Seinfeld called them “close talkers” (well-played by Judge Reinhold, I might add). These are the people who come up to talk to you and have no concept of personal space. They get way too close, and way too “in your face” just to have a small conversation. These people don’t understand the social mores of society, and can’t set themselves in the same personal space as most people. According to Edward Hall, a famous psychologist who created the concept of “proxemics,” “personal space is the region surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space is encroached.” The personal space for most people is an average of about 2 feet (0.5 meters). I think Dr. Hall was being a little under-dramatic to call it “discomfort” when someone encroaches on my personal space….it’s all out “ickiness!”
Usually these are also the people who have extreme halitosis and who spit when they talk. So, to have a conversation with these people, you have to be nose-to-nose, breathing foul breath and dripping with spit. Wow…sounds like my kind of conversation! The close talkers also don’t understand that, when you move back, they don’t need to follow. They should learn to maintain a space between themselves and other people. Psychologists say that the amygdala (the center of the brain responsible for emotion) might control a person’s perception of personal space because people with damaged amygdalae are the people who have issues with personal space. All I know is that they are too close when they talk, and they spit on your nose when they say things with lots of Ts, Ss or Ps! Imagine if Daffy Duck had been a close talker!
“Close talkers” follow when someone backs away
Living in China, I came to realize that the concept of personal space is different for different cultures. It’s also different for people in the same culture living in different situations. For instance, people living in Shanghai (possibly the most overcrowded place on the planet) have a much smaller idea of personal space than, say, people living in the Chinese countryside or in smaller cities. The concept of personal space for the Shanghai person changed because their brain can not process the number of personal space violations that occur to that person each day and, instead, creates a new concept of personal space (one much smaller than normal). This can be a problem for Westerners who move to a place like Shanghai, or Tokyo, or Hong Kong, where people see no problem with encroaching in what would normally be considered a person’s personal space. The Westerners (like myself) get very tense and annoyed by this, and begin to curse an entire race of people. It happened to me, and I began to shove the Chinese out of my way because I couldn’t think of a better way to make them understand the difference in our concepts of personal space. I just decided to move them myself!
1. waiting for the metro in Hong Kong, 2. a mall in Shanghai, 3. crossing the street in Tokyo
Whatever it is: faulty amygdala, social ineptitude, cultural difference; I don’t care! I am a firm protector of my personal space, and only a chosen few are allowed to break the barrier. I don’t need some spitting, bad breathed moron standing in my face just to ask me a question, or comment on something. These people should be pushed back and forced to stay at arm’s length. They need to learn. Obviously their parents didn’t teach them, so it’s our job! Push them back!!!