25 Unwritten Rules You Should Be Following Every Day But Aren't

From thank you notes to splitting the check, these rules aren't official, but they should be!

In life, there are plenty of rules we are required to follow. We have to abide by the law, the standards of the places we work, and a whole host of other clearly outlined regulations. But in addition to these, there are some societal rules that are more assumed rather than explicitly stated. Whether it's filling up someone's tank after they let you borrow their car or just knowing what to do when it comes to splitting the check at dinner, these rules may be unwritten, but they're still expected of you. To make sure you're not getting on someone's bad side, it's time to learn what little things you could be doing that make people think you're rude.

Don't one-up someone when they finish telling you a story by telling one of your own.

two mature female neighbours talking through fence about everyday life stuff

When someone is sharing something with you in conversation, make it a point to listen and empathize instead of wracking your brain for your own yarn to spin once they're done telling their tale. For example, if your friend is telling you about how they sprained their wrist recently, your first response shouldn't be the story of how you broke your leg back in elementary school.

Don't point out a personal flaw if it can't be fixed in 30 seconds or less.

woman putting toothpick in her teeth

If someone has a little piece of spinach stuck in their teeth after lunch, they'll probably appreciate you telling them so they can remove it and avoid further embarrassment in front of other people. However, if it's something like a blemish that you know can't be taken care of in under 30 seconds, all you're doing by commenting on it is making them feel insecure and self-conscious.

Do not swipe left or right if someone shows you a photo on their phone.

shot of a young couple using a mobile phone together at a cafe

When someone is showing you a meme or a cute photo of their dog on their phone, know that they're intending to show you that photo. Don't scroll through their pictures or swipe left and right to whatever is next, unless they specifically tell you to. It's an invasion of their privacy.

Don't ask for something you know a person only has one more of.

a pack of gum with only one left

Don't ask a person to give your something when you know they only have one of said thing left. For example, in a viral thread discussing unwritten rules, one Reddit user recalled a party trick their friend once used where, when asked for a cigarette, he would hold open the pack with only one left and say, "Do what you feel is right." Whether or not they took the last cigarette, in the end, said a lot about them as a person.

Only suggest to split the check evenly if you ordered the least expensive meal of the group.

cheerful business colleagues talking about something funny on a lunch break in a restaurant.

Not everyone is able to drop a pretty penny on a dinner, but that doesn't mean they don't want to spend time with friends or colleagues. So, when out to eat with a group, always implement this rule. If everyone else ordered the $20 lobster while one person got the $10 salad, it's up to them to offer to split the check if they want. Don't awkwardly force them to spend more money than they were planning or are able to just because you wanted a more expensive meal.

If you borrow something, don't let someone else borrow it from you.

woman bringing a pot to her neighbor

If someone lent you something temporarily, it was intended for you, and you only. Don't borrow a neighbor's lawnmower and then give it to your brother to use. If your neighbor wants to let your brother borrow their lawnmower as well, that's up to them to decide.

If you're borrowing something for a third time, you need one of your own.

girls exchanging something between each other, a friends borrowing something

Let's face it, if you need to borrow something more than twice, you might as well get one of your own. While your brother-in-law may be happy enough to let you use his grill for the third cookout in a row, it's probably just easier to get your own. That saves your brother-in-law from feeling like he's being taken advantage of and prevents an awkward situation in which you expect to be able to borrow the grill for a night, only to find out your brother-in-law is using it.

And if you borrow someone's car, fill up the tank before you return it.

woman refueling her car at a gas station

If someone was kind enough to let you borrow their car—which could cost them a pretty penny if a mishap were to occur—show your gratitude by returning it back to them with a full tank of gas. Even if you can't afford to fill up the entire tank, definitely don't return it with less gas than it had when you received it.

Leave something better than when you found it.

businesswoman wiping her work desk, close-up.

Filling up someone's gas tank when they let you borrow their car follows the age-old wisdom of leaving something in better condition than you found it in. And that notion applies to so much. It can be something as simple as leaving a rented room clean after you use it or the more philosophical idea of striving to make the world a better place before you die. However you interpret it, this piece of advice is one you should always be following.

Be kind to people working in customer service.

Worst Things to Say to Customer Service, rude behavior

You wouldn't appreciate someone taking their bad mood out on you while you're working, so don't do the same to someone else who works in customer service. Whether it's your server, the cashier, or maybe even a bus driver, be kind to people when they're just doing their job.

If you cancel on a friend, it's your responsibility to reschedule.

senior man talking on cell phone and using laptop on work table. Mature carpenter working on laptop and answering phone call in his carpentry workshop. (Senior man talking on cell phone and using laptop on work table.

Canceling plans is sometimes unavoidable. However, if you're the one who can't make it, it's on you to reschedule. Don't expect your friend to reach back out and attempt to make new plans with you. You should be the one to take that initiative.

RSVP even if you can't make the party.

woman with rsvp invitation in hand

Disregarding an RSVP is just bad party etiquette. Even if you can't make it, you should let the host know. That way they aren't spending their money to provide extra materials when it's not necessary.

Don't make plans in front of people you are not inviting.

upset girl feeling lonely, avoid talking to people, suffering from discrimination

You are under no obligation to invite people places when you don't want to, but there's no need to be malicious about it. If you're not extending an invitation to someone, don't tell other people about the plans in front of those who aren't included. They'll feel purposely excluded and that's just not right.

Don't whisper something to someone in the presence of others.

employees gossiping about young female colleague by whispering to each other
MangoStar_Studio / iStock

Your whispered secret may be harmless, but 9 times out of 10, it won't appear that way to the people around you. Most likely, they'll assume you're whispering something hurtful about them. If you need to say something privately, take the time to step away and actually say it in private.

Give in-person encounters your full attention.

young man looking at friend using mobile phone in cafe. Males are having beverages at table. They are sitting together in coffee shop. (Young man looking at friend using mobile phone in cafe. Males are having beverages at table

While the invention of phones and social media have made it all-too-easy to communicate with people all across the world, make it a point to honor the people right in front of you. Life coach Yocheved Golani encourages people to refrain from responding to things on their cell phone "until a face-to-face interaction ends," unless it's an emergency. Putting your phone on silent or turning it off altogether shows the person you're interacting with that you respect their time and are interested in what they have to say.

Use headphones when listening to something on your phone in public.

Happy man listening to music outside in earphones

Whether you're listening to music, catching up on your favorite podcast, or watching the latest episode of a new show, headphones are must in public. Don't be the jerk who forces everyone else around you to listen to whatever you're listening to.

Don't tell someone how much you hated something if they're excited about it.

cheerful woman in the park with her friends

Ruining someone's excitement because you don't share in it is just plain mean. If your friend is excited to see the new Marvel movie, don't tell them about how disappointed you were with it. Or perhaps they found a new band they love. Don't tell them how much you hate their songs. Letting someone share their excitement is the kind thing to do.

Assume the existence of multiple correct solutions.

Woman in glasses pondering thinking

As much as we hate to hear it, we're not always right. When it comes to life problems or even just everyday hiccups, life coach Lory Levitt stresses that we should always assume the existence of multiple correct solutions. Just because you want to do things your way, doesn't mean it's the right way to go about it.

Replace the toilet paper roll if you're the one to finish it.

Last pad of tissue paper on background

It's simple, if you take the last piece of ply off the roll, it's up to you to replace the toilet paper. Don't make someone else come in and do your dirty work. After all, that's how people get into sticky situations—stuck on the toilet with no toilet paper and not realizing it until it's too late.

Announce your visits before your arrive at someone's home.

woman showing up to an elderly person's home unannounced

Don't just show up to someone's home unannounced, unless there's a good reason. A simple courtesy call or text is important. As one Reddit user noted, "it's super unfair to the host since it gives no time to prepare anything and they might have to drop everything they were just doing just to entertain you or cancel their plans."

Always implement "off before on" when using public transportation.

people in underground platform transit in NYC Subway Station on commute with train, people crammed crowd with open closing doors, woman exiting, boarding

Remembering the "off before on" rule can help you a lot when interacting with people in public. Getting on the subway? Let people get off before you get on. An elevator? Same rule. Always let people off or out of something before you attempt to make your way on or in.

Don't mess up an apology with an excuse.

young man apologizing to girlfriend, arguing couple night city street, conflict

No apology needs to be followed by an excuse. "I'm sorry but…" only taints the sincerity of the apology you were attempting to give. As Harriet Lerner, PhD, explained when writing for Psychology Today, a sincere apology never involves the word "but" as it nearly always "introduces a criticism or excuse."

Write thank you notes.

partial view of woman holding kraft envelope with thank you card isolated on white

If the thought of sending a thank you note to someone even crosses your mind, do it. Thomas P. Farley, a trusted etiquette expert, says that "any time you have been on the receiving end of someone's generosity," take time to send them a thank you note. After all, no one's ever been annoyed or upset to receive one—only maybe surprised and appreciative.

And say "thank you" when someone holds the door for you.

man holding the door open for a woman

It doesn't matter if it's a coworker, a friend, or even a stranger—if someone took a second out of their day to pause and hold the door open for you, thank them. It's a small gesture, but it's one worthy of your appreciation. After all, far too many people don't hold the door open for others.

Never make fun of someone else's laugh.

Multicultural women talking and laughing

It's extremely hurtful to be told that your natural response to joy or happiness is embarrassing or something to be ashamed of, one Reddit user pointed out. Even if you think someone's laugh is too loud or a little odd, don't tell them that. There's no good that can come from sharing that opinion.

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