Hold on to your hats! It is Talk in an Elevator Day! A day dedicated to crushing the awkward silence, digging into your most courageous place, and talking to strangers on the elevator. This holiday cracks me up, but if I were waiting for an elevator right now, I am pretty sure I would be silently fidgeting. ~smile~
Why? Why are we so afraid of each other? Inconvenienced by each other? On Grandparents’ Day in elementary school, I remember being surprised by how easily the “old” people talked with one another. They laughed as if they had been friends for years. They were probably in the habit of striking up conversations with strangers. It was no big deal to them! I want that ease, but it will not just come to me. It has to be cultivated. And it all begins with a smile and a “Hello!” – then another, and another, and another. ~smile~
In honor of Talk in an Elevator Day, let us brainstorm a few ways we can jump into elevator conversations as painlessly as possible.
- Smile – The smile is the universal non-verbal language. It is something we can all do and transcends time and culture. Assuming we are in a safe place with many witnesses, it is not difficult to look at someone and smile warmly. It is an easy first step. It is a non-verbal way to communicate, “I am non-threatening and kind.” Even if smiling is all you do, it beats the socks off of staring ahead emotionlessly or scanning your phone. Phones have become crutches and masks. “As long as I am looking at my phone, I do not have to deal with the discomfort of creating new relationships.”
- “How are you doing today?” That question is harmless, simple, and to the point. It can either open a conversation or simply show good will. When someone takes the time to ask me about my day, it automatically brightens my spirit. Someone noticed and acknowledged my existence. Even if someone new seems a bit freaked out by your starting a conversation with them (conversation amongst strangers has become abnormal in the past ten years), chances are the people you acknowledge do appreciate it at some level. It is nice to have someone – even a stranger – care enough to ask about our lives in even the smallest measure.
- Sincerely compliment something about him or her. About a week after Eric and I got married, we were visiting the California Redwoods with Eric’s best childhood friend. While we were there, his friend said, “You have a great smile, Heather.” That statement was like pouring cool water into my soul! Ten years later, I still think about and appreciate it. It did not require much effort on his part (and he has probably long since forgotten), but it meant the world to me. For some reason, I feel so uncomfortable complimenting strangers. I suppose it is because I am not sure how they will take it. Our waitress at Olive Garden yesterday had some of the most stunning green eyes I have ever seen. Why did I not tell her so!? I can clearly remember several compliments I have received over the years and they truly brightened my day.
- Offer to help carry something if a fellow rider is encumbered by stuff. Is she carrying a brief case, desk plant, and coffee? Offer to help. Sometimes random circumstances throw us into instant and easy conversations. “Wow! You have a lot going on here.” “Yeah, I have a meeting at ten and then a working lunch at noon. So much paperwork to haul around!” “Sounds like you have a packed day. What do you do?” And there you go…
- If your elevator companions clearly do not want to talk, it is okay to not push it and let the conversation go. You did your best. ~smile~ Not every attempt at friendliness is met with appreciation. That does not make you weird. Shake off the failed attempt. Someone will be thankful for your cheeriness! Do not let a few spoiled sports rob you of bringing a smile to someone else!
Most elevator rides are relatively short. You can do it! Smile and say “Hello!” Become more comfortable speaking to people. We have become a society that is constantly looking down (or, at least away from another person). I wonder if the occurrence of neck problems has increased due to us always staring down at our phones. Look up. Smile. Speak! Renew the lost art of connecting with other humans. Encourage your sweetie to do the same. Those who go far in life usually know how to relate to other people – to reach their hearts.
So, I challenge you to find an elevator, lunch line, or most places people gather in silence and strike up a conversation with a stranger. If you and your significant other are together, use your collective force to make the other people feel at ease. ~smile~ A friend of mine once told me she liked teaming up with a friend to befriend someone else. There is power in numbers! Create a habit of hospitality with your sweetie!
Will you commit to striking up at least one conversation with a stranger today?