Please keep your distance

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When reading our psychology textbook, I came across a section that really captured my attention: Personal Space. The term is coined "proxemics," and this idea really comes in to my life most every day.

So this section discusses the four different levels of personal space, being : Public distance, Social distance, Personal distance, and Intimate distance.

Public distance is considered to have at least 12 feet between two speakers, and is used for public speaking, such as lecturing. A Social distance, normally incorporated among strangers or casual acquaintances, is typically 4-12 feet. The Personal distance is even closer, being an estimated 1.5 to 4 feet, and is used for close friends or romantic partners. And finally, there is Intimate distance, the closest of them all, being 0-1.5 feet apart. This is typically for kissing, hugging, whispering, and affectionate touching.

This section, as I mentioned, really grabbed my attention, because I have a friend that is really up in your face with every conversation, and this is the first time I have ever had this weird phenomenon, but I actually feel a tad uncomfortable. It feels so weird to have someone stand so close while talking with you, and I constantly am looking away from her when we talk, because it can be that weird. I find it fascinating and true that there are indeed some kind of socially acceptable speaking distances for different people. For my friend, she talks with pretty much every person she meets at a Personal distance (1.5-4 feet), so I guess for her that is a good social distance. Proxemics rings so true in every day life, I know others have to have some experiences like this right?


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I totally agree with this post. I find it so hard to concentrate on what people are telling me when they have stepped into that personal space (1.5-4) feet. I believe part of being a good speaker or people person is having a good sense of these "proxemics." For people to truly be listening, you need to know when close is close enough. You need to make them feel engaged in the conversation but not uncomfortable. This is a skill I feel many people lack.

I feel as if this is a very common theme. Sometimes I will find myself backed into a corner after talking to someone because I have to continue to back up to keep my personal space from being invaded. I agree with the previous comment that this is a very important skill that too many people lack due to the fact that no one considers it a skill. The biggest thing that comes to mind for me is a job interview and how this skill would affect your ratings from your potential employers. Just as a good hand shake leaves a good impression, the distance at which you carry out the conversation does also.

I also agree with this post. Everyone has a personal bubble (not necessarily 1.5-4ft) that measures how comfortable one is when interacting with other individuals. Being a male I find that when another male gets to close I feel the urge to say "back off buddy" but my personal bubble to females is much smaller. If someone you are holding a conversation with is invading that space, I become irritable an look for ways to end the conversation sooner, usually not gaining anything out of the interaction from the sheer fact that I was way to uncomfortable to begin with.

I agree with you that some people that do not comprehend the correct, comfortable distance can definitely cause some uncomfortable situations. I also have a friend that likes to be up in your face and believes that is the only way to grab your attention; they do not get the social cues, such as someone slowly moving away because of the uncomfortableness that they bring. It can become very awkward because people like to only be at an intimate distance when they are having an intimate moment, such as kissing or hugging. It's hard to not just straight up walk away when these people approach due to the lack of recognition of a social distance or even a personal distance.

I agree with this post. I myself like my personal space unless speaking with close friends or romantic partners. If I do not know someone that well I just don't feel comfortable if we are talking so close. I wonder if this differs in other cultures. Maybe in some cultures it is only acceptable to speak with another at personal range.

Most of us experience personal distance or closer with complete strangers every day. We sit in lectures with people we don't know. Our elbows or arms often touch, and sometimes it can be uncomfortable. We even sometimes make ourselves physically uncomfortable in order to avoid rubbing against someone we don't know. This is also true on the bus. If anyone has taken the campus connector to St. Paul at noon on a Tuesday, you've probably rubbed up against someone you don't know. In an ideal world, those proxemics that are described above ring true, but in reality, we are often much closer, especially in a large urban environment on a large college campus.

These proxemics are definitely prominent today, but like others have said, the distances of these are becoming inevitably closer. I personally don't find it that alarming to speak with people at a personal distance, even if I had just met them. I feel as though this preference is correlated with extraversion. If one is more extraverted than I would guess they would be more comfortable and excited meeting these new people; therefore, having less concern with the proxemics of the situation, but rather the content thereof.

I know exactly what you're talking about! In high school there was a new girl that came to the school. She was very friendly but a little too friendly. She was very "in your face" as well. She was not rude in your face but just got very clase to you. Looking back, I think that is one of the reasons I shyed away from being friends with her. She was extremely comfortable with people and I am just normal. When people get into your personal bubble I feel that that's all you can think about then. You just keep trying to back up or look away and then you forget the conversation. I think this could be an evolutionary trait that has stayed with us over the years. It was probably not safe to be too close to people because of diseases and even brawls. If you have your own personal bubble then everyone is safer.

Yes Chris, this is a very interesting phenomenon and one that psychologists often look at in terms of how comfortable two people are together. They typically involve studies that are either looking at stereotypes and prejudice or interpersonal relationships. An objective measure of how close two people might feel toward each other can be measured directly by how close they sit next to each other given the choice on a long bench.

You might think about why some people like to invade the personal space of others and not realize that it makes people uncomfortable. Other people don't mind as much having their own space invaded. I guess much depends on who is getting in that space!

I feel like people in power also vary in these areas. They either feel that they should be extremely far away from their subordinates when talking or should be extremely close. I find it weird the different approaches they have to displaying their masculinity. We have all seen the TV shows when a person goes on an interview and ends up in a large conference room and sits at the opposite end of a 20 person table from the boss. Distances display much more than personal, social, and public areas. They also can show power!

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This page contains a single entry by zinkx023 published on April 22, 2012 7:23 PM.

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