Social behavior are the behaviors that we develop because we’ve been influenced by the people around us. They are learned behaviors, and are often beneficial for society.
Positive social behaviors refer to behaviors that are in accordance with social norms and expectations. Negative social behaviors refer to behaviors that might lead us to be outcast or could offend others.
Learning appropriate social behavior can help us as individuals to gain social capital and cultural capital, which can help us integrate into society more effectively. If we fail to learn prosocial behaviors, we may struggle in social situations.
Best Social Behavior Examples
1. You dress in accordance with social expectations
Societies have, for better or worse, developed dress codes that signify a person’s professionalism, respect, and even social desirability.
Failure to comply with the dress code can lead to offense in many situations. For example, entering a temple in Bali without wearing a sarong, or entering a Jewish temple without wearing a yarmulke can be seen as disrespectful.
Dress codes may also garner greater respect in the workplace. For example, men are expected to wear suits in professional contexts in order to ‘look the part’ and gain the respect from their clients.
Related Article: 15 Tolerance Examples
2. You give up your seat to the elderly or disabled
Giving way to the elderly or a person with a disability is a social behavior that humans display all over the world. For example, elderly people and people with disabilities may be unable to wait in line—they may need to be served first.
We comply with rules such as not parking in a space provided for people with disabilities. We also allow the elderly to be seated first on the bus. It is an acceptable social behavior where we display how we recognize their needs and respect the people around us.
3. You engage in small talk
Small talk is a social nicety that we learn to engage in because it’s considered pleasant or respectful. Generally, it’s not about deep topics, but rather a topic anyone can engage in without causing offense.
People may engage in small talk to signal that they are not a threat and are friendly; or, because they need to charm the people around them. You might also get ‘stuck’ making small talk with a stranger or distant acquaintance at a wedding or other social event.
Common small talk topics include the weather, the latest sports news, or asking someone about their weekend. It makes people in a small group belong and not feel threatened.
4. Using manners
Manners are a social behavior because they’re learned, not innate. You’re not born saying please and thank you. In fact, parents spend a great deal of time reinforcing manners in their children.
Common examples of manners include practicing common courtesy like saying “excuse me” or “thank you.”
The same thing goes for asking for directions if you are lost. You do this politely and show your appreciation.
Interestingly, this social behavior differs across cultures. You may hear, for example, that Scandanavians are more blunt, British people use manners excessively, and American culture requires the use of manners far less than their European counterparts.
5. You laugh at jokes even if they are not funny
There are many occasions when someone cracks a joke—not a mean or ignorant one—but you do not find it funny. Yet, you still laugh because you do not want to offend the person who joked about it.
Acceptable social behavior means not being antagonistic. Picking a fight is always frowned upon in society. It is why we humans, most of the time, go along with laughing if we don’t want to offend. The last thing that we want is to make the situation uncomfortable.
6. You gossip about other people
Gossiping is generally considered to be wrong, but then it is a common social behavior. It’s learned through exposure within the culture. We learn to gossip because it can gain us favor with others.
Even friends in a group will gossip about another friend. As part of any given group, there is a tendency for humans to want to know what is going on or want to be seen to have insider knowledge that they can share.
Gossiping allows people to have a sense of knowledge—the status of possessing secret information that others do not seem to know. As we all know, knowledge is power. In addition, people who gossip negatively about someone may also get some sort of satisfaction that they are better off morally.
7. You conform to social expectations
Conformity is a way to gain acceptance in society. If people dress formally in a casino, then you would do the same. If you were invited to a wedding, then you would wear something acceptable.
Religion is also a form of conformity. Many people exercise faith, although deep down, they have questions about it. To avoid confrontation, people would rather not engage in behaviors that offend others.
Of course, conformity is not something we expect from everyone. There are those who do not agree with social expectations and go against everything that society expects them to. These people are called non-conformists.
8. Participating in sports
Sports are not just for exercise. Participating in group sports is a key social behavior. It helps us bond with our community and develop prosocial skills.
In childhood, children learn teamwork, respect for authority, and how to lose gracefully through sports.
But even in adulthood, sports have a lot of social benefits. For example, many men have managed to get ahead by playing golf in the ‘boy’s club’ on the golf course. Of course, this is fraught with its own gender-based social problems. Nevertheless, it’s an example of social behavior that helps people to get ahead!
9. Words of encouragement
In a social context, one may say that he may lose a singing contest or that he may fail in his business.
Instead of putting this person down, we give words of encouragement even if we have to lie.
For example, you may know that your friend is not likely to win. What you would do is tell him that the competition is really bad at singing and that your friend is better, even if this is not true.
We motivate people because we want to be able to make them better. We want them to be inspired. In return, we would also expect the same behavior from them when we are in doubt of ourselves.
10. You accept people’s identities even if they do not conform with yours
Not all people are the same—from skin color to political opinions to gender—and we must respect a person for who he is or what he is.
We accept people for what they are, and this is what we call tolerance. Tolerance is a social behavior that allows a society to be at peace. Tolerance is what we need to be able to become productive, not destructive.
More Examples of Social Behavior
- Active listening
- Making eye contact with people during conversation
- Deferring to people in authority
- Respecting elders
- Asking for permission in class
- Protecting the weak
- Forming friendships
- Obeying the law
- Diffusing tense situations
- Flirting and going on dates with people you’re interested in
- Communicating verbally
- Online communication skills
- Teamwork skills
- Time management skills
- Organizational skills
- Joining a book club
- Posting on social media
- Holding your tongue when socially appropriate
- Speaking up when socially appropriate
- Smiling when greeting someone
- Tolerating difference
- Standing up against inappropriate behavior
- Respecting your host culture while traveling
- Offering help to strangers
- Walking on the right (USA) or left (Australia) on a street
- Breaking the ice with a joke
- Teaching others
- Learning from a guru
- Attending the movies
- Dating someone to find out if you’re a good match
- Holding hands with your boyfriend or girlfriend
- Offering food to guests
- Holding the door open for others
- Thanking and tipping servers
- Waiting for your boss to leave work before you do (Japan)
- Not spending too long in a cafe on your computer
- Accepting a friendly invite for dinner
- Being tactful in turning down a date request
- Creating a social media profile
- Being an online influencer
- Turning up early for class
- Waiting for permission before leaving class
- Herd mentality (following the leader)
- Volunteering to help
- Pulling over for emergency vehicles while driving
- Waiting in queues
- Leadership skills
- Dressing to demonstrate your subcultural allegiance
- Attending music concerts
- Attending professional conferences
- Political activism
- Voting in elections
- Starting a business
- Giving people personal space
- Defending people you love
- Supporting friends in their endeavors
- Applauding someone for receiving a reward
- Sharing resources with others in class
- Helping a friend move houses
- Donating to goodwill
- Organ donation
- Giving blood
- Cleaning your house before receiving guests
- Sharing photos from your trip with family
Social behavior is a learned behavior that helps people to participate in social groups. what we normally do when we are with other people, but not necessarily what we do when we are at home. At home, we are free to do what we want, and no one will judge us. Nevertheless, even what we do at home can be socially learned (e.g. British people drinking tea while Americans tend to drink coffee).
Most of the time, positive social behavior helps you to fit into the social group. The way you dress, talk, and respond to social cues are all indications of the level of your interpersonal intelligence.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.