Place | Wellbeing

Personal Space

The term personal space generally refers to the physical distance between two people in a social, family, or work environment. Think of your personal space as the air between your body and an invisible shield, or bubble, you have formed around yourself that separates you from the people around you.

The distance that feels comfortable between you and another person varies from one person to another and one situation to another and depends on a variety of factors – how well you know the person, your relationship to that person, how much you trust him or her, and your culture. In order to put others at ease, it’s important to understand the importance of personal space.

If you feel that someone is getting too close to you physically and it is making you feel uncomfortable, there are a couple of ways you could deal with it. You could come right out and say you are uncomfortable being so close but this can be quite tricky. It might be easier and just as effective to lean away from the person or take a step back, hoping he or she will take the hint.

Similarly, you might feel comfortable being physically close to someone but they may not feel the same. Their boundaries for personal space may be different to yours and that is OK. Learn to read the body language of others and it will help you to maintain healthy relationships. Remember, personal space is individual so everyone has a different idea of what is OK. Cultural values also come into play as some cultures are much more comfortable with physical closeness than others.

Let’s reflect

Think about some factors that might affect how big or small your personal bubble or invisible shield needs to be. If you are talking to a stranger or someone you don’t know very well, does that make you feel less comfortable being physically close to them? Does the gender of the person you are with make you feel like you want a bigger or smaller bubble? How about their age? Are you more comfortable with people coming inside your usual bubble if they are much younger than you? Have you noticed that there are some of your friends who get much closer to you than others? How does this make you feel?

It’s not so easy is it? There are no simple rules for personal space and you have the right to protect your personal space, but remember – everyone is different. Just because you feel comfortable, you must read the signs of whoever you are with to make sure you are not inside someone else’s bubble without their permission!!!


Try it out!

With a friend or a family member, try practicing what you may say to someone who comes too close to your personal space. How would you react? What would you say? Get feedback from your family or friend on how you handled the situation and what you could do differently.


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