It has happened to most of us at one time or another. That awkward moment when you step into an elevator, only to have the doors close and lock you in with complete strangers, uncomfortable silence filling the air.
Do you say hello? Do you look up? Do you press the button for them?
Those ten seconds can feel like an eternity.
Its undeniable elevators can be awkward, especially for someone who does not know proper elevator etiquette.
But unless you are willing to take the stairs ten flights up each morning the best thing to do is learn the proper decorum of the elevator, in hopes that it will make that minute of your (and your co-riders) day smoother.
Firstly, while waiting for the elevator to arrive do not stand directly in front of the doors. The probability of someone having to get off is great.
Blocking the doors while someone is trying to get off is just going to hold up traffic, and most people getting off do not like having to navigate around people trying to get on. Just stand back and wait until the elevator clears to step on.
It is okay to break the ice and say hello to your fellow co-rider. This does not mean you have to start a full blown conversation with them but being polite when someone gets on the elevator can make their day as well as yours much better.
A head nod or a brief hello shows courtesy and respect.
Plus you never know who that person might turn out to be a potential new client, your interviewer, your bosses’ spouse.
With that being said you still want to give people their space. There is nothing more uncomfortable in an elevator than standing with a person who chooses to invade your personal bubble. If the elevator is empty except for one other person, stand on opposite sides. If the elevator is full try to give each other as much as space as possible for the time being; understanding that like a packed subway car, a packed elevator might mean you have to pact together.
Not one who likes to pact together? Simply wait for the next elevator, another one is bound to come.
Now that you are on the elevator, if you are getting on first and you know you are going to one of the top floors, stand in the back.
Stuck in front? Politely step off when you get to someone’s floor, and then step back on. Standing in the front on the elevator (and refusing to move) while everyone in back of you is trying to get off causes an inconvenience for you and them.
If everyone is getting off at the same floor i.e. the lobby, this is the one place it is acceptable not to be a gentleman.
Simply get off the elevator.
Also, if you do happen to be in the front of the elevator push the button for those behind you who cannot reach. It saves them the effort, and it saves you from a million hands trying to reach over you.
By letting the woman behind you go first (although polite) it can hold up others while leaving a confusing and sometimes awkward “who goes first” moment, when each person only has seconds to get off.
If you see someone rushing to get to the elevator, hold the door.
You will save the person the embarrassment of two fates, which include either being squished by the doors, or having the doors shut in their face, making them wait for the next elevator (which can be a hassle if you are racing to an appointment.)
At the same time if the doors are shutting and there is nothing you can do, do not try forcing yourself in the doors to be polite, and risk getting yourself squished. Sometimes we miss elevators, it is okay it happens.
Elevators can be an uncomfortable place, but as long as your remember some of these tips it can make your ride a lot smoother. Just remember as in most etiquette situations, when in doubt just use your common sense. Be polite and respectful and all will (hopefully) go well.