The human behavior within elevators is one of the most interesting spectacles to observe and according to an article from the BBC News Magazine, reveals a hidden anxiety amongst us. It starts when someone enters the elevator space and offers up the strained smile that looks as though they just dropped an SBD, followed by the mouth opening to deliver a barely audible greeting, and is concluded with the stare down to the wing tips (alternatively, there is also the stare down at the mobile device). The cardinal rule in the business world is to never discuss business in the elevator, so when you walk into one with a colleague, the conversation immediately stops, leaving everyone in the space just a tad curious about what they were really talking about. And then there is the “elevator square dance”:
If someone else comes in, we may have to move. And here, it has been observed that lift-travellers unthinkingly go through a set pattern of movements, as predetermined as a square dance.
On your own, you can do whatever you want – it’s your own little box.
If there are two of you, you take different corners. Standing diagonally across from each other creates the greatest distance.
When a third person enters, you will unconsciously form a triangle (breaking the analogy that some have made with dots on a dice). And when there is a fourth person it’s a square, with someone in every corner. A fifth person is probably going to have to stand in the middle.
Now we are in uncharted territory. New entrants to the lift will need to size up the situation when the doors slide open and then act decisively. Once in, for most people the protocol is simple – look down, or examine your phone.