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Invaders of Personal Space

Updated on August 27, 2012
photo: Eden-lys, flickr
photo: Eden-lys, flickr

Excerpt from

"When two people are talking to each other, they tend to stand a specific distance apart. Each person has an invisible boundary around their body into which other people may not come. If someone pierces this boundary, they will feel uncomfortable and move away to increase the distance between them. (The major exception is family members and other loved ones.) This personal distance is not due to body odor or bad breath, but because closeness lends a sense of intimacy that is at odds with their relationship to the other individual.

Interestingly, the average personal distance varies from culture to culture. Americans tend to require more personal space than in other cultures. So if you try to get too close to an American during your conversation, he or she will feel that you are "in their face" and will try to back away. Try to be aware of this, so if the person to whom you are speaking backs away a little, don't try to close the gap.

Also, try to avoid physical contact while you are speaking, since this may also lead to discomfort. Touching is a bit too intimate for casual acquaintances. So don't put your arm around their shoulder, touch their face, or hold their hand. Shaking hands when you initially meet or part is acceptable, but this is only momentary."


We've all experienced an "Invader" at some time or another. You know, that one person who gets a little too close and invades your personal space. It might be someone you know, perhaps even a friend, who happens to be a "close talker," as played out in a popular episode of Seinfeld. They just don't seem to notice they're two inches from your face. You can tell they ate garlic bread with their lunch and that their wool sweater is, in fact, scratchy due to the fact it's scratching you.

However most Invaders are strangers to us; someone at the grocery store who steps right up to your cart as you're still unloading it, peering into your purse and trying to shove their own gallon of milk and toilet paper onto the conveyor belt alongside yours. By the time you get the bags reloaded into your cart and you're ready to swipe your debit card, there's the Invader, standing right in front of the machine with a Terminator-like stance that's not soon going to budge.

You inch over as best you can, shooting them a quick smirk as if to say ‘excuse me,' when all the while you're screaming inside, ‘get the hell outta my way!" You can feel them breathing down your neck as you enter your pin number. The cashier hands you the receipt and finally, you're free.

Do these people not understand the unwritten social law of Personal Space?

I'm sure if someone did the same to them, they would not appreciate it. (Well, maybe not.) I'm a firm believer that each of us "owns" the space around our bodies, at least a few feet in diameter. Is that too much space to ask? It's just a given that no one wants to be that close to another human while trying to have a conversation or get through a line at the store. I do realize that personal space differs from culture to culture, but the instances I've experienced have been with people of my same demographic.

I have even experienced a stranger invade my personal space and then upon deciding to leave, brush against me! Now that is just uncalled for! Unless you are my husband, it's safe to say that I do not want your body touching mine.

If you know someone who gets a little too close, try taking a step backward. Most will get the hint and back off. The others will just remain Invaders.



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    • profile image

      Nick 6 years ago

      Yes,really angers me,whenever i go into a bar it seems wherever i stand,that's where evey one else wants to go!im constantly moving out of peoples way,yet when i loolk round no one else seems to be having this problem.

      A guy at work came up behind me and started reading the e mail i was sending and even had the gall to ask me about it!

    • FirstStepsFitness profile image

      FirstStepsFitness 7 years ago

      Great Hub! These have to be the same people who run into the back of your shoes when the line creeps up in check out too lol . That is but one of my many pet peeves , after my feet being hit not once but twice in line I glanced back to make sure there were no children in the cart then tapped the cart with my foot back to them . Oh what a look lol

    • profile image

      Marc 8 years ago

      I wish I knew what to tell these people without starting another problem. The problem is that when we get our space invaded it is too late to say anything without feeling anger and this shows. I know some people are just innocent folks that are walking around like blistfull dumbdumbs, but I pull out my hair when I am in this spot. Unfortunately I experience this more then most people since I work at the airport. I once had a young jerk notice that it bothered me and he kept creeping up my behind. I almost blew into mad rage thinking about beating the hell out of him.

    • MasonsMom profile image

      MasonsMom 9 years ago from U.S.A.

      Mad Bull: Thanks for your comment~doesn't it just get on your nerves? I just don't understand people sometimes! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      Mad Bull 9 years ago

      This is a pet peeve for me too, why do people like to stand right behind you at the shop, sometimes to be overfriendly is as rude as just been rude. I am at my wits end knowing what to do when this happens - say hi? invite them to dinner? what is their intention? ROFL, sorry guys but this makes me mad.

    • MasonsMom profile image

      MasonsMom 9 years ago from U.S.A.

      I have given a few dirty looks but luckily it hasn't come to making a comment...yet! Thanks--glad someone agrees!

    • rockinjoe profile image

      Joseph Addams 9 years ago from Standing right behind you!

      Nice hub. I'm in total agreement with you. Personal real estate should not be infringed upon. Of course, you're a lot nicer than I am. When strangers get too close, I don't mind saying something/