I had this situation today.

I went into an elevator while a man was running towards the elevator. According to "elevator etiquette", I was supposed to press the button "<>" to keep the door open.

But I couldn't tell the difference between "<>" and "><" and I got confused or fussy when I had to decide to press "<>" or "><" in a few second and I got it wrong. I pressed the button "><", which closes the elevator door faster, and the poor man just missed getting into it.

I felt bad after that mistake.

Is it correct to say "I pressed the wrong button in panic/ in confusion"?

Or do we have a common word to express that state?

  • [correction: I pressed the "><" button]
    – Lambie
    Apr 17, 2023 at 12:30

1 Answer 1


Neither 'panic' nor 'confusion' are used quite the way you write. We would say:

  • I pressed the wrong button in a panic
  • I pressed the wrong button out of confusion
  • I pressed the wrong button in my/the confusion

You could also use the adverb 'confusedly', although this is not as common:

  • I confusedly pressed the wrong button.
  • Do you think the word "panic" is too strong to express my situation?
    – Tom
    Apr 17, 2023 at 10:52
  • @tom It depends - confusion and panic are very different. Sometimes they happen at the same time. Panic is often a kind of fear from unpreparedness. Confusion is not knowing what to do or being unclear. Sometimes fear can induce confusion. One could be confused but calm, or panicked yet competent. Have a think about what is causing the situation. I think the man running for the elevator caused a sudden panic. There was no confusion because you what to do (press the button). You weren't confused about which button to press but the panic made you press the wrong one.
    – Astralbee
    Apr 17, 2023 at 11:27
  • If I had had 10 seconds more, I wouldn't have done it wrong because the 2 buttons were so similar.
    – Tom
    Apr 17, 2023 at 11:58
  • I pressed the wrong button in a panic. means the panic is pre-existing. I pressed the wrong button because I panicked. Similarly, "I pressed the wrong button because I was confused". English does better with verbs in these cases.
    – Lambie
    Apr 17, 2023 at 12:28
  • @Lambie No, that's not right. If it was a pre-existing situation involving panic that you had already described you would say "in the panic". In a panic means you are personally in a state of panic.
    – Astralbee
    Apr 17, 2023 at 16:02

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