The Elements of Teen Peer Pressure and How To Say No

Imagine you are in a crowd of friends. You’re feeling slightly uncomfortable because you’re wondering whether you fit in or not, but for the most part you’re feeling okay. Suddenly, a friend pulls out a joint, lights it, and passes it around. You’re not sure what to do when the person next to you finally passes it to you. It’s quite possible that you might try marijuana for the first time, although for those around you, they appear so comfortable that it’s likely far from being their first time.


However, if you’re tempted because if you say yes, it’s as though you’ll be offered a place among them. You’ll be welcomed, accepted, and that’s exactly what you’ve been looking for. Besides you don’t want to experience the following, which just may pressure you into taking a hit:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Not wanting to be made fun of
  • Not wanting to lose a friend
  • Not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings
  • The desire to appear grown up
  • The desire to appear in control
  • Not having a clear picture of other’s desire
  • Not understanding how to avoid or handle a situation
  • Not knowing how to say no


These are many other reasons might keep you from saying, “Hey, thanks but I’d rather not.” It’s hard to be in that position because being a part of the crowd is going to feel good, and just before the joint started to get passed around, that’s exactly what you were feeling. You wanted to be embraced by your friends.


At the same time, there could be something strengthening about being able to say no. If you really feel that smoking marijuana isn’t good for you. If you’ve made up your mind that using drugs is only going to get in the way of your academic and professional success, then perhaps you know that what you really want to do is say no in this situation.


It’s tricky because there may be an inner struggle. There may be a desire to say no but the need to say yes at the same time. However, if you can stay true to yourself and not give into the pressure of wanting to belong, here are some ways to no:

  • Say no assertively
  • Stay separate from activities that involve drugs or alcohol
  • Suggest another activity that doesn’t involve drugs
  • Stand up for your friends
  • Walk away
  • Find friends who do not engage in drug-related activities
  • Speak clearly and don’t mumble
  • Don’t say no too aggressively, but be firm


You might also ask your parents to help you, or another adult you trust. Adults in your life can do the following to strengthen who you are so that you don’t succumb to peer pressure:

Adults can help a teen be aware of risky situations. Parents or adult friends can help by knowing your friends (and friends’ family members), and be aware of their habits and attitudes. Adults can keep up to date on what you’re up against so that they know how to support you in specific areas where you might need support. For instance, you might need help in being assertive or in communication skills or standing up for himself. Knowing the dynamics of your relationships with peers can support in knowing your needs and then you can communicate these needs to your parents or other adults. Adults can be your allies in making healthy and life-affirming decisions for yourself.


Adults can help a teen be honest. Help your teen understand that he doesn’t have to do something wrong to feel accepted by his peers, and that his real friends won’t pressure him to drink, smoke, or use illicit drugs.


Adults can teach a teen how to relax. When you learn to manage stress in healthy ways, you won’t be tempted to drink because it’s been a hectic day or because you feel you deserve it. Instead, you and the adults around you can learn about relaxation techniques and how to use them. Relaxation can create a psychological state that can invite solutions to stressful situations. In most cases, feeling relaxed helps with having to face a large amount of homework, chores, and other responsibilities. Furthermore, when you see your parents modeling those stress-relieving activities, it communicates that it’s important. In this way, you can also learn to take care of yourself, which includes saying no to substances that may be harmful.