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Proxemics

What Is Personal Space?

Often referred to as personal space, proxemics is the amount of distance that people are comfortable putting between themselves and others. While this distance can vary from person to person, on average, Americans prefer an 18-inch distance between themselves and someone else during a casual conversation.

There are four types of distances that people tend to keep: intimate (0-18 inches), personal (18 inches to 4 feet), social (4-10 feet), and public (over 10 feet). The study of personal space is considered a subsection of nonverbal communication and interpersonal behavior, and is one of the hardest to study due to the range of factors that go into determining how much personal space an individual needs.

How Can You Protect Your Personal Space?

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One of the things to consider when determining how much space an individual needs is to recognize that this distance is intentionally chosen by individuals based on factors like prior experiences, cultural backgrounds, and the kind of relationship they have with someone. For example, an individual might be comfortable being extremely close to a romantic partner, but may lean away when a work colleague gets too close. Being attentive to people’s boundaries can help give clues about a person’s personal preference for distance.

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