Following the crowd
Face it, we are social beings. We’re not meant to live our lives in isolation. We’re naturally drawn to like-minded people because it reinforces and strengthens our own viewpoints. The key to navigating social experiences with others is to never lose sight of yourself in the shuffle.
In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, psychologist Robert Cialdini writes, “Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theater, how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important in defining the answer.” Social proof comes into play. In group situations, individuals will look to see what others are doing around them before they make a choice to engage with others; hence, utilizing a mental shortcut in decision making based on a social proof.
Adolescents and teens know all too well how peer pressure works. In the beginning their “circle of influence” shares like-mindedness at its core until the group’s boundaries expand beyond what we call socially acceptable behavior. This is what I meant earlier about an individual getting lost in the group shuffle. What starts out as an agreeable setting can quickly escalate in a treacherous direction by simply following the crowd.
Author Madisyn Taylor, in her article Healthy Barriers, discusses maintaining healthy boundaries by recognizing the point that our principles and the principles of others no longer overlap. She notes, “While our lives may seem to run together so smoothly that the line dividing friends and family cannot be seen, we remain separate beings. To disregard these barriers is to sacrifice independence. It is our respect for the fact that our lives exist independently of the lives of others that allows us to set emotional and physical boundaries.”
Make no mistake, it is no small undertaking to strike a balance between your independence and finding your place in the majority. Taylor notes, “As you learn to define yourself as an emotionally and intellectually distinct individual, you will grow to appreciate your autonomy. However much you enjoy the associations that bind you to others and provide you with a sense of identity, your concept of self will ultimately originate in your own soul.” Be yourself and your people will find you.
– Karen Restivo is a Life & Communication Coach and owner of SerenityMatagorda Isle. You can learn more about Karen by visiting her online at SerenityMatagorda.com or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org