Norms function to provide order and predictability in society. Norms can change according to the environment, situation, and culture in which they are found, and people’s behavior will also change accordingly.
Social norms in tend are the unwritten rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group or society.
On the whole, people want approval, they want to belong, and those who do not follow the norms will suffer disapproval or may even be outcast from the group. This is how we keep society functioning, not just with direct rules but also expectations.
When people know what is expected of them, they tend to comply. While some people seek to be different, most just want to be part of the group.
To make a good impression on other members of your community there are social norms that are commonly accepted, such as:
- Don’t call someone more than twice continuously. If they don’t pick up your call, presume they have something important to attend to;
- Return money that you have borrowed even before the person that borrowed you remember or ask for it. It shows your integrity and character. Same goes with umbrellas, pens and lunch boxes.
- Never order the expensive dish on the menu when someone is giving you a lunch/dinner.
- Don’t ask awkward questions like ‘Oh so you aren’t married yet?’ Or ‘Don’t you have kids’ or ‘Why didn’t you buy a house?’ Or why don’t you buy a car? For God’s sake it isn’t your problem;
- Always open the door for the person coming behind you. It doesn’t matter if it is a guy or a girl, senior or junior. You don’t grow small by treating someone well in public;
- If you take a taxi with a friend and he/she pays now, try paying next time;
- Respect different shades of opinions. Remember what’s 6 to you will appear 9 to someone facing you. Besides, second opinion is good for an alternative;
- Never interrupt people talking. Allow them to pour it out. As they say, hear them all and filter them all;
- If you tease someone, and they don’t seem to enjoy it, stop it and never do it again. It encourages one to do more and it shows how appreciative you’re;
- Say “thank you” when someone is helping you.
- Praise publicly. Criticize privately;
- There’s almost never a reason to comment on someone’s weight. Just say, “You look fantastic.” If they want to talk about losing weight, they will;
- When someone shows you a photo on their phone, don’t swipe left or right. You never know what’s next;
- If a colleague tells you they have a doctors’ appointment, don’t ask what it’s for, just say “I hope you’re okay”. Don’t put them in the uncomfortable position of having to tell you their personal illness. If they want you to know, they’ll do so without your inquisitiveness;
- Treat the cleaner with the same respect as the CEO. Nobody is impressed at how rude you can treat someone below you but people will notice if you treat them with respect;
- If a person is speaking directly to you, staring at your phone is rude;
- Never give advice until you’re asked;
- When meeting someone after a long time, unless they want to talk about it, don’t ask them their age and salary;
- Mind your business unless anything involves you directly – just stay out of it;
- Remove your sunglasses if you are talking to anyone in the street. It is a sign of respect. More so, eye contact is as important as your speech; and
- Never talk about your riches in the midst of the poor. Similarly, don’t talk about your children in the midst of the barren.
Keep in mind that these examples are social norms which vary between countries and from social class to social class and from social group to social group. Each group may share many of the same social norms; and, the group may have a few special norms.
As you move from country to country and culture to culture it is up to you to know, and implement, the appropriate social norms.
Continue your societal exploration with a look at what a social construct is.