what we see and hear. This powerful shift in perception is unrelated to our intelligence, morals, or past behaviors. In fact, we don’t even know it’s happening, nor can we control it.

George and I named this phenomenon “brainshift” and found that it happens in two distinct situations: those involving high anxiety and those associated with major reward.

Under these conditions, all of us would do something just as regrettable as the headline-grabbing stories above, contrary to what we tell ourselves. Phrased differently, we don’t consciously decide to act a fool. Rather, once our perception is distorted, we act in ways that seem reasonable to us but foolish to observers.

Javier Zarracina/Vox

How our fears and desires fool us

This neurobiological process is best observed in a research study, published in 2005 in the journal Biological Psychiatry, by the neuro-economist Gregory Berns. He recruited volunteers for what he advertised as a vision experiment.

Five participants at a time were asked to look at computerized 3D shapes and decide whether the figures would match or clash when rotated.

The trick was this: Four of the five test subjects were part of the research team, intentionally giving wrong answers to specific questions, which could be seen by the one non-actor in the room. Would the other answers influence that person’s selections?

Berns found that 30 percent of the subjects answered correctly every time, despite the contradictory responses given by others.

MRI scans revealed that this act of nonconformity caused the participants great discomfort.

It also activated an almond-shaped structure in the temporal lobes of the brain called the amygdala, which is associated with negative emotions such as fear and apprehension.

By contrast, those participants whose answers aligned with the others activated a different part of the brain called the parietal lobes. This area, near the back of the head, is responsible for our perceptions: what we see, hear, taste, and feel.

Knowing the answers from the others caused their brains to subconsciously alter what they saw. this changed perception, they then concurred with the others, avoiding the amygdala stimulation and associated pain they otherwise would have experienced.

Looking at the data, when subjects were presented with the erroneous answers, they gave the wrong response 41 percent of the time, but only 13 percent when deciding by themselves. In almost all cases, they felt their answers were correct. Only 3.4 percent of the subjects said they had known the right answer but went along with the majority response anyway.

If peer pressure and conscious choice were the culprits in their decisions, the participants would have been aware it was happening. But the study suggests it was a subconscious shift in perception that can occur even when subjects think they’re alone.

The case of the good seminarian

In 1973, the research duo of John Darley and Daniel Batson asked Princeton Theological Seminary students to visit a group of children across campus to deliver a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The researchers told some of the future pastors, “It’ll be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head on over.” They told others, “You’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. You’d better get moving.”

While proceeding across campus, each subject passed a man slumped in a doorway, moaning and coughing.

Imagine yourself in this situation: A classroom of children awaits you but, along the way, you encounter a man who’s clearly in distress. Is there any doubt what you do? Or what religiously attuned students would do? No matter the circumstances, we’d expect everyone to help. However, only 10 percent of the “hurried” students stopped to offer assistance.

The best explanation for this behavior is that, amid the anxiety of running late, most of the students experienced a perceptual shift that caused them not to see the man or recognize his distress. Otherwise, logically, all would have stopped to help.

So far, these examples have demonstrated how people behave in the context of controlled research studies. But George and I observed the same subconscious distortion of reality play out in dozens of real-life examples throughout history.

Observing the “brainshift” process in real life

One of the more notorious examples is the case of the Norden Bombsight, a story masterfully told in Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 2011 TED talk.

It was the early days of World War II, and with Nazi aggression on the move, the Allies needed to conduct massive airstrikes to achieve victory.

But US generals and senior military officials faced a fear-inducing dilemma: how to take out military targets without inadvertently killing civilians in nearby buildings? Carl Norden, a Swiss engineer, promised a solution.

He claimed the Norden Bombsight could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from 20,000 feet above.

Convinced it would save civilian lives, American leaders bought 90,000 units in 1940 and paid a modern-day equivalent of $30 billion. There was just one problem: Norden’s devices didn’t work. American flyers estimated as many as 90 percent of bombs missed their targets.

Of course, MRI machines didn’t exist in the 1940s, but we can predict what they would have found. The immense value of a precision bombing tool would have stimulated the generals’ reward centers, activated their parietal lobes, and led them to perceive the technology as effective despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps the generals would have made different decisions if they were on the battlefield themselves. This next study examines what people do when they’re directly in harm’s way.

When reward opportunities put us in life-threatening situations

To demonstrate the mind-altering effects of a dangerous situation, we turn to a 2010 episode of NBC’s Dateline called “What Were You Thinking?”

Host Chris Hansen sets the scene: “We rented this room on the fourth floor of an old building and hired these temp workers who were told they’d be doing clerical work for the day.”

The workers don’t know it, but everyone in the room is a Dateline staffer who knows what’s about to happen. As smoke begins to fill the room, the staffers pretend nothing’s wrong. The smoke is harmless, of course, but the temp workers don’t know that.

It would appear the building’s on fire and yet 90 percent of applicants remain seated, even after the room has completely filled with smoke. When asked why they ignored the threat, the subjects reported that they didn’t see the situation as dangerous.

We can’t assign this illogical behavior to “groupthink” or “peer pressure,” or any explanation other than altered perception. When our safety is in jeopardy, we don’t decide to die with others just to fit in. Parents to ask children whether they’d jump off a bridge if their friends did. They know the answer is no.

the available neurobiological data, the most logical conclusion is that these temp workers, seeking the reward of a full-time position, experienced a subconscious shift in perception that led them to behave in ways they probably regretted once the show was aired. The same phenomenon was illustrated decades earlier during Stanley Milgram’s electric shock study, the kind of horrific experiment today’s scientific community would no longer permit.

Why we stick with bad decisions after we make them

The Dateline experiment showed us that situations involving fear and reward can lead to poor “snap judgments.” But what would cause someone to stand by a foolish decision?

The science of behavioral economics tells us that after we’ve made a decision, even an illogical one, we tend to cling to it. That is, we filter out dissenting information while seeking data that confirms our original viewpoints. Psychologists call this “anchoring.”

The combination of distorted perception and anchoring explains why a bevy of venture capitalists, high-ranking generals, and business tycoons all lined up to invest in Theranos, the now-disgraced blood-testing startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes.

It’s unclear whether Holmes studied or knew about the neurobiological progressions that distort our perceptions, but she used them to perfection.

In her sales presentations, she played to a fear that nearly all humans share: She spoke of large-bore needles drawing vial after vial of blood and promised that her technology could make the process painless.

Simultaneously, her comments triggered the reward center of the brain as she explained how just a few drops of blood could lead to the earlier detection of cancer and, in her words, create “a world in which no one ever has to say goodbye too soon.”

Just how powerful were these fear and reward triggers? By May 2015, investors had given Holmes $900 million without ever demanding to see an audited financial statement or published proof that her technology worked. Anchoring bias, brainshift’s partner in crime, explains why so many of Holmes’s board members and investors stood by her even after investigative reports began exposing the company as fraudulent.

Can we protect ourselves from this?

our research, the first big step toward avoiding the dangerous consequences of brainshift is to be aware that we are all vulnerable, regardless of our ethics, social status, or IQ.

Next, we must be cognizant of situations that stoke our fears and desires: Those involving money, sex, and fame/recognition are good places to start. Before making decisions, we should ask a trusted friend or even an outsider for an opinion.

When situations allow, consult an independent expert. If an investment opportunity seems too good to be true, try talking yourself it. If your counterargument seems rational, listen.

Finally, and particularly in the context of reward, write down the answer to these questions:

  1. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  2. How would I feel if that outcome occurred?

Had Lori Loughlin and her husband asked these questions — with the reward of a USC acceptance letter on the line — they might not be facing potential jail time.

Dr. Robert Pearl is the former CEO of the Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser Permanente. He currently is a professor in the Stanford Graduate Schools of Business and Medicine.

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Peer Pressure

How Your Brain May Trick You Into Conforming With Peers Against Your Beliefs

«Now!» whispered Suki. «Quick, while the clerk's not looking.»

Heart pounding, Leah leaned against the store's unattended makeup display and slid two tubes of lipstick into her purse. She looked bored and detached as she followed her friends Suki and Jill the store, but inside she felt panicked.

«I can't believe you made me do that,» Leah wailed.

«Relax,» said Jill. «Everybody does it sometimes. And we didn't make you do it.»

She said nothing, but Leah knew she wouldn't have done that on her own. She'd just had a big dose of peer pressure.

Who Are Your Peers?

When you were a little kid, your parents usually chose your friends, putting you in play groups or arranging play dates with certain children they knew and d. Now that you're older, you decide who your friends are and what groups you spend time with.

Your friends — your peers — are people your age or close to it who have experiences and interests similar to yours. You and your friends make dozens of decisions every day, and you influence each other's choices and behaviors. This is often positive — it's human nature to listen to and learn from other people in your age group.

As you become more independent, your peers naturally play a greater role in your life. As school and other activities take you away from home, you may spend more time with peers than you do with your parents and siblings. You'll probably develop close friendships with some of your peers, and you may feel so connected to them that they are an extended family.

Besides close friends, your peers include other kids you know who are the same age — people in your grade, church, sports team, or community. These peers also influence you by the way they dress and act, things they're involved in, and the attitudes they show.

It's natural for people to identify with and compare themselves to their peers as they consider how they wish to be (or think they should be), or what they want to achieve. People are influenced by peers because they want to fit in, be peers they admire, do what others are doing, or have what others have.

Peer Influence Isn't All Bad

You already know that the teen years can be tough. You're figuring out who you are, what you believe, what you're good at, what your responsibilities are, and what your place in the world is going to be.

It's comforting to face those challenges with friends who are into the same things that you are. But you probably hear adults — parents, teachers, guidance counselors, etc. — talk about peer pressure more than the benefits of belonging to a peer group.

You might not hear a lot about it, but peers have a profoundly positive influence on each other and play important roles in each other's lives:

  • Friendship. Among peers you can find friendship and acceptance, and share experiences that can build lasting bonds.
  • Positive examples. Peers set plenty of good examples for each other. Having peers who are committed to doing well in school or to doing their best in a sport can influence you to be more goal-oriented, too. Peers who are kind and loyal influence you to build these qualities in yourself. Even peers you've never met can be role models! For example, watching someone your age compete in the Olympics, give a piano concert, or spearhead a community project might inspire you to go after a dream of your own.
  • Feedback and advice. Your friends listen and give you feedback as you try out new ideas, explore belief, and discuss problems. Peers can help you make decisions, too: what courses to take; whether to get your hair cut, let it grow, or dye it; how to handle a family argument. Peers often give each other good advice. Your friends will be quick to tell you when they think you're making a mistake or doing something risky.
  • Socializing. Your peer group gives you opportunities to try out new social skills. Getting to know lots of different people — such as classmates or teammates — gives you a chance to learn how to expand your circle of friends, build relationships, and work out differences. You may have peers you agree or disagree with, compete with, or team with, peers you admire, and peers you don't want to be .
  • Encouragement. Peers encourage you to work hard to get the solo in the concert, help you study, listen and support you when you're upset or troubled, and empathize with you when they've experienced similar difficulties.
  • New experiences. Your peers might get you involved in clubs, sports, or religious groups. Your world would be far less rich without peers to encourage you try sushi for the first time, listen to a CD you've never heard before, or to offer moral support when you audition for the school play.

When the Pressure's On

Sometimes, though, the stresses in your life can actually come from your peers. They may pressure you into doing something you're uncomfortable with, such as shoplifting, doing drugs or drinking, taking dangerous risks when driving a car, or having sex before you feel ready.

This pressure may be expressed openly («Oh, come on — it's just one beer, and everyone else is having one») or more indirectly — simply making beer available at a party, for instance.

Most peer pressure is less easy to define. Sometimes a group can make subtle signals without saying anything at all — letting you know that you must dress or talk a certain way or adopt particular attitudes toward school, other students, parents, and teachers in order to win acceptance and approval.

The pressure to conform (to do what others are doing) can be powerful and hard to resist. A person might feel pressure to do something just because others are doing it (or say they are).

Peer pressure can influence a person to do something that is relatively harmless — or something that has more serious consequences.

Giving in to the pressure to dress a certain way is one thing — going along with the crowd to drink or smoke is another.

People may feel pressure to conform so they fit in or are accepted, or so they don't feel awkward or uncomfortable. When people are unsure of what to do in a social situation, they naturally look to others for cues about what is and isn't acceptable.

The people who are most easily influenced will follow someone else's lead first. Then others may go along, too — so it can be easy to think, «It must be OK. Everyone else is doing it. They must know what they're doing.» Before you know it, many people are going along with the crowd — perhaps on something they might not otherwise do.

Responding to peer pressure is part of human nature — but some people are more ly to give in, and others are better able to resist and stand their ground.

People who are low on confidence and those who tend to follow rather than lead could be more ly to seek their peers' approval by giving in to a risky challenge or suggestion.

People who are unsure of themselves, new to the group, or inexperienced with peer pressure may also be more ly to give in.

Using alcohol or drugs increases anyone's chances of giving in to peer pressure. Substance use impairs judgment and interferes with the ability to make good decisions.

Pressure Pointers

Nearly everyone ends up in a sticky peer pressure situation at some point.

No matter how wisely you choose your friends, or how well you think you know them, sooner or later you'll have to make decisions that are difficult and could be unpopular.

It may be something as simple as resisting the pressure to spend your hard-earned babysitting money on the latest MP3 player that «everybody» has. Or it may mean deciding to take a stand that makes you look uncool to your group.

But these situations can be opportunities to figure out what is right for you. There's no magic to standing up to peer pressure, but it does take courage — yours:

  • Listen to your gut. If you feel uncomfortable, even if your friends seem to be OK with what's going on, it means that something about the situation is wrong for you. This kind of decision-making is part of becoming self-reliant and learning more about who you are.
  • Plan for possible pressure situations. If you'd to go to a party but you believe you may be offered alcohol or drugs there, think ahead about how you'll handle this challenge. Decide ahead of time — and even rehearse — what you'll say and do. Learn a few tricks. If you're holding a bottle of water or a can of soda, for instance, you're less ly to be offered a drink you don't want.
  • Arrange a «bail-out» code phrase you can use with your parents without losing face with your peers. You might call home from a party at which you're feeling pressured to drink alcohol and say, for instance, «Can you come and drive me home? I have a terrible earache.»
  • Learn to feel comfortable saying «no.» With good friends you should never have to offer an explanation or apology. But if you feel you need an excuse for, say, turning down a drink or smoke, think up a few lines you can use casually. You can always say, «No, thanks, I've got a belt test in karate next week and I'm in training,» or «No way — my uncle just died of cirrhosis and I'm not even looking at any booze.»
  • Hang with people who feel the same way you do. Choose friends who will speak up with you when you're in need of moral support, and be quick to speak up for a friend in the same way. If you're hearing that little voice telling you a situation's not right, chances are others hear it, too. Just having one other person stand with you against peer pressure makes it much easier for both people to resist.
  • Blame your parents: «Are you kidding? If my mom found out, she'd kill me, and her spies are everywhere.»
  • If a situation seems dangerous, don't hesitate to get an adult's help.

It's not always easy to resist negative peer pressure, but when you do, it is easy to feel good about it afterward.

And you may even be a positive influence on your peers who feel the same way — often it just takes one person to speak out or take a different action to change a situation.

Your friends may follow if you have the courage to do something different or refuse to go along with the group. Consider yourself a leader, and know that you have the potential to make a difference.


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