Everybody has an invisible bubble around them that they consider their personal space. If someone else gets close enough to invade that space, they start to feel uncomfortable. The size of this invisible area is different for each individual. For most it’s about the length of their arm, thus the saying, “Keeping him at arm’s length.” For others this area may be much smaller or bigger. How do you know when you’re invading someone’s personal space? Here are ten signs that I may use to let you know you’re invading mine.
- Back away – The first sign that you’re getting too close for my comfort is for me to start backing away. If you see me backing up as you approach, then it’s time for you to stop advancing.
- Cold shoulder – You should watch my body language. If I turn to the side and present you with my shoulder, that’s a defensive move and a clear sign that I’m uncomfortable with your closeness.
- Stiffen – A more subtle body language is when you notice I start to stiffen up. This could even be an unconscious reaction on my part, but a clear sign that you’re invading my space. Back off a little and see if I start to relax.
- Squirming – If you’ve got me backed against the wall, or in a position where I feel trapped, you may notice me start to squirm. Now I’m really beginning to feel uncomfortable and can’t help showing it. Time to give me some space.
- Eye contact – You will also want to watch my eyes. Avoiding eye contact is another way for me to let you know I think you’re getting too close for comfort. Give me a little breathing room.
- Darting eyes – Another way my eyes may be sending you a message is if you find me looking around and my eyes are darting back and forth. This means I’m desperately looking for a way to escape.
- Keep moving – If we’re having a conversation and you notice me moving around a lot, this could be a sign that you’re in my space. On the other hand, it could just mean that I’m trying to avoid you. Either way, you should probably keep your distance.
- Change seating – If you sit next me and I move over or change my seat, this is a clear sign you’re sitting too close and crowding my comfort zone. Don’t take it personally, it’s just me.
- Facial expressions – Watch my face for signs you may be invading my personal space. If you see a scowl or a worried expression that seems out of place, you may want to give me a little more room.
- Quit reading – Reading over my shoulder is a clear violation of my personal space etiquette. If I close my book or paper and stop reading, then you know I’m not happy with your actions.
These are just my personal space indicators, but many are universal. What may be a comfortable distance to you could be very uncomfortable to someone else. Watch for signs that you’re getting too close and try to keep a respectable distance. If you notice any of the things I mentioned, you are probably getting too close. On the other hand, maybe you just have bad breath.