Rules are imposed in order for a society to function properly. Besides the known rules like wearing seatbelts, we also follow some unspoken rules in order for us to be accepted by others. However, when you think about it, some of these unspoken rules are actually quite ridiculous. Yet we follow them anyway. Here are the top 20 absurd unspoken rules we follow every day.
20. Turning down the volume when navigating
It’s a common thing to do when we’re having trouble looking for someone or something while driving — we instinctively reach out to the volume dial and set it down to low, allowing us to think and focus on the matter at hand.
Quite strange, but is it really effective? Well, according to a study done by the John Hopkins University, turning down the volume isn’t actually absurd at all as it can actually help some drivers to focus and concentrate. Those who listen to the radio or talk on the phone experience decreased brain activity in the visual parts of the brain. On the other hand, those who focus on driving experience decreased brain activity in the auditory parts of the brain. So if you can’t “hear yourself think”, try lowering your radio’s volume; that trick might just work for you.
19. Going to the same spot
Even if there are many seats available in a lecture hall or loads of parking slots to choose from, we always find ourselves sitting or parking in the same spot.
Some may say it’s just plain muscle memory or simply a habit, but according to psychologists, this is an evolutionary trait. This behavior, although a bit weird, is perfectly normal as it is within our human nature to seek familiarity within our surroundings. We’re just more comfortable and secure when we’re in a familiar place. Don’t believe me? Try sitting in another student’s regular seat or take someone’s usual parking spot and observe them.
Most likely, you’ll feel weird and they’ll feel annoyed that they don’t get to take their usual space.
18. Taking all the groceries in one go
Sure, you can do this if you have around four to five bags to carry. But what if you have more than 10 bags? Why is it so important to be able to accomplish this task in one trip?
Yes, time is money and every minute spent taking multiple trips from your car to your kitchen is time wasted, but is it really worth it? Bringing in multiple bags in one trip may cause you to trip, spilling all the items onto the ground and forcing you to collect them one by one, which costs you more time. My advice? Just stick with two bags at a time. Better yet, have someone help you out. It’s way easier than trying to bring them all in one go.
17. Facing the door in an elevator
Try this: enter an elevator and face towards the wall. Chances are, you’d probably earn some curious glances from the other passengers. Why? Is there a rule that you must face the door upon entering an elevator? Apparently, there is one such rule, albeit unspoken.
One reason, according to most people, is that it’s more convenient as it allows you to leave the elevator quickly. Another reason is that most of the information you need, such as the buttons you need to press, are by the door, so it’s just logical to face it upon riding the elevator. But what would happen if we placed all these buttons on the wall? Would people still stand facing at the door or would they face the wall this time? No one really knows, but would you?
16. Holding the door open for other people
Do you ever hold the door for others behind you? Some deem it as common courtesy, but in reality, there are several psychological reasons behind this unspoken rule.
According to a study done back in 2011, the reason why people hold the door is to minimize the collective effort to open the door. If everyone held the door if there was someone close behind them, then over time, you would have the door held open for you about as often as you held the door for others, resulting in minimized effort between everyone holding the door. All in all, it’s just applying the golden rule — do unto others what you want others do unto you — in our everyday lives.
15. Waving at other drivers
We rarely communicate with other drivers, and when we do, it’s usually some form of road rage. One form of communication we can appreciate in the car, though, is wave etiquette. You know, the various situations in which you wave to strange drivers for their driving actions.
It’s a form of acknowledgment more than anything — it’s like the road version of saying “thank you” and letting them know that we appreciate them for their simple act of kindness. For example, You have the ‘pre-wave’ which is done before pointing your car into a lane so that you can build up some goodwill before merging. There’s even the apology wave, for when you’re taking too long to pull out of a parking spot and thank other cars for their forced patience. Whatever the wave, just remember that there’s no reason for it… we just have great manners.
14. Letting people out before you get in
It’s mostly an unspoken rule when riding an elevator or commuting on public transport — let people disembark first before getting in.
There’s no psychological nor social reasoning’s behind this; it’s just that by doing this, we create a semblance of organization as well as evoking discipline from other passengers. Sure, some of us lead busy lives and we need to get moving as quickly as we can, but if we take time to act out this one unspoken rule, I’m sure we’ll all be able to move to where we need to go faster.
13. Nod when someone points at a meeting
Nodding is a form of acknowledgment, and it’s used mostly when we agree with someone’s opinions. Amusingly, some of us do this even though we have no idea what other people are actually talking about. This is very prevalent during office meetings and presentations, where coworkers and colleagues often nod in agreement, especially when something is being highlighted by the presenter, even if it’s a pointless meme.
We do this almost unconsciously, and the trigger is when the presenter taps his pointer or finger to the board. It acts as our cue to nod in accordance to what they just said. Maybe we, unconsciously, truly agree with them, or maybe we just want the meeting to end so that we can go back to our cubicles to take a quick nap before we resume working.
12. Men don’t ask for directions
It’s a very common scenario — male drivers getting lost after driving for miles. Why? Because no matter how lost we may be, we refuse to stop and ask for directions.
There are many reasons behind this, according to psychologists. One is that we don’t like to be taught, as we would rather learn from experience. For males, being taught, or in this case, being given proper directions, is similar to admitting defeat; something a lot of men don’t want to do. Another reason is that we want to “win”. Not in the literal sense, but that we want to triumph over this challenge by ourselves, even at the cost of getting lost miles. Better to just swallow our pride every once in a while.
11. Waiting for others to notice you tipping
Had an accommodating barista serve you your favorite coffee? Giving them a tip would be a great idea. But hold on for a moment, better wait for them to see you dropping that five-dollar bill in the jar, or else it wouldn’t count as a tip, right?
For baristas, it doesn’t really matter as long as they see some money in that jar, but most customers only give their tips once the barista sees them doing it. The most popular reasoning behind this unspoken rule is that baristas will offer them better service next time since they know who gave them a tip. Besides that, there’s really no reason why you should wait for them to notice you first. Saying “thank you” and leaving a tip regardless of them noticing should do the trick.
Another strange social phenomenon is the fact that we only really tip if there’s money in the jar in the first place. If it’s empty, we know no-one else has, and think we shouldn’t be tipping, because we should act like them. It’s called social proof, and it’s the reason why most baristas will fill the jar money in it from the start.
10. Nodding when you meet someone familiar
Met a friend or relative in the street but don’t have time for a casual conversation? Just smile and nod and throw in a casual “hi” and they’ll do the same to you, guaranteed.
As I said earlier, nodding is a form of acknowledgment. By doing this simple gesture, you make the recipients of your nod feel loved. Psychologists, too, believe in the power of acting out this simple gesture, as this creates a positive ripple effect, wherein the positive effects of a simple smile and nod can be passed through friends of friends. No one wants the feeling of being ignored, after all. So the next time you come across someone familiar, brighten up their day with a smile and a nod. Trust me, you’ll feel better yourself too.
9. The last piece always goes to the owner
When a friend treats you, it’s okay to take, let’s say, a slice of pizza or two. But, DO NOT dare touch the last slice, as it’s always reserved for the one who bought it.
It’s mostly common sense, as you wouldn’t want to offend the one who bought you food by eating the last piece. Sure, they might not care at all or they may even let you have it, but you will probably be branded as that gluttonous friend they won’t invite the next time. So unless the one who bought the food openly told you that you can have it, just decline and offer the last slice for them. It’s kind of saying “thank you” without openly expressing it.
8. Wait behind the ATM’s line
When transacting on ATMs, you’ll notice that there’s a marked line on the ground. If someone is currently using the ATM, you should stay behind that line.
But why? For one, it’s some sort of security for the person currently using the ATM. You wouldn’t want the person behind you to see your PIN code, lest you risk getting swindled by them. Again, there are no rules behind this, but if you value your privacy as you value others’ privacy, then you’ll learn to respect and abide by this unspoken rule at ATMs.
7. Speeding up when someone passes you
It’s an open freeway and there are very few vehicles on the road. Suddenly, a car zooms from behind, passing you and leaving a few meters’ distance between your vehicle and theirs. What do you do? If you’re one of those drivers who take it as a challenge, you would, unconsciously, rev up your vehicle and try to overtake them.
Why does this happen? Well, according to research conducted in 2013 in the UK, this is mainly due to “macho culture” surrounding male drivers. The research also shows that this “macho culture” of taking on “challenges” from other rival drivers is responsible for almost 24% of head-on crashes in the country. So if you value your — and your passengers’ — safety, put down your machismo for a while and abide by the road’s rules.
6. Don’t talk to someone wearing headphones.
If you see someone putting on their headphones, it’s their way of telling everyone not to talk to them.
Plain and simple. There’s a reason why they don their headphones, and it’s because they don’t want anything to do with the people around them. Sure, some idle chit-chat between strangers is nice, but if you see someone put on their headphones, stop and don’t bother to interrupt them. Don’t even dare tap them and try to start a conversation because it’s very rude. Respect their privacy — it’s simple street etiquette.
5. Keep your mouth closed when chewing food
Everyone knows that you need to chew your food before swallowing it in order for you to digest it properly. But do it with your mouths closed, because chewing with your mouth open is definitely a big no-no.
Not only is it annoying for those unlucky enough to notice you doing this gross act, but it’s also downright rude. It can also ruin the appetite of people around you, as they’re likely to notice the sticky, unrecognizable mess of whatever you’re eating. So if you don’t want those around you to go crazy, please, keep your mouth closed whenever you’re eating.
4. No one eats until everyone’s food has been served
Feeling hungry? If you’re in a group, you might want to wait for a little while until all the food has been served. Eating ahead of the group may seem improper and rude, or is it?
There’s nothing really wrong with eating first, especially if you’re hungry enough to wolf down a plate or two. However, most people see it as being disrespectful to the host. After all, they’re hungry as well, but they put up with their hunger for just a bit more so that everyone can enjoy their meal at the same time. But if you’re really, REALLY, hungry, ask for the host’s permission first. By doing so, you won’t be disrespectful to the others. Try not to eat with so much gusto though.
3. Taking several round trips before getting the condoms
Yes, buying condoms can be a bit of a nerve-wracking experience. So what would you do if you need those condoms? Simple, do a few rounds around the store and discreetly take one when no one is looking.
It’s definitely embarrassing to be seen buying condoms, especially if your friends or, God forbid, your relatives see you. But do know that condoms are just like any other products in the store that you can buy. There’s nothing stopping you from buying them, other than yourself thinking that this might harm your self-image. You could try this unspoken rule or you could just buy them online. Your call.
2. Knocking on wood
Don’t want bad luck affecting your everyday life? Just knock on wood. All the bad luck is supposed to be driven away by this simple act. But is it really effective?
The origin of this activity dates back to our ancestors, where pagan Europeans believed that knocking on wood repels evil spirits from ruining their good luck. Others say that it’s a way to appease spirits that live in trees, giving them good luck in return. However, no one can vouch on its effectiveness — it just became a habit of ours to knock on wood to prevent bad luck. Whether you believe in good luck or not, doing this really won’t hurt anyone, so knock away!
1. Leaving a space between urinals
All men should know this one simple, unspoken rule: always leave a space between yourself and other people using the urinals unless you really need to pee.
Sure, you can take the urinal next to another person, but it will truly be an awkward encounter — rubbing shoulders with a male stranger who is also holding their genitals is as awkward as it gets. It’s best that you wait unless you’re about to leak.
As an addendum to this unspoken rule, those using the urinals should never start a conversation nor look around. Face forward at all times, because no conversation should be had in this kind of place. Once done, wash your hands and leave. No point staying in the loo unless you want to poo.
Which of these unspoken rules do you religiously follow? Do you have some unspoken rules I didn’t include in this list? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.