Social distance, also known as body space is a type of social manner and could be a mental illness that deals with individual’s ability to establish and maintain proper distance from another person. This includes our feelings, logic, our judgment capacity, and even basic mathematics in finding our own comfort zone. All of these are based more of my own observation and with the help of a few studying.
Let’s say you are invited to a party with people you don’t really know and sitting beside a stranger feels awkward especially on a 3-seat sofa. Same feeling applies in a bus wherein you’re sitting alone on a seat for two and a stranger sits beside you despite all the vacant seats around you. That’s because you don’t feel safe whenever a person you don’t know sits beside you. It’s in our instinct to protect our territory and right now you feel instantly violated. That territory is called Comfort Zone. Comfort Zone is a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress. Every single person has it and we feel threatened if a stranger enters in it. Comfort Zone doesn’t always translate to feelings but it does explain itself literally.
In our country, we prefer talk to people up-close because we believe that when we are talking about private topics, it should remain in private. And let’s face it…who doesn’t? But some other people, like in America, prefer to talk in a certain distance. They are strict with their comfort zone territory that they formulated 4 types of distance when talking to someone else, ranging from as far as 3 meters down to 0.5 meters. This branch of knowledge is called Proxemics. It deals with the amount of space that people feel it necessary to set between themselves and others.
American’s 4 Social distance zones:
- Public Zone – 3 meters
Most American people feel safe when they are around 12 feet away from the people they hardly know. Like when they are having a short conversation with somebody ahead of them while walking around. They think that a person who is at a distance away from them cannot suddenly attack them. The closer a stranger gets, the more they become aware and ready to make appropriate action.
- Social Zone – 1.5 to 3 meters
A 4 – 12 feet distance signifies that people starts to feel a connection with other people. Talking within 3 meters is easy than shouting but still in a safe distance. Example of this is like in the office wherein people who don’t really know each other but share a common purpose.
- Personal Zone – 0.5 to 1.5 meters
In Personal Zone, the conversation is more direct. A distance within 1 and a half meters is just right for some serious and/or personal discussions.
- Intimate Zone – 0.5 meters
Too close, almost up to the point of physical contact means they are inside the Intimate Zone. This distance is more than sufficient to see their body language or hold them, and vice versa. Romance is a best example but not at all times. Entering the intimate zone of somebody could be threatening because a person has now the advantage of harmful plot and powerful enough to invade a territory at will. This also the reason why people often mistaken others for having an intimate relationship by just talking to each other face-to-face.
These zones only happen in United States but how about other countries from Europe or Asia? Of course they have their own social distance preference. Effectively, this 1 meter body space rule can be applied in almost every way, even in public transports as I mentioned earlier. So before having a conversation to someone, think again, maybe you are already invading his personal space.