Why You Need Personal Space


The only time we seem to notice personal space is the moment somebody invades it. We become irritated, angry and sometimes even scared, because our personal space can also be regarded as a danger zone. Even though it’s a barrier that can’t be seen, there’s no doubt that it exists and it measures our sense of safety. Here are some interesting facts and points that will look at this particular space – how it affects our lives in general and the amount of control we have over it.

Where does Personal Space come from?

Yes, even the guy on the subway that leans in very close to you when he talks has a certain degree of personal space. In fact, the only time a person usually doesn’t have issues regarding space (other than cultural differences) is due to lesions within their brain structure¹. Personal space is something we create from a very young age and due to our experiences we establish a comfortable perimeter so-to-speak.

The Second Bubble

We have four different space bubbles. The bubble, or space, that covers our immediate surroundings is called intimate space. Only people we trust completely are allowed within it. Beyond our intimate space bubble we have our personal space bubble. When somebody enters this space without your permission it automatically puts you on edge. Although, we tend to make exceptions while amongst a large crowd of people. As a matter of interest, the third and fourth bubbles are called social and public space.

The Body Reacts Instinctively

After you notice that someone is too close for comfort your body reacts without question. For the most part people feel anxiety, anger and irritation. But most importantly, there is a level of fear.

Personal Space Serves a Purpose

The average person wants a radius of 0.45 feet when it comes to personal space, but this is just an estimation. Your desire to make the radius bigger will depend on your circumstances. For example, if you are walking down the street and you notice suspicious people then you want to increase that radius substantially. This space serves as an indication to become mindful and to adapt some manner of self-defense.

We Extend Personal Space with Objects

People use objects every day to extend their personal space, and we do it to keep our sanity. When you walk into your home the space most likely reaches the end of your driveway. Now when somebody strange walks on your lawn towards your home your body will react as if that person is in your face. The same principle applies for your office or your car.

Personal Space can Project a Message

Your attitude inside your personal space can give a strong message to those on the outside. In terms of self-defense, you want to come across as very self-assured and confident. In other words, you want to warn potential attackers and intruders that if they get inside your personal space they will regret it some way or another.

Personal Space is Important for Self-Defense

This invisible barrier is a way for you mind to measure when you should be on your guard, even when danger is at a distance. The moment your sixth sense kicks in your personal space will increase dramatically. It’s always recommended to listen to your sixth sense and the barrier your mind creates. You want to keep the distance between you and any danger as big as possible.

Your personal space is a natural extension of your fear and it will serve you well to pay attention to it. It’s true that not everyone will have the same perception of where it starts and where it begins, but you have a very good idea of how close you want a stranger to get. Never ignore it.

How do you react when someone invades your space?


  1. http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v12/n10/full/nn.2381.html

Photo’s courtesy Bing Images


18 thoughts on “Why You Need Personal Space

  1. Great post! I never thought of a breakdown of defining personal space before but this is great! No surprise that as a New Yorker it is a constant battle every day, and I utilize, and see other people the methods you mention-a backpack or a foot making yourself ‘bigger’. Which ironically is something you do in the wild with bears-trying to make yourself look bigger and adapting a “I’m tougher than you type of stance”. I have been in situations here where I feel like as you say, that I need to expand my personal space perimeter. Nothing has ever happened but I like to think it is because my body language may have given off a signal that I’m aware, I’m observant, and I will defend my comfort zone.

    I really like this post because I never thought about this in those kinds of terms before.
    Robert Doyle recently posted…True NorthMy Profile

    1. Great examples. I bet it can be real challenging in NY to really keep that much needed distance between you and the next person. Good for you for being aware and using the correct body language!!

  2. Part of the problem in the subways is just in general overcrowding, which is not really a safety issue, but an annoyance one. Rude people hogging the poles or not removing backpacks are big problems. So we tend to adapt some personal space during those times but during off hours in the city I find it useful to adapt that stance no matter where I am.
    Robert Doyle recently posted…True NorthMy Profile

      1. If you lived in Tokyo, Taipei or Hong Kong, you’d realise that personal space is limited to your internal organs. I mean you are nose to nose with people you’ve never met every day. One of the positive things that can happen when touching eyeballs is that people tend to be cordial and approachable but in NYC I try not to make eye contact with strangers or use the subway alone. I have a tendency to start talking to the person nearest to me but NYC is the one city in the world where I should probably not do that.

        1. Hey there Sabiscuit!! Good to see you! I haven’t had the pleasure of taking the NY subway as of yet but when I do I most certainly plan to keep to myself lol.. I’ve heard NY’ers are a different bunch of people 🙂

  3. This is very interesting and something that we probably don’t think about but it is always with us! As you said cultures can be different, in the middle east people are near near haha. At first I was very shocked and backed up and they kept getting closer so I realized a huge difference! I think it is important to trust your sixth sense as you put it, very good advice! Very interesting post!
    Lynz Real Cooking recently posted…RotiMy Profile

    1. Thanks Lynz…it’s interesting how cultures differ on things like this. It would be very difficult to constantly have people invading that personal space!

  4. Great article Tasha! I’m all about that space!! It’s one of my major pet peeves when people get too close. And it doesn’t bother me a bit to step back or throw an elbow (rude, I know, shame on me). But, dangit, get out of my space!! :D. And yes, tie it into that 6th sense… I make wide wide wide detours around people I come across if I’m feeling uneasy.
    Paula recently posted…Aloha! Echoes Of My Neighbourhood #6My Profile

  5. Fabulous breakdown on how ‘personal space’ works! I have a grandson who has absolutely no perimeters at all; and I think I hear his parents say to him: hey, remember, personal space’ about a dozen times when they are over, lol. It’s a great topic and you did an amazing job on this one, as you always do.
    Carrie Groneman recently posted…9 Fabulous Family Friendly Hot DrinksMy Profile

    1. Appreciate that Carrie…hopefully your grandson will grasp the concept soon but if he’s really young (which I know all of your grandkids are) it may take a lil time. But good for his parents for teaching him boundaries regarding other people’s personal space. There are many parents that will act like it’s no big deal when their children are in someone else’s space like that!

  6. Oh wow! Very interesting! Here in Miami it is predominantly Latin and in our culture we are used to being up close and personal. We greet each other, even people we just meet, with a kiss on the cheek (sometimes an added hug), and many get close or place a hand on your back or shoulder while talking. I myself do all these things and I am not bothered when it is done to me, but I do try to read the other person first to make sure I do not make them feel uncomfortable.
    Nena recently posted…Move It Monday | PinterestMy Profile

    1. It’s very interesting how cultures differ on this subject, Your comment has intrigued me enough to do more research on different cultures and their level of comfort when it comes to personal space. Maybe the “give me space” is more predominately an American culture thing.

  7. “Close talkers” get on my nerves. When I run into a person that violates my space in this way, I just keep backing up until they get the point. And usually, the main ones that want to get too close have personal hygiene issues….uggggh!

    1. That is such a pet peeve of mine as well. I’m not sure why people with poor hygiene feel comfortable so close up to someone else. I’ve known people who continue to do so even after being confronted about the hygiene issue.

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