You hear about peer pressure when you are the sixth grade, but no one talks about it once you’ve graduated from college, have a job, and especially once you’re mature enough to find a mate and make babies.
But the kind of folks you hang with influence you more than you think.
Peer pressure never goes away.
Multiple studies show that human beings unconsciously and consciously mimic the behaviors of those around them. Folks hanging out with optimists become optimists themselves. Women who cheat on their husbands dally with other cheaters.
In his insightful book, “Bounce: Living the Resilient Life,” psychology professor Robert Wicks recommends that we invite into our circle of friends four types of people: the prophet, the cheerleader, the harasser, and guides. By including these different voices and friends into our life, he argues, we can become more resilient to life’s blows.
1. The Prophet
The prophet is the type of person that calls us on any misguided attempts at something, makes us accountable for our behavior, and prompts us to be honest, even when that is not easy. The prophet challenges us, and can be a royal pain at times, but ultimately helps us to find freedom. Says Wicks, “Prophets point! They point to the fact that it doesn’t matter whether pleasure or pain is involved, the only thing that matters is that we seek to see and live ‘the truth’ because only it will set us free.”
2. The Cheerleader
To balance out the provocation and questioning of a prophet, a person also must have a few cheerleader friends: folks who offer unconditional love, support, and acceptance. Wicks says we need the encouragement of the cheerleader as much as the criticism and feedback of the prophet because “burnout is always around the corner when we don’t have people who are ready to encourage us, see our gifts clearly, and be there for us when our involvement with people, their sometimes unrealistic demands, and our own crazy expectations for ourselves threaten to pull us down.”
3. The Harasser
After we’ve been criticized and loved, we need to laugh. That’s why we need harassers, the third kind of friend, who helps us to see the humor in life’s frustrations and calamities. They help us to mock our unrealistic expectations, of ourselves and of others. Says Wicks, “This type of friend helps us regain and maintain perspective.”
And finally, we need guides. Listeners. People who will, according to Wicks, “search and look for nuances in what we share with them to help us to uncover some of the ‘voices’ that are unconsciously guiding our lives, especially the ones that make us hesitant, anxious, fearful, and willful.”