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Figure 10-2: Personal zone distances.

Figure 10-2: Personal zone distances.

Too close for comfort

Jess was making an effort to make new friends at the local gym. She got friendly with one of the instructors, but found it difficult to be around her as the friendlier the instructor became, the closer she liked to get. Jess would find herself bobbing backward when she got too close, then taking a step back; unfortunately, the instructor would immediately take a step forward to close the gap. Ultimately, Jess only felt comfortable speaking to her with a table between them so she couldn't get too close, which meant Jess wouldn't go out for drinks when invited and missed out on the social life she craved. Jess tried to adjust her personal space so she wasn't so uncomfortable around the instructor, and when she got to know her a bit better she asked why she always stood so close. The instructor had no idea that she was encroaching on her personal space, as she was used to being in cramped aerobics studios and standing in close proximity was quite normal for her. They made a lighthearted agreement that the instructor would look out for Jess bobbing and not get so close, and that Jess would give her a poke if she wasn't getting the message. Jess's new friendship has opened up all sorts of new relationships to her, which she wouldn't have access to if she hadn't dealt with the proximity issue.

Get to grips with your personal space and be mindful of others' to get your relationships running smoothly.

Another exception to the distance/intimacy rules is when the special gap is based on social status. You could be best buddies with your boss or somebody senior at work, for example playing football together, and then socialise in each other's personal or intimate zone; however, at work, your boss may keep you at the social zone distance in order to maintain the unwritten social status rules.

You can tell when you're too close to someone because they'll initially bob or lean backwards when you enter their space. This is the briefest of movements and you need to look out for it or you may miss it. They may continue to tolerate you in their space or you could find them angling away from you. If this is the case, move away from them until they're comfortable.

Closing the gap between you

Progressing your flirtation involves closing the gap between you. That doesn't mean shuffling right up close to them on a seat or at a bar, but rather by leaning or angling your upper body in. In Figure 10-3 you can see how the couple has closed the gap between them, not by sitting together, but by leaning in towards each other. Their hips are clearly much farther apart than their shoulders, but you can tell they're enjoying a flirtation by the leaning together spacing of their torsos.

between them, not by sitting together, but by leaning in towards each other. Their hips are clearly much farther apart than their shoulders, but you can tell they're enjoying a flirtation by the leaning together spacing of their torsos.

Figure 10-3: Closing the gap between you.

Making the situation more intimate

How far their hips are apart when embracing reveals the relationship between two people. If you're hugging a close relative or friend, your hips are at least 6 inches away from theirs. In contrast, if you're embracing someone you're intimately involved with, you do a full body torso press and move within the close intimate zone.

To make the situation more intimate you need to either invite them into your space or start to invade theirs. (See Chapter 11 for more on inviting someone into your space.)

You can see from Figure 10-4 that the man and woman have placed their glasses at the edge of their territory, but she has extended her reach into his territory and he has happily let her; they're both still smiling and maintaining eye contact. If he wasn't comfortable with her moving closer, he'd be pulling back and making the gap between them larger. Their hips are still well apart but their heads are as close as they can be with the table between them and they're touching - this flirtation is progressing nicely.

Figure 10-4: Getting more intimate.

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