Everything in this world takes its shape, form supported by the environment. But we forget that our behaviour also depends on our ecosystem, our friends and family. When we are born, our world is made up of parents and some close relatives and support staff. From day one, we are going to do things the way the momma did things. Daddy comes in the picture only once in a while. The momma effect is very predominant and lasts throughout our life.
Many times, we think that our behaviour, our self-control comes from within but that is not so. In life, it is controlled mostly by friends, family but predominance is that of the friends. Those we surround ourselves with, have the power to make us fatter, drink more alcohol, care less about the environment and be riskier with driving habits, among many things.
Such behaviour is not merely peer pressure, in which you deliberately act in a certain way to fit in with the group. Instead, it is mostly unconscious. Beneath your awareness, your brain is always picking up on cues from the people around you to inform your behaviour. And the consequences can be serious.
Lest I forget, our spouses also affect our behaviour to a large extent. To give an example, we rarely see couples where only one spouse is very thin or fat. Such rare cases are due to some illness like thyroidism or stomach related issues. It is natural because couples usually eat the same type of food, a similar quantity of food. They also tend to have identical exercise habits. Couples often help each not to stray from good practices.
If your regular group of friends has a large number of smokers, there is a possibility that you may start smoking. Similarly, if you have some additions to your group of some active anti-smokers, you might rethink about smoking and may reduce smoking. Sometimes we tend to react strongly because of some incidents. Years back, when we were just married, we had a group of friends, a spillover from college days. The group had a predominance of people who drank alcohol. Though we were not in alcohol, we continued to have fun. But a couple of incidents changed our thinking. The charm of meeting together was getting reduced, and we realised that our friends could not enjoy the chat if alcoholic drinks were not served.
On top of that, a couple of our friends started drinking more than they should, leading to some unfortunate behaviour. We started drifting from that group, never to come close ever again. Later on, as I grew older, I found that when people talked positively about drinking alcohol, they tend to drink more. My views against alcohol were pretty strong, so I would tend to drift away from people who could not handle alcohol.
An experiment was conducted to study the effect of outside interference. Two students were brought together to discuss a variety of subjects. There would be a third participant, an actor, who would be dressed sometimes like a student or other times like a professional. Depending on how this third person intervened, for or against the subject, the discussion between the two would get modified. Sometimes this person would mildly interfere, and other times, he would give a strong reaction. The original views of the students would get altered depending on the type of interference. They hardly knew the third person, but changes in thought processes developed subconsciously.
When we eat with people who typically eat a lot, we also tend to eat more than what we usually do. The same thing happens with cold drinks or tea. Many a time, we are not even aware that our behaviour has changed. Human nature is such that if you are not sure, we simply copy others. But such changes occur if you know the people well. With total strangers, our behaviour pattern does not change.
Many eating places employ a straightforward trick. They will put some posters on the walls or some flyer on your table. These will display beautiful photos of dishes/ drinks which the restaurant wants to promote. There might a banner saying, “the most ordered food, our speciality, the Malai Kebabs”. Most of us on reading this we might get influenced and order Kebabs! “Drink our Mango mocktail to quench your thirst” is a simple cold drink made using raw Mangoes (Kairis)! We tend to order it!
There is always a good and a bad side to everything. When we realise that our behaviour can influence others, we should use it. I have given examples mostly about eating, smoking and drinking alcohol because these patterns can be easily noticed. A friend had travelled to a foreign country in a team. The travel was years back when some things were not available in India. During a training program, he would slurp loudly while drinking coffee. An awkward situation was created. After a couple of days, their team leader suggested to that person that he was the only person, slurping the coffee. That person was sincere and said that he was never told about this by anyone before. But he immediately stopped slurping. His initial slurping must have been the norm from the small village where he lived while growing up phase.
I know a young man; he was bright and smart as a student but never studied enough. He never realised his potential. His parents found that most of his friends were of that nature. They somehow managed to convince him to mingle with friends who were more sincere in studies. The student did exceptionally well with this change and now is an excellent professional.
A classic example of the personal ecosystem effect is the Pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. Till the age of 25, both did exceptionally well in Cricket. Kambli was a little ahead of Sachin at that stage. But around that time, their ecosystem started taking effect. Both had very different personal backgrounds. Kambli’s career tapered off from that stage and Sachin went on to become an all-time great cricketer. Not only that, even their personalities became very different. Along with others, Sachin was very close to his childhood friends and family. These relationships kept him grounded and rooted in the underlying philosophy of life; in the case of Kambli, things changed a lot as he did not have that ecosystem. Handling fame became tricky for Vinod!
When we are born, we do not have the choice of relatives we have, but later we can choose what we want to do in life. What type of person shall one be? We can choose schools, colleges and do not forget that we can select our friends too! Our parents and relatives are not optional, but we must remember that they always want us to become good humans, a better professional and a fitter individual. There is a natural tendency of people of similar thoughts coming together; so believe in your instincts and do your best in life. The system will take care of other things. Cheers!