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Friday, April 3, 2009

Personal space: What Is The Meaning?

A word about personal space before we move onto interviewing and presentations body language. Personal space is the distance you feel comfortable with when meeting or reacting with another person. It varies from country to country between individuals and genders, and in different situations. For example, the Italians and French have a much closer personal space distance and are more tactile than the British or Germans. The Japanese and Chinese have closer body space zones and in India the personal space zone is practically non-existent.

In Britain the personal space distance is about three feet hence the old saying ‘keep them at arm’s length’, which is approximately three feet. This is why we often feel uncomfortable when someone sits next to us on a bus or train, or at a seminar. It is why we put our bags or briefcases on the seat beside us; we are creating and establishing our own personal space. In crowded places like trains or the Underground in rush hour, or a crowded lift, it is not possible to have the
personal space we like around us. In these situations people will often not look at one another but will look at the ceiling or the floor, and/or they will angle their body language away from the other person. Where this is not always possible you will find that we keep our body language movements down to a minimum, keeping very still.

Those we like and know we will allow closer to us.

In the networking situation previously described we need to keep personal space distance between us. If someone we don’t know very well gets too close then we tend to back off.