14 unspoken rules of social etiquette everyone should know

As we navigate through different social situations, we often have those moments where we’re not quite sure how to act. You might think you’ve got a good grasp on social etiquette, but there are always those unspoken rules that can trip you up. 

That’s why I’ve made a list of 14 unspoken rules of social etiquette that everyone should know.

Trust me, I’ve learned some of these the hard way, and I’d like to save you from the same fate!

1) Don’t interrupt others when they’re speaking

We’ve all experienced the irritation of being cut off mid-sentence by an overeager person. I get it – sometimes they’re just so excited to join the conversation and don’t mean any disrespect. 

But it still is annoying. I find it hard to stay gracious when I’m constantly interrupted, and the conversation quickly goes downhill. 

So, be mindful of the flow of conversation. Let others finish their thoughts before you share yours. You just may find that your own opinions become more informed and nuanced. 

Giving someone the time and space to express themselves can lead to a deeper understanding of their perspective, which in turn can enrich your own viewpoints. 

This simple act of patience and respect can foster more meaningful and engaging conversations, benefiting everyone involved.

2) Respect personal space

Have you ever had an experience where someone stood too close to you?

I bet you felt really uncomfortable. It’s another form of interruption, this time related to space

Everybody has their own personal “bubble,” and it’s essential to be mindful of that. There’s a line between being close and being TOO close, and it all depends on the person’s level of sensitivity. 

Give people enough room to feel comfortable, and avoid invading their personal space, especially in crowded settings. Pay attention to subtle cues like body language and facial expressions. 

That way, you can become more adept at reading others’ emotions and adjusting your behavior accordingly.

3) Be mindful of your volume

I’ll admit, I am guilty of being a loud talker at times. But it’s important to be aware of your volume, especially in public spaces. 

Speaking too loudly in certain situations can be perceived as rude or inconsiderate, making others feel uncomfortable or even annoyed. That’s not good manners at all. Remember, manners are all about maintaining a pleasant environment for everyone. 

Not only that, being mindful of your volume can also help you become a better listener. When you speak at a moderate volume, you encourage others to lean in and engage more actively in the conversation.

This can lead to more meaningful and intimate exchanges, helping to deepen your connections with others.

4) Don’t overshare on social media

Speaking of volume, let’s go into the volume of your online voice as well. Do you post every detail of your life? You might not know it, but people might be getting exhausted from your oversharing. 

One thing I like to keep in mind about social media use is this – if you won’t share it in person, you shouldn’t post it online. 

Consider this – do you go around sharing every little detail about yourself with strangers in real life? Surely not. Then why would you do the same thing online? 

Aside from possibly risking your life, you might be inducing some eye-rolls from folks who’ve had enough! 

5) Keep your phone on silent or vibrate during meetings and events

unspoken rules of social ettiquete 2 14 unspoken rules of social etiquette everyone should know

There’s nothing quite as disruptive as a phone ringing or buzzing in the middle of an important meeting or during an intimate gathering. 

The good thing is, there’s a simple fix for this – just keep your phone on silent or vibrate. 

This minimizes distractions for you and everyone around you. And it tells them you’re paying attention, which is the classy thing to do. Always. 

6) Take phone calls outside

While we’re on the topic of phones, let’s talk about how to deal with phone calls when you’re in the midst of a conversation. Should you go ahead and answer right where you are? 

Absolutely not. 

This is an unspoken rule that not everyone’s aware of. But it’s poor taste to carry on a conversation over the phone while someone else is waiting. 

So, excuse yourself and take it outside. You don’t want everyone to have to raise their voices over yours or stop talking while you’re on the phone. 

7) Don’t comment on someone’s appearance unless it’s a compliment

We’ve all been there – someone makes an offhand remark about your appearance, and it sticks with you all day. 

In some cultures, commenting on how someone looks tired/thin/fat, etc. is actually so commonplace. But that doesn’t make it any less rude. 

It’s best to avoid commenting on someone’s looks unless you’re offering a genuine compliment. You never know what insecurities they may have, so it’s better to err on the side of kindness.

8) Correct people in private

A similar no-no is correcting people in public. That’s a surefire way to make someone feel embarrassed. 

When you need to give feedback, take the person aside and air your concerns. That way, they won’t get defensive, offended, or embarrassed, and your feedback will be taken in the right spirit. 

9) Be punctual

I cannot stress this enough – being on time is so important. Nobody enjoys waiting around for a latecomer!

When you’re consistently punctual, you demonstrate that you value the time and effort others have invested in organizing an event or meeting. 

This, in turn, can lead to stronger relationships and a more positive reputation among your peers.

10) Respond to invitations promptly

Here’s another area where promptness matters – RSVPs. 

Think about it – if you were in the host’s place, you’d probably feel panicky when you’ve invited people and they aren’t responding. The waiting period can be nerve-wracking because you can’t plan properly. 

So be considerate of the host and let them know if you’re able to attend as soon as possible. A quick response allows them to plan more effectively and shows you respect their efforts.

11) Respect people’s dietary choices and restrictions

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In a world with diverse dietary preferences and needs, it’s important to be considerate of others’ choices. Whether someone is vegan, gluten-free, or has a food allergy, it’s not our place to judge or question their decisions. Instead, be supportive and accommodating when possible.

On the flip side, if you’re the one with dietary preferences, it’s also important to be tactful about it. 

For example, if you’re a vegan? Then just tell the host that. No need to get self-righteous and lecture people on why they should be following a vegan lifestyle, too! 

12) Hold the door open for others

Now let’s get into the realm of social etiquette in public spaces, the first of which is holding the door open for others. 

Whether it’s at the office or a restaurant, this is a tiny gesture that goes a long way. It’s a simple way to show kindness and consideration for others. And honestly, it just makes you feel good…and costs you nothing!

13) Give up your seat to those who need it more

When you’re on public transportation, offering your seat to someone in need – such as an elderly person, a pregnant individual, or someone with a disability – is a powerful way to demonstrate empathy and compassion. 

It’s becoming a lost art actually, but it’s unspoken social etiquette. This act sends a clear message that you’re putting someone else’s needs above yours. And that’s what etiquette at its core – consideration for others’ comfort. 

And the great thing is, it’s in a public setting, so it has the side benefit of possibly inspiring others to be kind!

14) Clean up after yourself

This might seem like common sense, but sadly, many people forget it. So it’s an unspoken rule that bears repeating. Whether you’re at a friend’s house, a public park, or a cowork space, it’s important to leave the area as clean (or better yet, cleaner) than you found it. 

It’s a simple way to show respect for others and the environment!


There you have it – 14 unspoken rules of social etiquette that everyone should know. I’ve definitely had my fair share of faux pas, but learning these rules has made me a more considerate and socially aware individual. 

Remember, the key to mastering social etiquette is to be mindful of others and treat them with the same consideration you would want for yourself.

So next time you’re in a social setting, whether it’s a business meeting or a casual get-together, try to keep these unspoken rules in mind. 

They may not be explicitly stated, but abiding by them can make a world of difference in your interactions with others. And who knows – you just might save yourself from an embarrassing situation or two!

Picture of Roselle Umlas

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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