What is Good Elevator Etiquette?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An elevator can be an uncomfortable environment when the riders do not observe the basic rules of common courtesy. Good elevator etiquette is mostly common sense, but being aware of it will make your elevator rides more comfortable, especially if you encourage others in the building to remember to be conscious of elevator etiquette. As always, the best rule of thumb when you are not sure about how to behave is to treat others as you would wish to be treated.

Elevator etiquette includes the correct behavior when boarding, riding and disembarking.
Elevator etiquette includes the correct behavior when boarding, riding and disembarking.

There are three separate components to elevator etiquette: boarding, riding the elevator, and disembarking. Before hopping on an elevator, you should also think about whether or not you should really be in the elevator. If you are only traveling one or two floors, taking the stairs is more polite, unless you are disabled or you are carrying heavy packages.

It's important that all elevator uses know and practice proper etiquette.
It's important that all elevator uses know and practice proper etiquette.

Boarding etiquette dictates that you should wait until everyone who is getting off has left the elevator before you step inside. You should not attempt to block the doors of the elevator to hold them open, because this is rude and potentially dangerous. If you are running to greet the elevator, you can politely ask that someone press the “door open” button, but be aware that the occupants of the elevator may decline.

Using a tissue when sneezing is considered good etiquette.
Using a tissue when sneezing is considered good etiquette.

If you are carrying heavy packages or traveling with a big group, you should wait for an empty elevator, or ask if the people in the elevator mind working around your packages or luggage. Likewise, if you are sick, you may want to wait for an empty elevator, and you should carry a handkerchief or tissues to cover your mouth and nose in case you need to sneeze or cough.

If a person has to cough, it is considered good etiquette to cover his or her mouth.
If a person has to cough, it is considered good etiquette to cover his or her mouth.

Once on the elevator, elevator etiquette experts strongly recommend standing as close to a wall or corner as possible to make room for other riders. You should move to the back of the elevator if you are going a long way, and stay in the front if you plan to get off soon. If you decide to stand in front of the elevator buttons, be prepared to be asked to push buttons for other elevator riders.

While in an elevator, you shouldn't eat, smoke, or talk on your cellphone. Many people prefer to ride an elevator in silence, so if you have to strike up a conversation with someone, keep the topic neutral, and your tone of voice low. If other people in the elevator seem irritated or upset by your conversation, you may want to change the topic or quiet down. Step aside for people getting off the elevator, and be sure not to block the door when the elevator stops.

If you are trapped in the back of a crowded elevator and you need to get off, call out “my floor” to alert other riders to the fact that you wish to get off, and move slowly but firmly through the crowd. If you see someone struggling to get off an elevator, you may want to step out to make room, and then step back in.

The primary focus of elevator etiquette is the goal of keeping everyone comfortable on an elevator, and usually as long as you make a good-faith effort to stay out of the way, you will not offend or upset anyone. If you aren't certain about whether or not a behavior is appropriate in an elevator, ask yourself how comfortable you would be if someone else in the elevator did it first.

Elevator etiquette includes refraining from excessive laughter.
Elevator etiquette includes refraining from excessive laughter.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have my own elevator conduct. Some was shown me by others, and I learned some of the other ones myself. I hope they help.

Be sure to greet all newcomers to the elevator, and ensure that you are the one to control all the buttons.

If any of your hosts are of a different nationality, be sure to greet them in their traditional style. For instance, bowing and saying Konichiwa to people you think are Japanese is always respectful. If you don't know their language, be sure to use one word that you think sounds like theirs. They will appreciate your kind gesture.

If it is an Englishman, offer to take his hat and umbrella for him. For safety's sake though, pass this to somebody else, as you are in control of the buttons.

Also, face your elevator hosts, as you never know when one of them wants to get off.

Smile while staring at them, ensuring you are showing teeth. That way they can be assured of your good intentions for the whole journey.

Conversations about the weather should be discussed one by one with everybody who gets on the elevator. ("So, it might rain today" is my favourite, especially when it is really hot.)

If a person is eating or drinking, you don't need to tell them that it is not permissible, but might help with the conversation by asking what they are eating. Also, point out in your kindness if they have anything on their face, such as a crumb or a stain. Make sure you speak up though as the noise from the controls of the elevator may overpower it.

Be sure to block the buttons and be the button driver, as already mentioned, and stand in a posture of dominance. YOU ARE THE BOSS. If the elevator has two sets of buttons, you can either bring a friend, or just press a few extra buttons to make sure nobody misses out. This is in the interests of safety.

If more people get on the elevator, be sure to alert them to the weight constraints of the elevator, and ensuring that you ask everyone their individual weights, so that you can get our your calculator to make some sums. This is because most elevators have not adjusted their signs and have people who are nowadays considered the "average" weight as overweight. It is kind to do such things.

Be sure when doing the above steps that you inform the hosts of your good intentions, as you are preventing the elevator from breaking and people plummetting to their deaths. It may be helpful to have a copy of a youtube video or other news horror story of elevators doing this, so that they can be sure of your genuine concerns for them.

If a police officer, or security guard come to use the elevator, be sure to tell them that their jurisdiction is "out there", and you are the boss in here. It is in the interests of their own safety.

I hope you find my suggestions and etiquette helpful, and I hope to see you in my next elevator journey.


Special Bug, right on! However, everything else in the article is "spot on". The only thing I would add to the article would be that, inappropriate conversation on an elevator is a definite violation of good etiquette.

Keep foul language and very personal information off the elevator. I personally do not want to be privy to what is going on in your love-life and by all means please avoid foul language. It used to be that people avoided cursing in front of women, the elderly and children. That ship, in our society, has unfortunately sailed. If you must use four letter words, please wait until I have ushered my kids from the elevator.


I do not agree with the article on the first point of elevator etiquette, which states; " If you are only traveling one or two floors, taking the stairs is more polite, unless you are disabled or you are carrying heavy packages". This is purely subjective. The elevator is in the building to allow people to avoid the stairs. If you wish to take the stairs for your health, then by all means, take the stairs. But, I disagree that it is impolite or inconvenient to the people on the elevator, for a passenger to board just to go up one or two flights. Besides, are the people on the elevator going to judge me for stopping the elevator to board for just one or two flights? If so, they will certainly judge the person who boards because he/she has a health condition that prohibits them taking the stairs. The passengers in the elevator can not look at the person that is boarding and determine if he is healthy enough to take the stairs. Judging whether someone is worthy enough to take the elevator for a short trip, is in itself poor etiquette.

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