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Why Is Personal Space So Important?

Why Is Personal Space So Important?

Have you ever really paid attention to the real meaning of personal space? It begs someone to stand more than a slight distance away from you. Psychologically, you experience less stress and can interact better when other people observe personal space.

Standing Too Close

Have you been in a conversation with a friend or stranger and feel that they’re standing too close? Do you find yourself involuntarily stepping back, or feel the urge to do so because you want some distance from the individual? They come too close, and you feel like you cannot breathe? Does the last date you went on have you checking out the best dating sites reviews because you don’t want to repeat the horrors of the last one?

If yes, these people could have been intruding on your personal space, thus the discomfort. But, have you ever really explored the concept of personal space and why it is so important?

What Happens

When someone invades what you consider your personal space, certain things will happen instinctively.

  • You may make a move that will increase the distance between you and the other person, such as stepping back.
  • Or, you may reduce your body movement, gestures, or eye contact.
  • You may cross your arms and assume a more defensive posture.
  • When it gets too much, you may walk away.

One may think that personal space is something only adults need. Yet the truth is personal space for kids is equally important. When children start to feel crowded, they may lash out or even push away the person who is invading their space.

Understanding the Difference between

Personal Space vs. Social Space

The personal space of a person is the distance surrounding them, within which they feel comfortable. Personal space norms largely define social space. Different cultures or social groupings have different ways of defining social space.

Other factors also determine personal and social room such as age, status, and even gender. The interplay between personal and social space is quite interesting. Within an intimate setting, you may have a problem with someone sitting too close to you. Yet, in a crowded public place where you have no choice, you may be more accepting of the situation.

If, for example, you are sitting in an airplane, you will be in proximity to the person next to you. In your house or office, you may find it difficult to sit that close to a total stranger.

There are particular distinctions you need to be aware of.

Personal Space Norms from Across the World

Read any personal space book, and you will see a marked difference in how people from across the world define personal space zones.  Some cultures are more accepting of contact. Such include Latin Americans, Southern Europeans, and Arabians.

Those from North America, Northern Europe, and parts of Asia are non-contact communities. If you visit Romania, keep a distance from the locals; the more they warm up to you, the more you will be able to reduce the physical distance.

The world at large tends to view the British as somewhat standoffish. Whether they truly deserve the label or not is open to discussion. But when you visit them, you will need to maintain physical distance when you can. Take a trip to India, South America, or Africa, and you will see closer interaction, even with strangers.

 The Psychology Behind Personal Space

Personal space definition psychology looks at how your brain responds to an invasion of one’s personal room. Experts refer to it as peripersonal space. Your brain will naturally create a buffer zone around the body. The buffer may change depending on the context.

It could explain why you can accept a close family member or friend into your personal space and not do the same for a stranger. The invisible buffer is your brain’s way of protecting you against aggression or physical threat.

Even your mental condition will influence how you react to your personal space. In high-stress situations, for example, you will want to keep away from crowds. When you are happy, you gravitate towards people and seek that closeness.

Personal Space is Important For All

Whether you are discussing personal space for kids or adults, the result is the same.  Everyone has that invisible buffer that no one should ideally cross. When it happens, you feel ill at ease and may back off just to get back your space.

Psychologically, you experience less stress and can interact better when other people observe personal space. You must understand how different people interact with each other if you are traveling to a new country.

In some cultures, for example, a man cannot stand too close to a woman.  In other places, your status and your relationship with the individual will determine how closely you can stand next to them.

What are your thoughts on personal space? Share your feedback in the comments section below. 

About the author: Patricia Jackson is a psychologist and relationship expert. She recently discovered her talent as a writer and is now sharing with people her experience and thoughts about love, relationships, and family. Patricia loves to spend her free time with her family, travel together, and develop her creative talents.

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