Salisbury Press

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Respectfully Yours: Personal space in line

Friday, February 8, 2019 by JACQUELYN YOUST Special to The Press in Focus

Dear Jacquelyn,

I get very uncomfortable when I’m standing in a line and the person behind me is standing too close. When I try to put a little distance between me and the other person, the person always seem to move closer. How close should you stand next to someone in a line?

Dear Reader,

When a person is within arm’s reach, or even worse, close enough to feel their breath, they are in your personal space.

Anytime someone steps across that invisible line, it’s natural to feel uneasy and uncomfortable.

Not everyone practices good social etiquette. The person might be totally unaware he or she crossed a line and entered your personal social bubble.

When someone is too close to you in line, you might have the urge to turn around and say something like “Back up.” Proceed with caution. This shouldn’t be your first line of defense. You may very well end up with a bigger problem. Think twice before potentially causing an altercation.

As difficult as it may be, my best advice is to pretend not to notice. If you honestly can’t bear another minute with the person breathing down your neck, offer to let the person go ahead of you.

You can also try nonverbal defenses to protect your personal space. Turn and face the counter. This avoids having the person directly behind you.

Creating the illusion of a larger personal space by having a wider stance and making a larger footprint protects your personal space.

Personal space preferences vary from person to person and situation to situation. Some people may push beyond your personal space limits because they are distracted, preoccupied, or just unaware of the sensitivity of others.

When someone is crowding you, stick to the high road. Do your best to remember that this is only a temporary situation.

Have a question? Email: Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training. She is on the board of directors of the National Civility Foundation. All Rights Reserved © 2019 Jacquelyn Youst