Managing Personal Space – Should You Keep Your Distance?

Given the nature of what I do in public life, I am forever interacting and meeting with other people in both small and large, busy environments. In particular, I have a range of meetings and events coming up for the remainder of the year, in very public arenas that attract a lot of attention and coverage.

Being in a crowd is my worst nightmare 😂

I had to say to our grandson this morning: “would you mind observing personal space that is acceptable according to western principles.”

Now, he is a very young, but new exactly what I was referring to.

Personal space is not only a cultural phenomena but is a very personal one too. Proxemics as it’s called, was coined in 1966 by Edward Hall and distinguishes the different types of personal space including intimate distance, personal distance, social distance and public distance.

Now, I’m someone who requires a great deal of personal space on all four levels, but I seem to adapt when it comes to flying – except when a backpack, baby bag or other piece of personal hand luggage ends up in my face.

Dr Whitbourne in her post on Psychology Today: 5 Things You Need To Know About Personal Space comments that personal space is a key component of all relationships, and luckily one that is relatively easy to manage once you understand its importance.

Dr Whitbourne discusses in her post the findings from a British Study “What Makes a Space Invader” regarding research conducted with passengers on plane flights. Summing up the research by Lewis, Patel, D’Cruz, & Cobb, she concludes there are five tips for coping when personal space issues occur in your life:

1. Be kind to your friends. You have more freedom to invade the personal space of people you know well rather than strangers, but don’t take for granted the likelihood that they won’t mind you closing in on them.

2. Look around you. Be respectful and attentive to boundaries, especially in close spaces, and especially when there’s no easy escape.

3. Confront if you can, but not if you can’t. If confrontation isn’t an option, find ways to distract yourself or at least send out signals that the invasion isn’t OK.

4. Sniff, but don’t snoop. Be aware of the sensory intrusions you create by wearing strong scents, talking too loud in public places, and asking overly personal questions of strangers.

5. Learn to read body language. Sensitize yourself to recognize the signals that you have gotten too close by observing the other person’s behavior. If you sense you’ve overstepped, back off.

Using the above tips, I have been preparing myself for a little while now for what is on that looming horizon. There is going to be lots of smiling, expectations of hand shakes, hugging, back slapping, sizing up of who is in the room, seeking of opinions, speeches to make and comments around “I thought you were dead” or “the legend has returned” or “here’s a blast from the past.”

As someone said to me the other day on the phone “can you see me genuflecting?” I had a good laugh because this is from someone I respect immensely. The word is out 😉

Perhaps you need to put on a space suit before interacting in a personal space. I might give it a try 😂

13 Comments on “Managing Personal Space – Should You Keep Your Distance?”

  1. Different cultures define personal spaces differently. And it is very hard to gauge sometimes. Even if one gauges it right, one sometimes forgets everything and reverts back to one’s old self. LOL. I think I have several very … personal space experiences.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have always been interested in how other cultures judge personal space. People are always fascinating. Yes, I can appreciate how hard it is to gauge that distance sometimes. Some who know me quite well will always ask if it is okay before stepping into my space 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: ReBlogging ‘Managing Personal Space – Should You Keep Your Distance?’ – Link Below | Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

  4. Regarding Whitbourne’s five tips, all of them are wise.
    Unfortunately, these are not required reading for the people who need them!
    “God, grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and strength to not bash in the heads of idiots who don’t get it.” 😂

    Liked by 2 people

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