Did you know that you have a “space bubble” all around you? And did you know that other people have a “space bubble” too?
When people are making conversation with someone else, they generally like to have a little bubble of space all around them. This little bubble of space extends one or two or even three feet all around our bodies. We tend to view this as our personal space, even if we never really think about it.
If we invade too close into someone else’s personal space before they are ready to be close to us, they will feel very uncomfortable. And if someone gets too physically close to us during a conversation, we can also feel uncomfortable with them.
Some people misjudge how close they should sit or stand when they are talking to strangers or acquaintances, and they may end up making a poor impression on others either because they get too close, or stay too far away. If someone you don’t know very well starts to move too close to you or touches you, you may find yourself taking a step back.
If you don’t know the space bubble rules, you might make another person feel uncomfortable by standing too close, or by touching them when they don’t want to be touched by you.
We like to keep our space bubble as a personal space for ourselves, and for those who are closest to us. We like it when our loved ones, our family, our children, our loved ones get physically close to us. However, if a total stranger insists on getting into our personal space and stand just inches away, we may feel alarmed and uncomfortable.
About the only time we willingly allow a stranger into our personal space is when we need medical treatment, or when we can’t prevent it, such as when we are on a crowded bus or elevator. We also let people get very close to us when we feel a very strong attraction to them.
The size of space bubble we like to have around us, and the amount of touching we will permit, can be complicated.
There are no cut and dried rules. People from different family backgrounds and different cultures often have different preferences for how big their space bubble will be.
People who come from a British background are likely to be more formal and reserved with strangers and acquaintances than North Americans would be. If you address an English person by his first name without permission, he may feel that you are being too familiar with him. English people will feel usually feel uncomfortable if you stand close to them while speaking, and will back away to a distance that suits them better.
People from a British background often want to stand quite far away from their conversation partners when making small talk, and are not likely to engage in a lot of public touching with people they don’t know.
On the other hand, people from Central and South American countries will often stand extremely close to you while speaking, and may feel offended if you back away. Men from these countries feel comfortable hugging each other in public, whereas most men from a British or North American background will almost never do so.
People from China and Japan are usually much more reserved, and will stand considerably farther away from the other person with whom they are having a conversation.
The size of the space bubble we try to create around us will also change according to circumstances.
When we are on a subway during rush hour we will tolerate strangers pressing up against us in a way that we would not accept from someone at a business meeting.
When we first meet someone new, we are not likely to stand in each other’s zone of private space unless we are both feeling a strong sexual attraction. When people are drunk they will tolerate a lot of physical closeness with strangers that they might not accept when they are sober.
When you are talking with people, respect the space boundary that your conversation partners want to have around them.
If you find that other people keep moving further back when you stand close to them, it does not necessarily mean they don’t like you. It might mean that you are invading territory they consider their personal space.
If you notice this happening, they will probably appreciate having a bit more space. Don’t move physically closer to them until you know them better and they seem more willing to get close to you.
When people warm up to you and like you a lot, they will often signal this by smiling at you a lot, getting closer to you, and touching you. If they don’t feel that this is the right time or place for being close, they will pull back a bit.
You can subtly participate in negotiating the ideal distance by slightly approaching and backing away until you both appear to be comfortable. Thus you will create a better impression on them.