Picture yourself in the waiting line at the airport, sitting in the narrow seats of an aircraft, when talking to a stranger, or when meeting somebody in the street by coincidence. You want to be mindful with being too close to the other person. You don’t make any friends at all if you are stepping into their personal space. One will ask what is the correct distance to your counterpart or to your neighbor in a meeting. GDIC certainly has a few answers for you to consider.
After a good 50 centimeters or 25 inches you are too close
If you are with family members, friends or good acquaintances you will allow them to come as close as to give you a hug and a kiss on your cheeks. However, if you think of foreigners or business acquaintances you might want to have a bigger distance. You might be too close to them and this might have negative consequences. You might want to check the cultural differences so you are the expert on the right amount of distance. Beside Europe the limits are sometimes smoother.
Who can come a bit closer?
Certainly, medical doctors, hair dressers, massage therapists and other related professions assume that when you shake your hand that you agree with them touching you. Cutting your hair or medical examinations cannot be done without touching you. The same goes social events like dancing. Touching and getting closer is a necessity.
Competing for your space
You have been in situations where you neighbor in the narrow aircraft will take over the armrest that would be yours. Or you had somebody stepping on your feet while waiting in line. You can have two options to handle such situations. Either you go with the non-verbal fighting or you can openly address the situation. “Excuse me, would you mind moving a little bit so I would also have enough space in this narrow environment? Many thanks.” Main rule also in this context: Stay polite and factual.
Enjoying a relaxed conversation
A traditional hello with a hand shake, a conversation or small talk is being held in your personal zone. Here we would recommend a good distance of 1 meter. Most of your counterpart would appreciate that. There are certainly other situations where you brainstorm or get a bit closer to your counter partners. This is inevitable. We just need to accept the body language and culture of the other person. Good indications of more or less distance might be somebody lowering their voices or leaning back with their eyes on the floor. Be mindful.
Distance in a social setting
Be mindful of talking to strangers. Some of them might be irritated if you are in search of your eye contact. You might scare them away. If you greet somebody use a distance of 2-3 meters (5-6 feet) and get a bit closer when you start the conversation. Also here check on the body language. If somebody is open they might lean towards you to invite you for a conversation. If you see your boss or a client on the street on your personal time see if she/he is ready to stop to have a little small talk. In a social setting a smile and waving from afar could be enough. You can certainly send signals by those means and don’t get too close. Be mindful and check out their body language. Also here the best way is to check beforehand in which cultural environment you are.