Leadership

Why you should talk to people in elevators

Xosha Roquemore as Tamra Webb, Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri in 'The Mindy Project.'
Universal Television | Getty Images
Xosha Roquemore as Tamra Webb, Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahiri in 'The Mindy Project.'

Let's face it, elevators are an awkward place to have a conversation. You're trapped in a metal box that is suspended by cables, while you're raised or lowered to your destination.

Meanwhile, you share this experience for a few short moments with people you may or may not know. Most of us just keep quiet, look down, fiddle with our smartphones, or watch the monitors that display the latest headline news.

Your ride doesn't have to be so boring and downcast. Keeping quiet in the elevator is a missed opportunity. Here are three reasons why you should have conversations with your fellow elevator passengers:

Talking to strangers fosters serendipity

There is a randomness to who joins you in the elevator, and this is something you should welcome. If you work at a company that keeps its divisions seated in the same area, you won't have that many chances to meet people in other areas of the firm.

The elevator journey in and out of the office presents an opportunity for you to make acquaintances with people in other groups, divisions, and even companies.

Next time you see a familiar face in the elevator, stick out your hand and say, "Hi, my name is…., and we see each other so often, I thought we should at least know each other's names." This will get the conversation rolling. And at a minimum, they will think you're polite and charming.

When you welcome the randomness in your life, you never know how it will pay off later: For example, once one of us said hello to someone in an elevator, and that person ended up being a large client a couple years later.

You can practice your small talk

Conversations in elevator rides can be simple and pleasant. They don't have to be long-winded affairs, and you should always be mindful of who might be listening into your conversations.

Obviously, don't share any sensitive information in these public places. But small talk is a function of connecting with people, and by having these types of conversations, you will send the message that you are warm and welcoming.

By having kind and polite conversations in the elevator, you will stand out, and you may even earn the reputation of being more trustworthy and reliable. If you're looking for a few ways to get these chats started, try these:

1. Hi, How are you?
2. Hi, we keep meeting. Where do you work?
3. Hi, what lunch/coffee places do you recommend around here?
4. Hi, is it supposed to rain today?
5. Reveal something about yourself: "I just got promoted, and I'm happy…" or "I'm excited, I'm about to go on a vacation…"
6. What did you think about the game last night?
7. "I just read this CNBC Make It article about why it's good to talk to people in elevators..."
8. Would you like to hear my elevator pitch?

It helps you stay in the moment

Instead of letting your mind wander or checking your phone, an elevator ride can help you stay in the moment. When you set your foot in the elevator, let that be a reminder to open your eyes and observe everyone and everything around you. A simple "Hi, how are you?" goes a long way.

When you engage in conversation, you will stay in the present, focused on your newfound companion.

Commentary by Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal. Chopra is the author of The Healing Self with Rudolph E. Tanzi, the founder of The Chopra Foundation, co-founder of Jiyo and The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Sehgal is a New York Times bestselling author. He is a former vice president at JPMorgan Chase, multi-Grammy Award winner and U.S. Navy veteran. Chopra and Sehgal are co-creators of Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, inspired by American immigrants.

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