113. Personal Space

Personal space is similar to an invisible bubble surrounding you. When a person moves so close as to compress your personal bubble of space, you feel uncomfortable and challenged.

Every one’s personal space is different. How closely you stand to a person while talking to him or her, depends on whether the person is a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, a sibling, a parent or a lover!

The better we know a person, smaller will be the size of the bubble. The bubble is larger for casual acquaintances and largest for perfect strangers. The bubble is larger for two men than for two women. The size of the bubble also depends on the different cultures.

When two people have an argument, the first thing they do is to move closer, invading each others personal space. This is called “getting in some one’s face”. People demand to “have an elbow room” to feel free and not suffocated.

Edward. T. Hall studied the personal spaces between all combination of people and here are his findings.

Intimate space is one and a half feet or less. Personal space is 4 feet. Social space is 12 feet and public space is 25 feet. No wonder the podium of the speakers is far away from the audience. If the crowd of strangers were to be placed nearer, the speaker himself would feel challenged by the audience.

At times we are not able to maintain the personal space. When we are in a crowded lift or train or bus, we have to be nearer than this space limit. But we look away from the people standing near to us, so that we won’t appear aggressive or nosy!

Visalakshi Ramani


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