The elevator doors opened, and Evan found himself face to face with the elevator's eight occupants, all staring straight ahead. Nobody moved. Calculating that there was enough room for him to board, Evan stepped forward, slightly jostling the tall woman directly in front of him "Excuse me," he said.
The elevator doors closed behind him, and as the elevator began to move upward, Evan scrunched his shoulders, pulled his elbows tightly into his sides, and carefully rotated himself in place to face the doors. He inevitably brushed against the tall woman again, who responded by shifting about two inches to the southwest, which movement rippled across the other four southwestern occupants of the elevator.
Evan had claimed his space.
So goes the ritual of elevator boarding. It varies from culture to culture, but that's how it's done in the U.S. It's a fairly unfriendly, mildly competitive, and ironically isolating process.
Imagine a similar scene in a parallel universe. The elevator doors open, Evan notices that the elevator is almost full, and says, "Room for one more?" The tall woman responds, "Sure, c'mon aboard." The passengers in the southwest corner of the cab move over to make room and one says, "Yeah, c'mon in. Now we have enough for volleyball!"
Life can be so different — so much more fun — and we can make it happen. Here are some of the everyday rituals we can change.
- Two groups pass each other in a narrow hallway
- One or both will form single file to make space for the other to pass without stopping. Rarely do we stop, stand aside with a smile, and generously let the other pass.
- Pouring coffee at the coffee station
- Life can be so different —
so much more fun —
and we can make it happen
- Someone approaches as you're in mid pour. Do you finish pouring, and then set down the pot? Or do you interrupt your cup and offer to pour theirs?
- Entering the office or cube of another
- If the occupant is looking at the computer, or otherwise unaware of your approach, do you knock on the doorjamb? Clear your throat? Say hello? Or do you ask for directions to the Emerald City?
- Someone enters your office unexpectedly
- Do you stand? Say hello? Smile? Offer the visitor a seat? What if you've never met? Do you ask, "Am I in the right office?"
- Someone drops a book, some papers, their badge, etc.
- Do you do nothing? Do you pick up the items? Do you just point them out? Or do you make a self-effacing remark: "Hey, I thought today it was my turn to drop stuff…"
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Games for Meetings: I
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part I of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we can do about them.
- Email Antics: II
- Nearly everyone complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own
actions. Here's Part II of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
- Assumptions and the Johari Window: II
- The roots of both creative and destructive conflict can often be traced to the differing assumptions
of the parties to the conflict. Here's Part II of an essay on surfacing these differences using a tool
called the Johari window.
- The Questions Not Asked
- Often, the path to forward progress is open and waiting, but we don't recognize it, or we convince ourselves
it isn't there. Learning to see what we believe isn't there is difficult. Here are some reasons why.
- Take Charge of Your Learning
- Many of us let others set our learning agendas — peers, employers, or the mass media. But you
can gain much both personally and professionally by setting your own learning agenda.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.