When others invade our personal space we find it uncomfortable.
And what I’m talking about here is the amount of space we like to have between us and someone else. It is dependent on who you are and my relationship with you.
And personal space is exactly that … personal.
What I consider to be an acceptable distance between us may not be the same as your acceptable distance and can lead to a dance across an office floor as I take a step away and you move forward!
We run an exercise in our Building relationships and Customer Service workshops where we ask delegates to move across the room towards a partner and stop when they feel they are close enough. The majority stop at around 2-3 feet apart (about where you would stand to comfortably shake hands and chat to each other) but invariably someone will stop further away or closer than their partner would choose.
These differences in personal space can have a big impact when you are working in close proximity with others or your job means that you are meeting lots of new people so it is important to keep it top of mind. Those of you in senior positions be careful that you don’t impose your preference on others. Don’t sit on desks or come and stand very close behind someone’s chair, just being where you are may make them feel uncomfortable, before you even open your mouth!
Remember too, if you are taller than the other person they might need to stand a little further away, both because you may be too close but also to make it more comfortable to have eye contact.
So don’t take it personally if someone takes a step back when they are talking to you. Unless it means you can’t hear each other anymore, let them decide on the distance between you. It may just be that they feel their personal space is being encroached!