How close to stand during a conversation
Last time we covered the handshake as your first act of connection when meeting other people. Well, it’s a first after offering your smile or engaging in eye contact. Upcoming columns will talk about those and other elements of communication through body language.
Your handshake slices through the SPACE between you and your intended conversation partner. It is the physical connection point between you and others. It conveys messages and meanings and is a real, physical bridge between people.
What to do after the introduction?
How close do you, should you, can you stand to someone?
Yes, even that space between you is not neutral in terms of messages sent or received successfully. Where you stand in relation to your partner in possibility can help create a positive impression and opening up dialogue, or, it can crowd and cloud.
People from different cultures often feel this difference. Even when people ‘seem’ to be from the same culture, for example Canadians who are Anglophones and born in the same country, may have a different sense of personal space, region to region!
Here are some guidelines for where to “take your stand” to allow conversation to flow and opportunity to open. The spacing, in centimeters, is taken from suggestions by Max Eggert, an Australian psychologist with an international consulting practice in human resource management. I’ve also kept the names of the categories of interaction, although Eggert refers to them as ‘zones.’
This is our first human contact, universally. Here is where we kiss, hug, whisper and share each other’s unique personal spaces, even our aromas.
It’s for parents, children and partners in our private life. Space Place: 15-45 cm. Note: if you can feel your conversation partner’s heart thumping, you are too close unless you mean to be attached to their body.
At this distance you can easily see and also reach out and touch someone, but only in the usual proper public parts: hands, arms and shoulders.
This assumes you are face to face so your Space Place is: 46 cm – 1.3 meters.
If you are huddled in conversation, side by side, you can be closer and other parts can be touched. Think being directed to get into the picture of a group photo.
At 1.3 – 3.5 meters, this position counts on eye contact and voices loud enough to interact at a comfortable distance
It’s friendly, but because voices are kept a bit loud, despite being close enough to whisper or speak intimately, it signals a formality. It’s where most of us function in the workplace.
Have you noticed that as you approach someone in a hallway or sidewalk, you move into the social zone and out of the public space?
Indeed, “public” is at 3.6 meters or more. At this distance we can recognize each other’s smile and that it as a signal that we can safely come closer and by invitation.
What do you think? Does your culture or occupation affect where you stand?
VIP Very important personal space tip: space between people speaks non-verbally whether we accept or reject someone. It even signals our encouragement of the talker or their topic.
How we stand in that space, smile or are seen by others is the stuff of upcoming columns because they make all the difference to our success.