The amount of personal space needed by Americans according to the venerable Wikipedia, is as follows:
Personal distance: extends 1.5 to 4 feet, is reserved for friends and acquaintances.
In this picture, the naked elf is 1.5 feet away from the camera and I am 4 feet away at the end of the stick. (It’s not a yard stick, because that would be only 3 feet, and this stick is 4 feet.)
Why is this the picture of the day? Because I met an acquaintance today who doesn’t have the same personal space needs as I do, and it made me curious as to how much personal space is commonly needed. Hence Wikipedia and the Bigger Than A Yardstick. I wanted to see exactly what 1.5 to 4 feet looked like.
My interactions with this acquaintance turn into an awkward dance. I shuffle back a step, he shuffles forward. I step to the side, so does he. Now that I’ve measured it, he’s probably not closer than the 1.5 feet listed in Wikipedia, so he’s within expected American Personal Space Range. I’m more comfortable with about 2.5 feet.
Some people are naturally more affectionate than others and will hug just about anyone and stand reallyclose to people and stare deeply into their eyes, even if they don’t know them.
About staring into people’s eyes. I read an article little over a year ago that said that people like to talk to someone who listens to them. (Well, duh.) Part of being a good listener is to give lots of eye contact and not look around the room during a conversation.
Uh oh. That was scary news, because I’m not good at eye contact and I often let my eyes wander around the room during a conversation. Especially at the library. I don’t think I’ve ever actually looked at the librarians, because I’m so busy staring at all the books.
About a year ago, I started secretly practicing eye contact with my friends. While they’re talking, I’ll stare at them…directly into their eyes…staring….staring…until they look away first.
So far, my friends haven’t seemed to notice anything different, and they haven’t been avoiding me, so I’m hopeful that I’m not being too creepy about it.
It boils down to this: if you want to be my friend, you have to put up with me taking bad portraits of you and staring you down until you look away. But I am known to tell funny stories every now and then, so I hope it’s worth the hassle.