Personal Space

© Rosemary Williams, RW Coaching

Recently when I went to join a queue I notice a 2m distance between a person obviously in the queue and someone who seemed to be in it. I watched for a second as they were on the ‘phone. They moved forward, following the person in front but even though they had finished their ‘phone call they still kept the same distance. I went behind them and others joined the queue behind me, not in front of the person. They also thought this person was in the queue.  Have you noticed this anywhere?

I began to think about personal space. I moved forward, but the person did not show that a short space behind was uncomfortable. Thus their personal space in front was 2m and less than ½ m behind. Mmmm.  Have you felt people were too close to you when you were in a queue, in public or in private? Your reaction, however slight, is instinctive. You may immediately turn, moved away or otherwise indicated they are too close to them.

Watching a child is interesting as they show their desire for personal space as they developed more self-awareness.

Historically we have deep seated protective instincts, naturally keeping a safe distance from some-one. I’ve heard the line in the House of Commons is to keep people out of reach of an opponent’s sword.  The greatest distance is when you have an audience. Space reduces the chance of germ transfer through contagion or infection.  In public, with strangers or people we do not yet trust we tend to keep people at least at ‘arm’s length’ in front, although we may tolerate some-one closer behind us, we begin to feel uncomfortable.  Basically we like to feel safe.

We may stay within arm’s length when we are with people we can know and trust them.  They are less likely to attack us, so they are allowed to be within reach. What about people who like each other?  Lovers? The distance between them may be the shortest. They are within reach to touch each other, in fact they may be touching without either feeling uncomfortable.

Have you noticed how you can ‘feel your hackles rise’ when some-one is within your personal space? People can become increasingly angry as the space between them reduces. It can show with crowds, close living and driving.   

Remember there are personal differences due to experience, body hygiene and cultural.  Meeting and greeting customs which are within the personal space are kept to a minimum with those we do not feel comfortable with yet.

If some-one can get closer to you when you are using a technological device, does this mean technology is altering our feelings about personal space or lowering our awareness of others?  Or is technology invading our personal space?

I would welcome discussing your views and how personal space affects your business.