A Dummies Guide to 'Unspoken' Elevator Etiquette

Business people ignoring each other in elevator
Business people ignoring each other in elevator
Embed from Getty Images

We all know the feeling -- that daily trance you're in as you approach the elevator doors, headed to your office. It's an awkward journey until you step off at your destination floor. You probably already know the classic elevator protocol: ladies first, stand toward the back upon entering, and of course, politely move out of the way when people need to exit.

But what about the "unspoken" elevator manners that nobody wants to discuss? I think it's time to set the record straight.

1) Meaningless small talk: Let's face it. We'd all rather be millionaires who no longer needed weekly paychecks, but in the real world we'll probably be working until retirement age. That being said, most of us are a little grumpy when confined to a small space with a bunch of strangers. Once in a while, you'll get that cheerful optimist who wants to steer up two minutes of pointless conversation such as, "Sooo, are you ready for the holidays?" I'm already thinking, "Do you really care?" Imagine if I told the truth. "No, I'm not ready for the holidays. My dog puked all over my carpet last night, and I awoke to a killer headache this morning." Realistically speaking, most strangers don't care to know "what's new in our world" or if we're ready for any occasion so let's stop pretending.

2) Marinating in fragrance: It's bad enough being stuck standing in a limited space let alone gagging over someone's overbearing "scent." You might think your smell is beautiful but trust me, it's not. I've nearly passed out trying to hold my breath to escape another person's overwhelming aroma. It smelt as if I had just been bombed by a ninja-florist during peak flower season. Stop the madness. Spray your fragrance on lightly, or marinate in it at home where your family can appreciate it.

3) Taking a whiff of the smokers: Just when you thought the last of the crowd had entered the elevator, you were mistaken. A few stragglers who just finished a long smoke break hop on with you. The stench is evident, and then they release a nice big breath of charcoal air as they start chatting with each other. It's like one smokestack talking to another. There is a difference between courteous, and rude, smokers. I have friends you'd never guess were smokers.

4) Getting off on the first floor: it's acceptable to take the elevator to the first floor if you're dealing with bodily pain, or a condition that prevents you from taking the stairs. Otherwise, you can expect some eyeball rolls if you're going to press "1" on the button panel. What's worse is when the first-floor-exit person stands in the back, forcing nearly everyone to step outside of the elevator to accommodate their exit. If you're going to get off on the first floor, please stand toward the front, and off to the side, allowing for an easy departure.

5) Awkward moments of seeing old coworkers: Many of us feel the need to be overly cordial with old coworkers we encounter in the elevator, and it's usually out of guilt. Most of us don't care to know what that person's been up to lately or where they're working currently. It's harsh to say, but it's doubtful we'd even notice if they croaked over unless we read it in the obituaries. It's not necessary to guilt yourself into pointless small talk. Just smile and say hello.

6) Pick-up lines: Unless you're already exchanging flirty glances and cutesy smiles with your potential "eye-candy," don't be a weirdo. Chances are high we're not interested in your gawking stares, or date proposals. A mutual vibe would be felt if that were the case. It's best to avoid flirtation.

7) Phantom button pushers: Let's not make believe there's a ghost in the elevator. It's okay to make a mistake, accidentally hitting the wrong button. We've all done it. It only gets awkward when the designated floor is reached and no one gets off. Everyone looks around at each other with irritation and confusion, yet no one confesses to pushing the wrong button. If you admit it, chances are we'll all laugh along with you. It's not a big deal.

8) Making room for one more: It's annoying to wait for another elevator, but it's better than squishing into an already small, crowded space. Imagine standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people, and just when you thought you were on your way up, BOOM! I don't think so! A fearless hand chops in between the elevator doors, forcing them to re-open. In come a few more people who think there's just enough space for them to pile in. No one refuses their entry, but the annoyance is evident.

Make the elevator journey a better experience for all of us.