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Simple Ways to Draw the Line on Personal Space

By Sandy Schroeder

Each of us defines personal space in our own terms. Intimate, personal, social and public spaces all come with their own definitions. When those spaces are ignored or challenged, we may become anxious, uncomfortable or hostile. If you find your spaces are being ignored or invaded, these tips from Prevention might help.

Smile and speak up - If you feel awkward when someone crowds your space, just smile and back up or move a little. You could always smile and say you are a germophobe, or let your actions speak for themselves. Later, you may think about where you were, and if the person crowding you may not have intended to upset you. We all grow up with certain routines and personal preferences which can vary widely.

Take action to set boundaries - Reach out for a handshake if you see someone coming in for an unwelcome hug. If coworkers or neighbors tend to be overly friendly, use chairs, tables or mailboxes or fences to create natural barriers. If someone sees you backing up, they may pause and take the cue.

Make the first move - If you have dealt with someone who always sits too close, pick a chair away from them or position your chair between other people. 

Be clear and honest - If you are uncomfortable with bear hugs or shoulder massages, just say thanks, but no thanks. If you keep your tone light, you may be able to establish how you feel without creating a major scene.

Suffer through it - If the offending person is obviously harmless and well intentioned, it may just be easier to say nothing and make a note to avoid the situation in the future. Sometimes cultural differences create situations that are entirely different than our experiences. If you realize objecting and making an issue might hurt feelings or make the person feel awkward, you might choose to just accept the situation.

Create an imaginary bubble - When you are shoulder to shoulder with people in an elevator or on a bus, it may help to imagine you are somewhere else. Calming down and letting your imagination roam will make the time pass, and hopefully lessen the impact. If you are packed into seats on a plane, reading or taking a nap might help.

Staying calm and keeping it light usually helps when you are hanging onto personal space, but don't give up. Over time you will probably develop simple ways to sidestep invaders.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Brea, Calif.

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