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10 Social Conventions You Might Be Taking for Granted

by David Long
fact checked by Rachel Jones

In a world where social norms subtly shape our behaviors and interactions, it’s easy to overlook the intricacies of everyday conventions. Delving beneath the surface of our routines unveils a fascinating tapestry of unspoken rules that govern our society. From greetings that dictate the course of conversations to the subtle art of personal space, this article uncovers ten social conventions you might be taking for granted.

Related: 10 Things Normal In The US That Are Strange In Other Places

10 Greeting People

The Etiquette of Proper Greetings and Introductions

Let’s talk about that classic “Hey there, how’s it going?” routine we all do. You know, the one where we nod our heads, slap on a smile, and ask about someone’s well-being as if we’re the best of pals. It’s like a universal script we follow, a dance of pleasantries that we’ve all learned by heart.

But have you ever stopped to wonder why we do this? I mean, it’s not like we genuinely want to know how everyone we encounter feels, right? Well, it’s all about the magic of social conventions. These unspoken rules help us navigate the labyrinth of human interaction without getting lost.

Sure, sometimes we’re just going through the motions, and the answer is almost always a casual “I’m good, thanks!” or a “Can’t complain.” It’s like we’re in a politeness ping-pong match where the score never changes. Yet this ritual is more than just words—it’s a way of saying, “Hey, I acknowledge your existence, and I hope you’re having an okay day.”

The next time you find yourself mid-greeting, remember that you’re participating in a centuries-old tradition of acknowledging others and spreading positivity. Whether you’re a fan of it or not, this quirky little convention is one of those things that keeps the social wheels turning.

9 Covering Your Cough

The Do’s and Don’ts of Coughing, Sneezing, and Spitting

How about one of those unsung heroes of social conventions—covering your mouth when you cough? It might seem like a no-brainer, but trust me, it’s a gem of a habit we often overlook.

Sure, sometimes it’s easier to just let that cough fly, especially when you’re in a rush. But grabbing your elbow and giving a gentle cough into it can make a world of difference. Not only does it prevent a germy explosion, but it shows that you’re thinking beyond your own bubble.

This simple gesture goes a long way in today’s world, where hygiene is the word of the day. It’s like a secret handshake between responsible adults, silently saying, “Hey, I’ve got your back, and I’m not about to spread my coughing symphony all over the place.” So, remember—your elbow is the superhero cape your fellow humans need.

8 Waiting Your Turn

The Person Who Cut You Off In Traffic Is Right – Cheddar Explains

Waiting your turn might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a social convention that keeps our daily interactions from turning into a chaotic free-for-all. Think about it—whether you’re at the grocery store checkout, waiting for your caffeine fix at the local café, or just queuing up for the restroom at a concert, the unspoken rule is pretty clear: Stand in line and wait your turn.

Sure, it might feel a tad frustrating when you’re desperately craving that double-shot latte, and the line seems to stretch to infinity. But the alternative would be everyone jostling for the front spot, elbowing each other, and giving rise to a whole new level of awkwardness. Plus, waiting in line isn’t all bad—it gives you a chance to people-watch, catch up on texts, or simply take a moment to zone out.

Just imagine the chaos if this social convention didn’t exist. The barista would have a meltdown, you’d be playing bumper cars with fellow shoppers, and restroom lines would turn into a WWE match. So the next time you find yourself twiddling your thumbs in line, remember that this seemingly small courtesy is actually a big deal in maintaining some semblance of order in our bustling world.

7 Speaking Softly in Quiet Places

Why Silence is Power | Priceless Benefits of Being Silent

You know the drill—you’re in a library, a museum, or even a cozy coffee shop, and suddenly, your voice drops to a barely audible whisper. It’s like a reflex that kicks in as soon as you enter a hushed environment.

Sure, it might seem a bit funny—I mean, who’s going to shush you if you accidentally let out a giggle at a museum exhibit? But think about it: This social convention is actually pretty cool. It’s all about respect and creating a harmonious atmosphere for everyone. Nobody wants to be the person who disrupts the peace with a booming conversation about last night’s TV show or their fight that morning with their partner.

It’s like we have this unwritten agreement that we’re all in this together, navigating the waters of quietude. Speaking softly in these places isn’t just about keeping noise levels down; it’s a way of showing consideration for those around you. It’s like a gentle reminder that we’re sharing a space, and let’s make it enjoyable for everyone.

6 Respecting Your Elders

How to Respect and Connect with Our Elderly | Daniel Liu | TEDxYouth@GranvilleIsland

Respecting your elders might sound like an old-school concept, but there’s some wisdom in it, right? It’s not just about holding the door open for your grandma or grandpa (although that’s nice too). This social convention is like a secret recipe for maintaining a well-balanced society.

Those folks who’ve been around the block a few times have stories that can make your jaw drop faster than a roller coaster. They’ve seen things, lived through wild times, and probably have more life lessons than your favorite self-help book. Giving them respect isn’t just about acknowledging their age; it’s about recognizing the treasure trove of experiences tucked under their belt.

Respecting elders isn’t just an age-old cliché; it’s like paying tribute to the OGs of life. And let’s face it, one day, you’re going to be the elder in the room, and you’d probably want some whipper-snapper to treat you like the legend you are.

5 Facing the Front in an Elevator

The Unwritten Rules of Elevator Etiquette |

Standing facing the front in an elevator might seem mundane, but it’s one of those quirky social conventions we all unconsciously follow without even realizing it. It’s like elevator magic!

Why do we do this? Well, for starters, it’s all about personal space. Nobody wants to feel like they’re under a microscope, right? Facing forward ensures that everyone gets a little breathing room and avoids awkward accidental eye contact.

It’s not just about personal bubbles, though. Standing facing the front is also a nifty trick to avoid potentially uncomfortable situations. Imagine if everyone decided to turn around and engage in a staring contest (creepy, right?). So we avoid the potential for weirdness and keep our noses pointed at the ever-so-fascinating elevator doors.

The next time you hop into an elevator and automatically pivot to face the front, give yourself a pat on the back for being a social convention champ. It’s like a secret dance we all know, a ritual that keeps our daily rides smooth and glitch free.

4 Table Manners

What do your table manners say about you? | BBC Ideas

Table manners might seem like a relic from the past, but trust me, they’re still relevant today. We’re not talking about having a full-on Downton Abbey formal dinner every night, but a little dose of politeness can go a long way.

First up, the basics. Chew with your mouth closed. Nobody wants to see your food transformed into a science experiment. And let’s keep the elbows off the table, shall we? I mean, we’re not lounging on a beanbag – it’s a table, not a comfy couch.

Then there’s the magical world of utensils. Start from the outside and work your way in with the cutlery—it’s like a culinary treasure hunt. And if you’re baffled by the array of forks and knives, just follow the lead of the person who looks like they know what they’re doing.

But the pièce de résistance is smartphone étiquette. Yeah, we get it. Instagram-worthy food needs to be shared, but scrolling while others are tucking in is a no-no. Keep the screen time for later, and give your dining companions the attention they deserve.

3 Maintaining Eye Contact

Making Eye Contact Comfortably

Maintaining eye contact might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually a big deal in the world of social interactions. Think about it – when you’re talking to someone, and they’re not looking at you, it’s like they’re mentally checking out to another dimension. Not cool, right?

Keeping that gaze locked in is a sign that you’re present and engaged in the conversation. It shows that you’re not just physically there but mentally too. It’s like a secret signal that says, “Hey, I’m paying attention, and I care about what you’re saying.”

But don’t take it to the extreme and go staring-contest mode. That’s just plain creepy. A little eye contact goes a long way. It’s like a sprinkle of seasoning on a dish—too much, and you’ll ruin the whole thing.

Here’s a pro tip: If eye contact makes you feel like a deer caught in headlights, try the 3-second rule. Look into their eyes for about three seconds, then glance away briefly before coming back. It’s like a mini eye contact dance that keeps things from getting awkward.

2 Giving Personal Space

Keeping Personal Space

Personal space—it’s like the invisible force field that keeps us from going all Hulk on someone. We all have our “Do Not Cross” tape that we lay down around us without realizing it. You might be cool with your bestie getting all up in your grill, but a stranger? No way, José! It’s like a dance, a delicate balance of proximity and comfort. Too close, and you’re doing the awkward shuffle. Too far, and you’re shouting across the Grand Canyon.

So remember the sacred rule of personal space next time you chat. Keep a respectable distance and save yourself from those cringy, too-close encounters. It’s one of those social conventions that are like a silent agreement among humans—a universal language that says, “Let’s keep our cool and give each other some breathing room.”

1 Running or Walking without Gasping for Air

Breath Walking | Breathing Exercises While Walking

Have you ever joined a brisk walking group or decided to go for a run, only to find yourself huffing and puffing like a steam engine within the first few minutes? It’s like your lungs are staging a protest against this newfound activity. Well, fear not because there’s a trick to mastering the art of running or walking without sounding like Darth Vader on a jog.

First things first, pace yourself! It’s not a race to the finish line unless you’re actually in a race. Start slow, find a rhythm that suits your breathing, and stick to it. If you feel like you’re about to audition for a heavy-breathing ASMR channel, that’s a sign to dial it down a notch.

Breathing through your nose might seem like a no-brainer, but trust me. It’s a game-changer. It helps filter the air and warms it up before it enters your lungs, making the whole process much smoother. Plus, it’ll keep your mouth from feeling like the Sahara desert after your workout.

Another secret weapon? Focus on your exhales. Yup, you read that right. Make those exhales a bit longer than your inhales. This simple technique can help prevent that gasping-for-air sensation and keep your oxygen levels in check.

fact checked by Rachel Jones