Alt: Comfort Zone. An invisible and undefined three dimensional area surrounding human beings which, when invaded, causes sensations of nervousness, discomfort and/or embarassment.1
It is interesting to note that the exact dimension of an individual's Personal Space may be partially culturally determined. Certain cultures, most notably those that flourish in extremely populous areas, seem to result in far smaller Personal Space requirements than others.3
Although, for the most part, the idea of Personal Space is more implied in daily life than spoken (even more so among adults than children,) here are some suggestions for determining the dimensions of someone else's Personal Space:
Similarly, if someone enters your personal space without permission here are some suggestions for removing them:
- While sitting at a table or sharing a meal, move a small object, such as the salt cellar, closer and closer to the other person. When they frown and move it away again, you have probably entered their Personal Space.4
- Stand approximately three meters from the person you are attempting to talk to and begin a conversation. When they come closer in order to actually hear you they will probably stop at the edge of their Personal Space.
Unfortunately for the sanctity of Personal Space, the planet Earth is a crowded place and does not always allow an individual the amount of space it may desire. It is often necessary to accept invasions of Personal Space or to perpetrate them on others in order to survive daily life.
- Do not step back. In the majority of human cultures this is considered a sign of weakness or discomfort and will probably send the wrong message. Attempt to move laterally so as to increase the distance between you without being obvious. Alternatively, move the interaction to another venue (such as a nearby seating area) where you will be able to place more room between you.
- Inform them that they are standing too close and ask them to move back. This should be done with caution as it may imply a distaste for their presence or excessive fastidiousness on your part.
- Excuse yourself briefly on some pretext and re-establish the correct amount of space when you return.
Note: In all human cultures currently active, violent and/or homicidal responses to the invasion of Personal Space are severely frowned upon. This does not, however, significantly decrease the desire towards such actions on the part of many humans. Approach with caution.1234
1 There is some speculation that the human need for Personal Space stems from evolutionary sources (See also: The Theory of Evolution.) The theory goes that the introduction of unknown and potentially dangerous objects or entities into the space immediately surrounding a soft, shell-less human triggers the immediate desire to run like heck. This instinct may also be responsible for the amusing habit of many humans to squeak when suddenly tapped on the shoulder.2
2 In other evolutionary veins it is interesting to note that the Personal Space of most humans does not extend upward. Disgusting insects and rude hand gestures may therefor be safely dangled immediately above the individual's head.
3 It is unfortunate to note that, in most cases, those cultures that encourage the smallest amount of Personal Space also encourage the loudest volume of personal speech.
4 Of course, this could also mean they want you to stop playing with the condiments and pay attention to the conversation so this approach should be used in moderation.
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