The Art of Riding an Elevator

I try to avoid riding elevators as much as possible, not because I am scared of elevators. I just can’t stand awkward elevator small talk or the awkward silence that way too often occurs when people that don’t know each other ride the elevator together. I also hate it when people intrude my personal space so the combination of that and awkward behavior in elevators normally make me feel very uncomfortable.  I like to say that someone or something gave us legs for a reason so why don’t get some exercise by taking the stairs instead? It is a win-win situation; you will burn calories, tighten your butt and at the same time avoid what I like to call “I don’t know you, so stop talking to me” situations. 



There are certain patterns of behavior that occurs when people are taking the elevator. It seems like we all know have to act, however, most people’s behavior in elevators are not the result of rational thinking, but it is an automatic, instinctive response to the situation. Let me present to you simple elevator etiquette: You get in the elevator, push the button for your destination, turn to face the door with hands in front or at the sides and avoid eye contact  with other  passengers usually by staring up at the panel above the door that ticks off the passing floor. It is also very important to refrain from talking to other people, that also include suspending conversations with companions or conversing in a very low voice. Last but not least, it is important to avoid all kind of physical contact with other passengers. The “rules” are so easy to understand, so why are there people out there that simply can’t follow them?


I was doing research on people’s behavior in elevators and came across an article published in Los Angeles Time called Elevator – No talking, No looking by Johan Sweeney. The author argues that elevators make it hard for people to follow social norms, especially when it comes to how you are not supposed to violate another’s personal space. Also, Sweeney points out how difficult it is for us to maintain our personal space in crowded elevator, people just don’t know how to react when there is a risk of people intruding their personal space. And this is exactly why I try to avoid riding elevators with strangers; I prefer to be left alone and not interact with other people in an inclosed environment. There are always some people that has to start a conversation, instead of following the “rules” and refrain from talking to others. I am actually terrified if the elevator stops and I’ll get stuck in there with weird nonstop-talking people. Another example on why I prefer the stairs instead of elevators is this that generally, all the four corners of an elevator are taken first. When a fifth person gets on, he or she will most likely stand in the center. The problem is when you are the sixth person to get on, and people normally don’t really know what to do with this sixth person. It creates an awkward tention and I have to say that I would rather take the stairs than to expose myself to such a situation. Also I hate it when people have no respect  when it comes to entering the elevator before they let other people out. Second, doesn’t everyone just hate the person who takes the elevator up only one flight? I mean, that annoys everyone right?  


Personally I find the study of elevator behavior very interesting, despite the fact that I try to do everything in my power to avoid them. I think it is interesting to point out that although we humans like to believe that we all are experts when it comes to socializing and interaction between each other, It is actually quite funny to see that we still can’t handle a simple action like taking the elevator without making it awkward and uncomfortable. At least that’s my opinion. 



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2 responses to “The Art of Riding an Elevator

  1. Kyle Lunceford

    Agreed! Last point about studying behavior is excellent! Just like today (January 31, 2012) in class about the basketball game and the girl reading the book. Human Behavior is fun to watch because everyone reacts differently. Everyone has their elevator riding style, the guy in the corner, the person who refuses to move out of the way of the buttons, when he is pushing my buttons more than the ones on the wall, and then the classic cell phone, which I would also like to say I feel this is a problem for people in smaller towns. Most of us may see an elevator once a day at Montevallo and it is so old everyone is scared to ride them, but for big cities elevators are like cars. And what is really funny is when in a city and riding an elevator everyone knows there place but to us we feel like “outsiders” because it is our first elevator ride in the past year in a half. So to step back and watch reactions for being outside the norm is always fun. People seem to take an elevator ride more serious than it is, what would happen if we just step backed and laughed?

  2. It is always interesting to see just how people will behave when they get into an elevator, there’s a protocol to it. In intro sociology we discussed a sociological study of people’s behavior on elevators…through grad students . The sociologist took a group of grad students and ask them to, one at a time, enter an elevator and behave in a different way than the ‘norm’. One would enter, and instead of staking out a corner, would stand directly in the middle of the elevator with their back to the doors. For each ‘abnormal’ student a ‘normally’ behaving student would accompany to record data. The amount a everyday people on the elevator that were not completely thrown off by the students’ behavior were very low. Whether starring, commenting, or completely averting their gaze, most people are highly uncomfortable with abnormality. It’s weird to think how little we actually encounter ‘abnormal behavior in the day-to-day, and just how much anxiety it can cause.

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