Send a message that says, "Keep out!"

How to Get Others to Respect Your Personal Space

by Lauren Vork

An invasion of personal space is a mild, yet uncomfortable form of boundary violation that is often difficult to address. When others routinely stand too close, brush against you in unwanted ways or loom over you, you must reassert your right to your own space. Use both subtle and direct methods to communicate your discomfort and claim back your right to your personal "bubble."

1. Taking Up Space

Learn to use your body and personal possessions in a manner that suggests you feel entitled to take up more space. Place bags or coats next to you on a bench or couch to create space between where you and others might sit. When standing, place objects you're carrying between yourself and others. Get in the habit of gesturing largely with your hands and moving animatedly while speaking. Stand and sit with legs apart and arms spread out, or sit in casual situations with a foot beneath the other knee. This will help you to present yourself confidently and send a message to would-be space invaders that the space you're in is your own.

2. Examining Stance

When standing, check the position of your feet. By placing your feet slightly apart, with one foot ahead of your body, you will make it more difficult for someone else to invade your personal bubble while talking to you face to face. If she does stand too close, she will have to do so by placing her foot or body beyond the line created by your forward foot. This type of invasive stance is more likely to be obvious to her, or to others in the room. It will also be easier for you to point to this as evidence that your personal boundaries are being violated.

3. Body Language

Use body language to convey power and confidence and deter those who invade your personal space as a means of intimidating you. According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy on Ted.com, adopting a "power pose" sends a universal message to others while psychologically affecting your mood. Take up as much space as possible with your posture. Keep your feet apart and place your hands on your hips or behind your head, elbows out, when possible. When sitting, cross your legs in a manner that causes them to take up more side-to-side space.

4. Expressing Disapproval

When someone is invading your personal space, respond immediately with a frown and a subtle, but clear pulling away that shows your discomfort. If this doesn't get the point across, speak up. Firmly say, "Could you please stand a little farther back?" or "I need more personal space here."

About the Author

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