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How close is close?

Am I intruding your personal space?

by Rosie Norman-Neubauer -Tweak2Speak Mentor/English-German

Have you ever felt someone is ‘in your face’? I mean ‘literally’?

Just recently I had an awkward experience at the airport.

A littel story:

I was standing in the queue to get through security and – to be honest – it was all pretty chilled, no-one breathing down your neck or hussling you to move on and everyone was leaving enough space between them and the next person. Or so I thought…

Three times someone behind me nudge me 1) with their hand (unitentionally), 2) with their bag (again untinentionally, I think) and 3) with their elbow (not sure this time)… all within about 2 minutes.

Contrary to my background (British/middle class, conservative ;-)), I decided to say something:

“Excuse me, could you maybe leave me a little bit more space, please?”

The answer was a little rude in my eyes: “You are not even on my radar! I didn’t notice you were there.Who are you anyway?”

The ‘radar’ bit was spat out with such venom, I realized that although all of it was probably unintentional, this lady simply did not realize that she had, indeed invaded my personal space.

By this time I was boiling inside and just couldn’t resist a comment:

“And I would have loved NOT to have noticed you, either” – not sure if she understood, but it made me feel a little better.

So, how would you have felt? A little annoyed, perplexed, complacent?

Well, I felt that my personal space had been invaded. Three times within 2 minutes was just too much. So what was the problem?

Well, apart from not having very good manners (I’m afraid mine had slipped a litte as a result), she came from another cultural background. Her idea of personal space was different to mine.

Someone from southern Europe may consider half an arm’s length appropriate, whereas we in northern Europe tend to be comfortable with a whole arm’s length to the person we are talking to – if they take a step backwards, away from you, you are probably standing too close for their liking.

So, what can we do so that everyone feels comfortable with each other?

We can start to be more culrually aware and have more empathy for others’ personal space boundaries which, of course, fosters harmonious relationships.

Here are some strategies to help you build empathy and understanding:

  1. Take a moment to contemplate your own boundaries: Reflect on your personal space preferences and how it feels when others either honor or breach them.
  2. Be an attentive and inquisitive listener: Engage in discussions about personal space boundaries with your friends, family, and colleagues. By actively listening to their experiences, you can enhance your comprehension of various perspectives and preferences.
  3. Observe social dynamics: Pay close attention to how individuals interact in diverse settings and notice how personal space boundaries shift depending on the situation and the dynamics between people.
  4. Develop mindfulness: Cultivating mindfulness can enhance your capacity to recognize and respect personal space boundaries in the moment, while also fostering greater empathy and understanding in general.

It’s a small thing but can make a whole load of difference! Have a great day and don’t ‘tread on anyone’s toes’ – literally!

Interested in learning more or getting your team up-to-speed, contact us: https://tidycal.com/rosienorman/30-minute-meeting

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