6 actions to taken when somebody invades your personal space?

Have you experienced a personal space invader?

Previously, I think we operated our personal space out of habit or non-verbal cues. 

It’s a little harder to see the cues these days as our faces are usually covered in public. 

Now that lockdown is ending and restrictions on gatherings are closer to ending. 

How will you feel when someone sits next to you on public transport or being cramped in a lift again? 

Ed Hall says that ‘we have multiple spaces in which we interact’. 

Personal space is the area immediately surrounding a person, and most people feel uncomfortable when it’s encroached. 

It’s a ‘physical distance between two people in a social, family, or even a place of work’

personal space has been invaded

Personal space is usually reserved for dogs, friends, familiar colleagues or even intimacy.  

But other people seem to encroach it a lot. 

Having been a big traveller in the past, I’ve found that my personal space anxiety has been compounded with noise and one particular hot day on the London Underground, with scent too!

Have you ever experienced the stranger at a bus stop or on a train that will not stop talking to you?  Have you ever put on headphones or opened a book to avoid the interaction?

That person with loud headphones or talking loudly next to you. 

This just compounds how you feel if they are in proximity too. 

What can you do when it's encroaced?

This is all super subjective, so it’s always good to hear your views too:

#1 You can be assertive and use your voice to manage this space if someone is making you uncomfortable by their proximity. 

This is not the same as being aggressive, it’s a strong clear statement that the person should maintain a safe distance. 

Controlling your resentment, just being direct and clear, this is also known as a soft challenge. 

I’ve used this before, being left-handed it’s been awkward taking notes on courses when we’ve been cramped up in tight seats. Explaining that we both need a little wiggle room to write usually fixes the issue. 

There is of course the hard challenge, usually reserved for when you feel someone is being ‘inappropriate’ with your space. 

“Get back” usually grabs a little attention so does “Hands Off, I don’t know you.” 

#2 You can also get up and move, avoiding confrontation aware that it’s easy for people to use any trigger as a catalyst to get angry.

#3 Have you observed people leaning away when others are too close. It’s an option and usually a habit that many people have. 

#4 If you are in a public or work space and others are encroaching your personal space. Some women feel more comfortable sitting next to another woman and the same with men. 

This strategy may be more helpful if you’re feeling anxious. 

#5 Just accept it, if it’s temporary that may be your preferred choice. 

#6 Recapture it. So sad but this is probably true of me. Have you been in a cinema and someone is using the armrest, they scratch their nose and whammy! 

You’re in like Flynn, reclaiming that space…. or putting your bag on a seat next to you on a train when someone gets up. 

Not cool, but I’m sure you can relate

Final Thoughts

We love habits, and you’ve potentially already developed strong habits on how you handle proximity over the past decade, this is unlikely to change much in the future. 

However, spending a moment to look around and reflect on yourself, may provide some insight into whether you’re the problem. 

Just in case you’re accidentally invading someone else’s personal space? 

Helpful Resources

The shape of personal space Heiko Hechta , Robin Welscha,⁎ , Jana Viehoffa , Matthew R. Longob – What to do if your personal space is invaded? 

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6 actions to taken when somebody invades your personal space?




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