Breaking a Social Norm

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Norms are part of our lives. Some of the patterns that we consider as ordinary do have an adverse impact on how other people perceive of us. Breaking an unethical norm may seem impossible and may take time, but once it happens, one gets the feeling of having achieved something great. In this paper, I discuss violating the social norm of not shaking hands, especially with people I considered as strangers. I will outline the reasons as to why I chose that particular pattern and the consequences of breaking it. Additionally, I will describe how the response reinforced the violation and how it encouraged me to carry on up to date.

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From the time when I was in junior high, I was taught the importance of shaking hands with my peers, a vice I brushed off because I viewed it as unethical. Being a hushed person, I did not see the need of saluting people let alone shaking their hands, not for the reason that I did not like them, but because it had been my way of life. People around me would initiate it, which I would respond, but I would never be the first to extend my hand with the intention of greeting anyone. The people around me had the view that I was proud and an unsociable person.

After getting a job in the office of the president, I was obliged to break the norm. Since I was dealing with government officials, it was mandatory that I shake their hands, as a sign of good gesture and paint a decent picture for the office. After three episodes of not shaking hands, I noticed that most of the regular visitors avoided me and instead chose to talk to my colleague who even went to the extent of bowing while greeting them. I immediately knew I had to break the norm otherwise I would end up portraying a negative to the public.

My superior had severally warned me of dire consequences because some of the visitors had posted complaints about my bad attitude. The first step to breaking the norm was accepting that it was a debauched social norm, and going ahead to practice it regularly. I was sure that on violating it, it would bring positive impacts, not only to me but also to those around me. I expected by performance to go up considerably and attain the goals set by the institution.

Before making the decision to break the norm, I considered three most important aspects. First, was my professional image which had been tainted. I had turned down so many requests of people wanting to shake my hand that I was sure my image had been spoilt. Secondly, I considered the future of my career. Had I wanted to change careers in future, I would be on the losing end because of my arrogance. I would probably require the assistance of the people I had turned down, which will be unfavorable to me. Third was how the image of the government office was portrayed. As is the norm, any government office should be respected, and the employees should conduct themselves in a conventional way.

Similar to my prospects, the reception after breaking the custom was quite good. My colleagues in precise exceedingly esteemed my effort to break the bad social habit. I was involved in conferences that I was excluded from, and was in a position to show up at forums that I considered as not being important to me, as it was mandatory to shake hands. The encouraging response to saluting my colleagues highly encouraged me to do away totally with the norm. It showed me the significance of not only acknowledging others but also shaking their hands. My self-esteem increased, I was a cheerier and a more enthusiastic individual and looked forward to serving all the visitors every single day, something that I did not appreciate before.

The response reinforced the custom in two ways. Firstly, I now feel more appreciated now than ever before. In extending the greeting gesture to others, I sometimes get to get into conversations with colleagues and apprehend their dispositions, which assists me to know how best to deal with them in different circumstances. Secondly, majority coworkers disclosed that their opinion of me changed, and they now regarded me as a sociable person. I received more clients that needed my services, which made me a more fulfilled person and was able to meet my daily and monthly target.

Norms for a part and parcel of our day to day routines, and are not easy to break. When one is faced with a situation that forces them to break the norm, they tend to panic, and think that they may face ridicule because of it. In the event the pattern results in an undesirable response from people, it is essential for one to let go of the anxiety of ridicule and break it. If one receives positive reactions like I did, it is crucial to use them to reinforce themselves, and get exhilarated to break more undesirable social norms. The outcomes may be worth the struggle.

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