Something Called Personal Space

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Ever been on a queue where you could almost feel the breath of the person standing behind you on your neck? Or engaged in a conversation with someone who appeared to be too physically close for comfort. It was not exactly a very pleasant experience was it? The concept of personal space is one which quite a number of people are ignorant of. On countless occasions I have had the unpleasant experience of having to deal with the invasion of my personal space either in form of an overeager bank customer whose quest to get to the head of the line in order to be attended to on time beclouds their sense of judgement or an acquaintance who comes a tad too close in the middle of a conversation.

I was particularly miffed recently while waiting to be served at a food court, this colleague who stood beside me kept bumping into my side quite often. Now, It wasn’t a crowded place. He had ample room to keep a reasonable distance by my side without necessarily prodding me thereby making me feel uneasy but chose to do otherwise. I had to keep shuffling to the side in order to avoid bodily contact, but to my annoyance the guy who appeared to be oblivious of the discomfort he was causing kept poking me at my side albeit unknowingly. It is a long standing rule of social etiquette to stay out of other people’s personal space as it represents a region surrounding them which they regard as psychologically theirs and as such find physical proximity disturbing and uncomfortable when this space is compromised.

While I was serving, I got an invitation from one of the banks to take part in their aptitude test. It was a very crowded affair with both the invited and uninvited job seekers hoping to participate in the poorly organised test. While waiting to be admitted into the hall we were to use, things got really rowdy with people pushing and shoving in different directions. There was a particular guy who appeared to be everywhere and one would have thought he was only desperate to take the test until a lady raised an alarm about his conduct. To cut to the chase, our friend wasn’t even there as a candidate or job seeker, his sole aim was frotteurism (rubbing one’s pelvic area against a non consenting person for sexual pleasure). Sad, but true! Unfortunately, he took advantage of the circumstance to invade other people’s privacy and was very lucky to have escaped that day without being mobbed.

Personal space is the border that guards our physical and psychological privacy and one of the fastest ways to get people to flip is to invade this space, even though it may differ from person to person or even from one culture to the other. The idea is to properly identify how close a person is to you before literally talking in their face or backslapping them. Generally, invasive behaviours like peeping, listening in on someone else’s telephone conversation, eavesdropping, trespassing on private property or even cyber intrusions such as spam are unacceptable regardless of who is involved.

It is the 21st century, and personal space is more easily violated because many of us live in over populated and bustling urban cities where virtually every means of transportation is crowded and invariably throws people in close proximity with one another thereby making it virtually impossible to completely stay out of other people’s spaces. However, as much as we can, in situations where it is conducive to do so, it is important to respect the boundary of others by way of keeping a reasonable distance when talking to them, and avoiding touching or placing an arm around them if we are not intimate with them. If someone backs away in a bid to increase the distance between you when in a conversation, please refrain from closing the gap as it is a clear indication that they were uncomfortable at first. Often times, people will not be outrightly vocal about the invasion of their personal space in order not to be perceived as nitpicking or making a mountain out of a mole hill, but any feeling of irritation, uneasiness or anger can be read from their body language which should in turn cause the erring party to do the right thing.

14 Replies to “Something Called Personal Space”

  1. Nice write up dear. I love my personal space, we are all entitled to it. Its unfortunate over population n misconduct of some individuals makes it impossible to keep a reasonable distance. It was only during Ebola alert period that majority became conscious of personal space to avoid contacting d dreaded disease. Even roadside touts hardly held passengers in a bid to cajole customers to their vehicles. People have to be conscious of respecting each other’s space.

    Ng Anwuli

  2. Some people just lack manners naturally as regards this issue of personal space while some encroach unknowingly,however the case maybe,I strongly suggest that the offended party voices out as politely and as quickly as possible so that he perharps does not die of the encroachers bad breath or any other form of irritation!

    1. Had to laugh out loud @ “voicing out politely so he does not die of the encroachers bad breath”. Thanks so much bro!

  3. Nice one Lolo. A lot of people have no idea of what is called “personal space” sometimes you just have to tell them to move after making several gestures.

  4. New vocab for me. .frotteurism. Invasion of personal space especially between parties of opposite sex is an opportunity to “tap current”. . Lol! Nice write up Lolo. Well done.

  5. Using our society as a litmus test, the control of this sickening habit is a two-way thing.
    On the one hand, we must consciously avoid being the intruder. On the other hand, we must humbly and politely rebuke the offender.

    What this piece has achieved is to stir a conversation between our thoughts and bodies, regarding a neglected subject significant to social interaction.

  6. Great write up. Wonderful comments. Respecting personal space is important to earn some “Not-requested” respect. If it becomes neccessary to cross any boundary then it must be with permission..never imposed.
    ThaNk you For sharing.

  7. I have my way of letting people know if dey r getting too “Close for comfort” and also try not to pry too much into other people’s buz

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