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What Are Social Norms? You Follow Them Every Day Without Even Noticing

What Are Social Norms? You Follow Them Every Day Without Even Noticing

Social Norms are unwritten rules that are acceptable in a society. They provide us with an expected idea of how to behave in a particular social group or culture. Norms change according to the environment or situation and may change over time. Social norms operate to build and maintain society.

Social norms are informal understandings that govern the behavior of a society. Norms can be cultural products that include values, customs, and traditions. These represent individuals’ basic knowledge of what others do and think they should. When we follow the norms of our society, we are participating to either maintain or challenge it. The idea of norms provides a key to understanding social influence in general. Norms provide order in society. It is difficult to see how human society could operate without social norms. Human beings need norms to guide and direct their behavior to provide order. We need order in social relationships and to make sense of and understanding of each other’s actions.

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What are the effects of breaking social norms?

Breaking social norms can make you a hero or an outcast. Many admire individuality, and breaking a small social norm can get you noticed. Breaking social norms has no legal recourse and social norms change with time. But there always exists consequences for breaking social norms. A person may face ostracization from society. In history, this was a literal removal or banishment of the person from the society. Today ostracization may not be geographical. When you break social norms, people stop associating with you. You may lose your job. You can get sent out of a homeowners association or other group. You end up alone. Because society is not comfortable with your behavior, many will refuse to associate.

Here are some everyday norms you have been following without even noticing.

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Chewing with your mouth closed.

This is a considered an important social norm. Many consider it bad manners to see people chewing with their mouths open. It is quite disgusting to see the half-eaten remnants of another human’s meal. We bet You didn’t know this was a social norm and we bet you have been chewing with your mouth closed.

Unpleasant odors

It is an important social norm to take precautions so that you don’t offend anyone with the way you smell. When out in public, be sure to wear clothing that is clean and fresh [1] . Wear deodorant to prevent body odor s. If you are the type that grow beard, endeavor to take care of it. If you wear a perfume or cologne, be sure to only use a very small amount to prevent the scent being overwhelming. Do not expel gas in public either [2] . If you must do so, find a public restroom. Brush your teeth to freshen your breath before leaving home. Now, we are sure you do these every day.

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Appropriate Dressing

It is important that you dress in a way that is appropriate for the place that you are going. If you are going to an event where people dress in a formal or a semi-formal way, do the same. For example, do not wear blue jeans and a t-shirt to a cocktail party. Do not dress in a vulgar manner. But, if you are going to a museum or a movie theater, it is acceptable to dress in a casual way. In other words, try and dress the way you think others will dress at the place you are going.

Watch what you say in public

When you are out where there are a lot of people within ear-shot and eye-shot, mind your verbal and non-verbal communication. Swear words are inappropriate in public. Do not use words which may offend other people, especially when there are children around. Do not argue in public and do not say things that could be critical. Refrain from doing things like pointing at people and using rude hand gestures.

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Phone etiquette

For mobile phone usage, here are some acceptable norms. Say hello when answering and goodbye when you hang up [3]. Reply to all texts and voice mails. Do not refuse to take a message. Do not lie if someone has the wrong number. Do not tell telemarketers you will call them back. Do not pretend you are an answering machine (that’s horrible).

When in elevator

For Elevators, Nod or say hello to others on the elevator. Face the front. Never push extra buttons, only the one for your floor. Do not go elevator surfing. Never stand right by someone if you are the only two people on board. Do not say “I’ll wait for the next one” if only one person is on board.

Norms about public behavior

Shake hands when you meet someone. Have direct eye contact with the person you are speaking with. Consume alcohol in moderation. Unless the movie theater’s filled up, never sit right next to someone. Do not stand close enough to someone to touch arms or hips. Do not curse in polite conversation. Do not pick your nose. Wear clothing, especially of a similar style that others wear. Say please and thank you. Be kind to the elderly, like opening a door or giving up your seat. Go to the back of the line. Don’t invade someone’s personal space. When at someone’s home, ask permission, such as turning on the television or using the bathroom. Stop at a red light. Go at a green light. Pull over for emergency vehicles. Drive on the right side of the road in the United States. Do not be promiscuous. Try to avoid burping or farting in public. Flush the toilet. Say “please” when asking for something. Say “thank you” when someone does something for you. Call to let someone know you will be late.

I bet you have been following these norms every day without even noticing.

Reference

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Amber McNaught

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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