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13 Mistakes You're Making in an Elevator

Stand clear of the closing doors.

"There are only three times in our lives that we enter a small, windowless, enclosed space that has no ready exit: the womb, the tomb, and the elevator. The elevator is the only one we share with strangers," Lane A. Longfellow, PhD, the self-proclaimed world's authority on elevator etiquette, told New York Magazine, in 1977. Since then, he's been regularly dishing out advice on how to properly behave in an elevator.

Yes, like everything else in your life, that cramped, claustrophobic steel box you ride every day is also dictated by an ironclad rulebook: It's called elevator etiquette. But chances are, you've violated more than a few clauses, more than a few times—and without even realizing it. So, in the interest of you never again ruffling the feathers of your fellow lift-riders, we've created a comprehensive guide to elevator etiquette. Follow these 13 rules—ranging from mere impropriety to straight-up rude behavior—like you would any other. And for more rules to follow, don't miss the 23 Old-Fashioned Etiquette Rules That Still Apply.

You take the elevator to 2.

elevator etiquette

Are you serious? It's one flight. If you need any further motivation to climb the stairs: According to findings in Physiology & Behavior, taking the stairs each day can provide an energy boost equivalent to that a cup of coffee. So by taking the stairs, you're being polite and healthy. (Exceptions shall be made, of course, for those with disabilities, injuries, or high heels. Or people with heavy bags.) If you're looking for good workout inspiration these days, check out Alison Brie's 5 Best Body Tips. 

You're on the phone.

elevator etiquette man on phone

The folks at Good Manners & Etiquette are clear on this: "It is not good etiquette to talk on the phone in the elevator."

You're not facing the same way as everyone else.

elevators facing the same way

"The most egregious faux pas a person can commit in an elevator is to face the back," says Longfellow.

You make it hard for people to get off.

elevator etiquette conversation sandwich

If the car stops on a floor that's not yours, obviously someone else is disembarking. So step aside from the door; heck, even step outside the elevator, if you need to. Don't worry: The other riders will let you back on.

You're hitting an already-hit button.

elevator etiquette

Hitting it again won't make the lift go any faster. You will only agitate your fellow passengers.

You reach over someone to hit a button.

elevator etiquette pressing the button

It's way more polite to say, "Excuse me, would you mind hitting 7? Thank you."

You're holding the elevator up to finish a conversation.

elevator etiquette holding door

At the end of the day, it's just plain rude to your fellow passengers.

You're putting on your coat inside the elevator.

elevator etiquette putting on jacket

Rule of thumb: If it's a physical activity you'd have trouble completing in a phone booth, don't try it on an elevator.

You're choosing to stand in front of the buttons.

elevator etiquette standing in front of the buttons

And have no intention of offering to push the button for fellow passengers. We need to reach those.

We can hear your headphones.

elevator etiquette man on phone

Even if you think we can't.

You're keeping your backpack on.

elevator etiquette

That rucksack is taking up valuable chest-level airspace.

You're trying to talk over a third person who unintentionally jumped in the middle of your conversation.

handshake elevator etiquette

It's not their fault. They didn't ask to be the meat of your "conversation sandwich."

You don't own up to your mistakes.

elevator etiquette stalling

You accidentally hit the wrong floor. Don't pretend to look around expectantly for someone to get off on the ghost floor. Say aloud, "Oops! Pressed the wrong floor," and everything will be okay.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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