UNDERSTANDING PERSONAL SPACE
One of the major ‘commandments’ of social behavior is –thou shall not transgress thy neighbor’s personal space. Have you ever heard someone talk about their need for personal space? Have you at any point felt someone was standing too close to you and making you feel uncomfortable?
Just as body movements and facial expressions can communicate a great deal of nonverbal information, so can this physical space between individuals.
Personal space is the region surrounding an individual which they regard as psychologically theirs. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space is encroached upon.
Four levels of social distance have been identified which occur in different situations.
Intimate distance: The personal space distance is said to be intimate when a person is within arm’s reach or closer, then we can touch them in intimate ways. This level of physical distance often indicates a closer relationship or greater comfort between individuals. This space is usually reserved for reserved for lovers, children, close family members, friends, and pet animals
Personal distance: Personal distance begins about an arm’s length away. This space is used in conversations with friends, colleagues, and in group discussions.
Social distance: This level of physical distance is often used with individuals you know fairly well, such as a co-worker you see several times a week. This is a comfortable distance for people who are standing in a group but maybe not talking directly with one another. People sitting in chairs or gathered in a room will tend to like this distance.
Public distance: Physical distance at this level is often used in public speaking situations. Talking in front of a class full of students or giving a presentation at work are good examples of such situations. That would also apply when we are walking around town; we will try to keep at least 12 feet between us and other people. We will leave that space between us and the people walking in front.
It is however worthy to note that the average personal distance varies from culture to culture. Try to be aware of this, so if the person to whom you are speaking backs away a little, don’t try to close the gap.
Head, HR and Admin