Strangers, Encounters and Elevators


I currently live in a very interesting ‘luxury’ building where most people mind their own business and choose not to respond to a simple good (morning/afternoon/evening…) greeting. I always thought this was somewhat odd and at the same time, I continue getting curious to find out what triggers this type of behavior.

I have been observing this phenomena for a while now, and I was wondering if you would have any thoughts to share:

Why is that, when we enter an elevator and or wait in the lobby for it, we press the button to call it even when we see the light is on and it has already been pressed? Some people even press it frenetically several times, as if they were angry at the poor elevator button.

Today, I decided to ask a man why he thought we do this, when he had just done it. He did not have an answer for it, and I said: “I’ve been observing this phenomena for a while now, and sometimes I even catch myself automatically doing it too. I think we all do this.”

Then, another man approached and he just stood there waiting with us. No action… I even waited a bit to see if something would happen and he just stood there…

I then said to him: “Sir, thank you! You just proved me wrong!”

And he said: “What do you mean?”

I explained my observations and completed with the acknowledgement that he did not follow the ‘protocol’ as I expected.

He said: “Well, I see you have your hands full (I was carrying a large box), and he has two free hands, so I just assumed one of you did it!”

And I said: “But why do you think people do that overall?”

And he said: “I think people just avoid having conversations! It is easier to just ‘do it’ than to ask or trust that someone else took care of what ‘needed to be done’.”

I was ecstatic, that was so beautiful to hear! I then added to the conversation and mentioned another observation of mine: “You know, most of us only have a breakthrough in connecting with another human being when facing a disaster.”

He confirmed and gave an example of how ‘depression’ completely disappeared when 9/11 happened. “Back then” – he said – “in that moment, people found a purpose and forgot about their depression. Everyone was solidary and helping one another.”

I agreed: “Yeah, they found a purpose that was bigger than themselves!”

The first man left the elevator, still as silent as he was in the beginnig. I thanked that second gentleman for his generous share and for a great conversation.

He said: “Well, this would have never happened if you did not speak with me first, so thank you!” – and he left the elevator also.

As a coach, I am always intrigued by my reactions and other people’s reactions as I try to recognize patterns and learn from them. This experience specifically made me wonder… How many wonderful people are out there just waiting for you to make the connection?

How about you? What is your experience? Which of these two would you identify yourself more with and why?

In the end, no matter what you do… Make it outstanding!

Coach Cris.

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