3 People Walk Into an Elevator and Face the Wrong Way

Hmm. Well, THAT’S awkward. What’s going on? Is this a joke? It doesn’t really matter because I know the norms – the rules. I can just look down to avoid eye contact. Next stop another person steps into the elevator. And I’ll be damned, they face the back too! Are they caving to group pressure? Ha! Not me. I know the right way to face. But still – this feels soooo uncomfortable.

Next stop, one more person enters, and, you guessed it, they face the back as well. Am I on Candid Camera? I am starting to feel a little bit like a jerk right now, being the only one looking back into all of their faces. Why is this so important to me? What’s the harm in just turning around? Ding! It’s finally my stop. I excuse myself and step out of that crazy world, now a little less self-assured than when I entered.

One of the under-celebrated aspects of being human is our ability and instinct to be a part of a group. Every cell in our body readies us to notice details of those around us – and to automatically, unconsciously, align our own behaviors. Like a cell makes up part of a heart, and the heart is part of a body, we, too, are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Being a part of a community or culture doesn’t just feel right, it is actually a true manifestation of our humanity. Being one of. Being part of. Science is showing us that people watching a play, or a musical performance, or a sports game together actually begin to breathe in synchrony. And our heart rates align at key moments. We respond as one.

Of course, individuality is great. Of course, being ‘right’ is important. But let’s raise a glass to going with the flow too.

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