July 25 – Talk in an Elevator Day

Posted on July 25, 2014

Notice how blank and expressionless
everyone's face is...
Have you ever noticed that many times people ride up elevators together pretty much silently, each person facing forward and not really looking at one another?

Of course, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Many times people are riding in elevators with people they know, and they enter the elevator talking to one another, and they keep talking all the way up or down. 

Actually, sometimes I wish that people in elevators were a little MORE silent!

Also, most people murmur quiet polite phrases such as “Good morning,” “Excuse me,” “Floor 3, please,” and “Thank you.”

This is NOT how people ride in elevators.
This looks posed....and WEIRD!
But most of the time, a group of strangers will ride together without looking at or speaking to one another. And even when we are riding with a friend plus strangers, we tend to talk only quietly to our friend or stop talking for the duration of the ride.

The study of “proxemics” tells us about the unwritten rules of society, including how close people get to one another and body-language cues.

Normally, strangers in public keep ten or more feet away from one another, when possible. However, on crowded city streets or enclosed spaces such as elevators, that obviously is not possible.

In an elevator with only a few people, each person tends to stand in his or her own corner, with as much space between them as possible. But when an elevator fills up, people jostle and adjust their positions to maintain maximum space between them.

Ways of coping with too-small of personal space include reducing or eliminating hand and arm movements, lowering voice or not talking, and decreasing eye contact.

Apparently, men tend to not look at others in a crowded elevator at all, but women tend to quickly check out who they are sharing the elevator with—just a quick glance around, usually accompanied by a smile.

Today we are urged to break the unspoken rule about not speaking – and to make polite, light small talk on an elevator. Compliment a stranger, chat about the weather, ask for directions, etc. Does it take courage for you to do this? What do other passengers do when you talk –- do they join in? Look away? Shift uncomfortably?

By the way, if there is a baby or small child – or maybe even a dog – in the elevator, complimenting him, her, or it is probably the easiest way to start a conversation. My husband often tells parents, “You have a beautiful family,” and people warm right up to him.

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