How to maintain the correct distance when communicating: communication zones

Every day we come into contact with many people, with family and friends at home, on the way to work, on public transport, in the office.

We allow some to come very close and even hug us, while we unconsciously try to stay away from others, that is, we keep a certain distance from different people.

What are spatial communication zones and what impact does their violation have on us?

How to stop communicating with an unpleasant or intrusive person? Find out about this from our article.

Personal zones in different cultures

In his research, Edward Hall, as befits a professional cultural scientist, paid great attention to intercultural differences and analyzed various cultures.
In the course of studying the spatial perception of representatives of different nations, Hall established several features that are worth paying attention to for anyone interested in the topic of proxemics in general and the topic of improving relationships with others in particular . Here are a few of Hall’s observations:

representatives of Western culture focus not on the space between objects, but on the objects themselves; The Japanese are more receptive to in-between spaces, i.e. to the intervals between people and objects; North Americans and Europeans prefer to furnish rooms along the walls and separate them with baseboards and edgings; The Chinese and Japanese love sliding walls because

this allows them to use the same spaces for different purposes; Arabs, when touching their interlocutor, strive to express sympathy, while the Japanese perceive such gestures negatively; residents of many Arab countries, the Mediterranean and Latin America have smaller spatial bubble sizes than residents of Western Europe, Australia and North America; in Brazil it is quite common to talk in a personal and intimate area, which causes considerable discomfort, for example, to visiting Americans or Western Europeans; The social distance of Russians is less than that of Americans, but greater than that of Latin Americans.

National characteristics have a huge impact on people's communication, and they should always be taken into account. It is precisely because of ignorance of the intricacies of spatial perception that misunderstandings and conflicts can often occur between people.

The same Japanese person, who was touched by an Arab while expressing good attitude, will be discouraged by his “unceremoniousness,” and the Arab will perceive the Japanese’s distance as arrogance. A Russian or Brazilian can put an American in an awkward position by constantly closing the distance, because this is how he is used to communicating in his country, and an American will seem to a Russian or Brazilian to be a suspicious type who avoids people, but in the USA it is simply customary to be located at a greater distance from a communication partner .

There are many such examples, and they all indicate that we must respect other people’s spatial norms, because the same communication means can be perceived differently even by people in the same country, not to mention different cultures.

Proxemics can be a wonderful tool and means of communication, and by and large, anyone can easily acquire knowledge of spatial relationships. You just need to set a goal, communicate wisely and always remember that everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

We wish you good luck in improving your communication skills, and finally, we offer some communication tips from psychologist Evgeniy Zakharov.

Reasons for violating personal space

Reducing the communication distance and invading an intimate area causes a negative reaction in people. Therefore, you should avoid such behavior - avoid patting on the shoulder, touching, especially the head and face. You should not get too close to a person you don’t know well, as this will provoke a negative reaction of rejection. You can cause hostility in a person, and it will not be easy to establish a normal relationship with him later.

It is believed that residents of large cities are more relaxed about the violation of their personal space than those who live in small towns and villages. But this is not entirely true. Yes, residents of megacities are more accustomed to crowding and excessively close contact with strangers in transport, in elevators, in queues. But most often this tolerance is only external. People simply hold back negativity, not allowing aggression to break out - a natural defense of personal space. This increases the risk of stress, the development of neuroses and other unpleasant consequences of restraining natural mental reactions.

Living conditions in big cities force one to put up with many inconveniences, but the violation of personal space can also be conscious and intentional. I think each of us has found ourselves in a situation where the interlocutor seems to be hovering over him, approaching him closely, literally causing a tremor of irritation and confusion. Under these conditions, a person may lose the thread of a conversation, lose ease of thought, or even common sense. The desire to get rid of the psychological pressure of an interlocutor who has violated personal space leads to hasty, rash decisions. A person agrees to something that he would not otherwise agree to. Sound familiar?

There are two main reasons why a person deliberately violates the personal space of his communication partner.

  • The desire to manipulate a partner, to subjugate him, to force him to do what is beneficial to the manipulator. But you need to pay attention that the person applying pressure is exposed to the same danger, because he also opens his personal space. In such a situation, the person who is stronger psychologically and more self-confident wins, and this will not necessarily be the initiator of the invasion.
  • The desire for intimacy in a situation where the partner is liked, including on a physiological level. Reducing the communication distance is a kind of demonstration of intentions and a subconscious desire to influence a partner with the help of olfactory agents (pheromones - the characteristic smell of sexual arousal). If the partner, in response to a reduction in distance, does not seek to increase the communication distance and accepts the invasion of personal space, then, most likely, the sympathy is mutual.

But given that every person is jealous of the boundaries of his intimate area, violating them even with the best intentions can lead to conflict.

Proxemic means of communication


acts as a special sign system and carries a semantic load.
The American scientist Edward Hall was one of the first to study the spatial structure of communication. He also coined the term “proxemics” (from the English proximity
closeness). This is the distance that people keep when communicating (see Table 6).

Table 6 - Communication distances characteristic of North American culture

Type of distance Norm Type of communication
1) Intimate distance up to 50 cm Communication with the closest people
2) Personal (personal) distance 50-120 cm Communication with familiar people
3) Social distance 120-350 cm Discussions between colleagues, communication with people you don't know very well, official communication
4) Public social distancing over 350 cm Impersonal and formal conversations, speaking to various audiences

Allan Pease in his book “Body Language” writes that distances are the same for a person of average social level, regardless of where he lives: in North America, England or Australia.

The choice of distance depends on:

— relationships between people (people stand closer to those they sympathize with);

— individual characteristics of a person (for example, introverts do not tolerate too close a distance);

- cultural and national differences (for example, the Japanese have an intimate zone of 25 cm, while Americans have up to 50 cm; Americans believe that Asians are familiar and overly “pressure”; Asians believe that Americans are “cold and too official”);

— population density of people in the place where people grew up (for people who grew up in densely populated cities, their personal space is 46 cm, and people from rural areas and small regional towns can have a personal zone of up to 1.2 m. Violation of the optimal communication distance is perceived negatively .

Proxemic characteristics of communication include not only distance, but also the relative position of people in space (see Figure 4). It is also necessary to take into account the rotation of the body and the toe of the foot in the direction of the partner or away from him, which signals the direction of thoughts.

The creation of a psychological atmosphere during communication is significantly influenced not only by the location of the interlocutors at the table, but also by the shape of the tables themselves. A square or rectangular table, which is usually a work desk, should be used for business conversations, negotiations, and briefings. A round table should be used for a relaxed, informal atmosphere; he is good if you need to reach an agreement.

Figure 4 – Positions of the communicating parties and their significance for communication

Relationships between people take place not only in space, but also in time .

The way a person manages his or her time and that of others is an important social sign (e.g., being late, arriving early, time culture). Accuracy and punctuality of behavior indicate respect for the other person. If you make someone else wait, then you are declaring your right to control the situation.

The emergence of proxemics

The author of the term “proxemics” is Edward Hall, an American psychologist and anthropologist. The scientist noticed that each person has his own personal space, which he unconsciously tries to organize in a way that is comfortable for himself. In 1969, E. Hall wrote a book called “The Silent Language,” in which he described the characteristics of relationships between people, expressed in varying distances between interlocutors. Here, for the first time, the definition of the concept of “proxemics” in psychology was given: this is a type of nonverbal communication characterized by the distance between communicating people.

Facial expressions as a means of communication.

Facial expressions, or facial expressions, are the most important aspect of nonverbal communication.

The importance of facial expressions is such that in its absence (for example, as a result of illness), communication is impossible. Why is the face so important? First of all, because it is the main channel for transmitting human emotions

Contraction of the facial muscles changes facial expression and signals a person’s condition. Emotional manifestations consist of spontaneous and voluntary facial reactions.

Emotions often have to be masked, that is, they have to demonstrate the opposite. For example, we often mask emotions such as jealousy or disappointment. Some people are better at controlling their facial expressions, others are worse. However, given the circumstances, we all have to manage our facial expressions quite often.

Despite the fact that each person is an experienced interpreter of the facial reactions of other people, his conclusions depend on many subjective reasons. Someone may not notice the obvious expression on their partner’s face for a long time, trying to protect themselves from hurtful information; another, on the contrary, sees only those signs that confirm his attitude and forecast regarding the situation. The third one notices only those emotions that are characteristic of himself, without perceiving what is alien to him.

Eye contact is also a substructure of kinesics, primarily performing the function of regulating conversation.

Eye contact can also indicate emotional relationships between partners. A long look can be a sign of falling in love. The fact is that direct eye contact can be compared to touch; it psychologically shortens the distance between people. Sometimes such a look may be inappropriate and cause anxiety, fear, or irritation in the person being looked at. Direct gaze “without consent” is often perceived as a threat, a desire for dominance. If you are looking at a person of the opposite sex, then a long look into the eyes can be understood as an intimate proposal.

The lack of direct gaze is also dangerous - a person, especially if he is in a dependent position, may have the impression that communicating with him is a burden, that he is not interesting.

Spatial arrangement of interlocutors

Proxemics studies not only the distance at which interlocutors stand, but also the features of their orientation in space in relation to each other. Business training specialists know that the success of business negotiations largely depends on the atmosphere that reigns in the office. Therefore, they recommend that managers seat business partners in such a way that they are psychologically prepared for constructive communication.

Very often, during business or friendly communication, interlocutors sit at the table. Based on this, psychologists identify four types of positions that communication participants can occupy.

  • Corner location. In this case, the interlocutors are placed diagonally, separated by the corner of the table. This is usually how friends, relatives and good friends communicate. In this position, the interlocutor is clearly visible, and you can freely observe his gestures and pantomimes. The corner of the table acts as a small dividing barrier, necessary to maintain the psychological comfort of the individual. In a corner location, there is no table division within the area.
  • Business communication position. In this case, the interlocutors are located side by side, on one side of the table. This arrangement is usually occupied by people who do collaborative work. This position makes it very convenient to review documents together.
  • Competitive-defensive position. In this case, the interlocutors sit opposite each other on opposite sides of the table. This position is taken by opponents, each of whom has their own view of the problem under discussion. It is this arrangement of partners that can often be seen in business negotiations. The interlocutors, who are in a competitive and defensive position, are separated by a table, and this does not contribute to creating an atmosphere of confidential, relaxed conversation. If partners want to find a solution to a problem that will suit both parties, it is advisable for them to take a different position, for example a corner position.
  • Independent position. In this case, people are located on opposite sides of the table away from each other, and if they are sitting on a bench, they try to move away. This arrangement indicates that they are not interested in communicating with each other. You can see people sitting this way in a library reading room, in a cafe or on a park bench.

It is not without reason that the heads of many companies try to conduct business negotiations not at a rectangular table, but at a round table. A table without corners subconsciously sets partners up for a peaceful conversation. Interlocutors sitting at a round table feel in the same position, and therefore are more inclined to compromise.

To summarize, we can say that proxemics is a necessary and useful area of ​​psychology. By studying the features of spatial relationships between people, you can understand the character of any interlocutor or business partner and find an approach to him.

Victor Zaraichenko. What should be the distance when communicating (etiquette standards)

Probably, each of us found ourselves in a situation when our interlocutor during a conversation tried to move as close to us as possible, but we, on the contrary, wanted to move away from him. Often the opposite moment arises, when we want to come closer to the interlocutor, but he moves away. What's the matter? Not only for purely psychological reasons, but also for etiquette rules. Let's look at some of them.

You express your attitude towards a person not only by your outfit and manners, but also by the distance you maintain when communicating with him. The communication distance is influenced by such factors as social prestige, introversion - extraversion, the total volume and content of communication. The communication distance also depends on external factors: the size of the room, lighting, etc. Some researchers believe that the size of the communication space to which a person is accustomed even depends on the population density in the place where he lives. Representatives of countries with high population density, such as the Japanese, maintain a shorter distance to the interlocutor.

In communication, one should take into account interpersonal space, the distance at which the interlocutors are in relation to each other. The distance depends on the relationship between the speakers. The more formal the relationship, the further people are from each other. In Russian etiquette, the official communication zone is equal to the length of two arms extended for a handshake (90-110 cm), the friendly zone is the distance of two arms bent at the elbow (50 cm). A transition from one zone to another, for example, reducing the distance between people communicating, is read as a desire to change the official tone of communication to a friendly one. This technique is used, for example, by a manager in order to evoke the frankness of a subordinate and to win over a visitor.

The rules of etiquette provide for four zones of interpersonal communication. They were first identified by the American anthropologist E. Hall.

Intimate communication zone (from half a meter to direct bodily contact).

Lovers, parents with children, and very close friends usually communicate at such a distance. You will probably feel awkward if a stranger tries to come close to you. In addition to the closest people, doctors, nurses, tailors and other specialists whose profession requires direct contact with the client are allowed into this zone. By trying to enter this zone when communicating with someone, you thereby let the person know that you would like to consider him your friend.

Zone of personal or personal communication (from 0.5 m to 1.5 m).

The boundaries of this zone are different for different cultures. As a rule, people who know each other well communicate at such a distance. This distance allows them to touch each other, shake hands, and pat each other on the shoulder. We emphasize that most people consider this zone their personal space and are not inclined to let strangers into it.

Formal communication zone (from 1.5 m to 3 m). Other names for this distance: official, social.

They usually stay at such a distance when communicating with strangers or unfamiliar people, conducting business, as well as casual and unimportant conversations. You are probably familiar with the expression “keep your distance”, which is used to describe the relationship between a boss and a subordinate. This distance is appropriate in a situation of a formal interview or business negotiations. Even in everyday communication, one must keep in mind that people often do not like it when an unfamiliar person moves closer.

Public communication area (more than 3 m) is a public area.

If you are sitting in a huge hall and listening to a speaker speak, then you can say that you are in a public communication situation. The space separating you from the speaker is the public communication area. In such a situation, intimate gestures and comments are inappropriate; you can't shake the lecturer's hand, pat him on the shoulder or ask him how he spent his weekend. Even business communication is impossible at such a distance. In general, when dealing with a large group of people, then this distance is most preferable.

In business communication, it is important to take these distances into account, since invading, for example, personal territory can lead to unexpected reactions. Do not shorten the distance; if you have only recently met a person, do not touch him.

Differences in the intimate areas of different people can lead to mutual misunderstanding. For urban residents, their personal zone ranges from 5 to 46 cm, and this is the distance the hand extends from the body when shaking hands. People who grew up in rural areas, where population density is low, can maintain an intimate distance of 1 to 2 meters.

National specifics also appear in communication distances. A lack of understanding of national spatial traditions can easily lead to misinterpretation of the behavior of others and to incorrect conclusions about the entire country as a whole.

An example is described in the literature when, at one of the conferences in the USA, it was noticed that American participants communicated with each other at a distance of 46 to 122 cm and remained in place during the conversation. When a Japanese person spoke to an American participant, they began to slowly move around the room, with the American trying to move away from the Japanese, and the Japanese constantly trying to get closer to him.

There was an obvious attempt by the Americans and Japanese to stay at a comfortable distance from the interlocutor. The width of the Japanese intimate zone is 25 cm, so he was constantly approaching the interlocutor, but in this way he invaded the American’s intimate zone, forcing him to retreat in order to protect his own space. The video recording of such a conversation, scrolled at high speed, created the impression that the interlocutors were performing a kind of dance around the conference hall, with the Japanese leading his partner. It becomes clear why an atmosphere of suspicion arises during business negotiations between Europeans or Americans and Asians.

Europeans and Americans consider Asians to be intrusive and overly familiar, and Asians, in turn, believe that Europeans and Americans are too arrogant and cold.

The intimate zone of many European peoples is 23-25 ​​cm or even less. When communicating with an American or Canadian, Europeans will strive to be at a distance of 25 cm from him, while the intimate zone of a North American is, for example, 45-50 cm. In addition, a European makes eye contact more often than a North American, which can cause infidelity interpretations.

According to E. Hall's observations, Americans maintain less personal space around themselves than Germans. Mexicans reduce the distance of communication on the street, North American blacks - indoors. The British do not change interpersonal distances, regardless of whether communication takes place indoors or outdoors.

For residents of Central and Northern Europe, the normal conversation distance is on average about a meter, while for southerners a shorter distance is considered normal. Therefore, if an Englishman talks to an Italian, the first will involuntarily move away from the second to a distance that is convenient for him, while the interlocutor will continuously advance, also trying to take a comfortable position. This may give the observer the impression that he is present at a heated argument in which the Englishman is clearly inferior to the Italian.

For Arabs, Latin Americans, and among Europeans, for example, Italians, it is common to touch each other during a conversation, while this is not accepted among representatives of East Asia and is practically excluded among the peoples of India and Pakistan. From a Latino's point of view, not touching a partner during a conversation means acting cold. Italians believe that unfriendly people behave this way. At the same time, the Japanese believe that you can touch your interlocutor only by completely losing self-control or expressing your unfriendliness and aggressive intentions.

The same applies to the Chinese, who have a fairly large (1 - 1.5 meters) communication distance. This distance has a pronounced status character and increases as the authority of the interlocutor grows. The optimal communication distance for equal partners in China is considered to be the distance determined by the size of the tea table. As contact develops, the communication distance may be reduced to that required for a handshake. It is characteristic, however, that the rapprochement of the interlocutors occurs briefly, only for a handshake, after which the previous distance is restored. This is also due to the peculiarity that the Chinese try to “read” the internal state of their communication partner on the face of the speaking person, which is difficult to do at close range.

But invasion of personal space can also be used for productive purposes. For example, investigators often use the technique of invasion of personal space to break the resistance of a criminal during interrogation. Often the criminal's resistance is broken almost immediately after the invasion of his intimate area.

Managers use the same approach to obtain information from subordinates who may, for some reason, withhold it.

He considers a person's property or any place that he constantly uses as personal territory and may enter into a fight to protect it. A car, an office, a house - all this is a territory that has a clearly defined boundary in the form of walls, gates, fences and doors. For example, every manager has his own favorite place at the negotiating table. They place ashtrays in front of “their” chair, put pens, notepads or hang clothes, thereby limiting the comfortable 46-centimeter zone. Dr. D. Morris noted that a book or pen left on the table in the reading room will keep your seat unoccupied for 77 minutes, and a jacket hung over the back of a chair guarantees a full two hours.

The size of the distance is also influenced by factors such as age, gender, nature of relationships, etc. Thus, the distance between men depends to a greater extent on the nature of the relationship than between women. The communication distance between young people or between older people is shorter than that established in the course of communication by mixed couples and middle-aged people. In communication, unfamiliar men stand closer than women or men and women.

How do different people perceive invasion of personal space? If you invite a business guest to sit and he unintentionally sits in your chair, you will involuntarily become constrained in communication due to the invasion of your zone. People will welcome you or avoid you depending on how respectful you are of their personal space.

Violation of a person’s intimate zone—intrusion by a stranger—causes various physiological reactions and changes. The heart begins to beat faster, adrenaline is released into the blood, and it flows to the brain and muscles as a signal of our body’s physical readiness for defense.

How is intrusion into the intimate area of ​​a person of a different sex assessed? This is seen as a way of expressing interest in him. If it is not accepted, the intruder must maintain distance. It should be remembered that normal social behavior of a European by an American, for example, will be accepted as sexual advances.

Communication distance is especially important when shaking hands. Those who grew up in sparsely populated areas are reaching out further. Such people, as a rule, do not shake hands, but wave to each other; their comfortable space for communication can reach nine meters. Residents of rural areas usually only lean forward to shake hands, while a city resident will take a step forward. Knowing this is very important in business communication.

What to do if intimate areas are violated? People's intimate areas are constantly violated in elevators, in transport and in other similar places. It is almost impossible to avoid this. In Western countries, in this regard, there are even unwritten rules of conduct in such situations:

- don’t talk to anyone, even friends;

- do not look at others directly;

- the face must be absolutely impassive;

— movement and communication must be limited;

In the elevator, you should only look at the floor indicator.

Within a social group, a person trying to stand out as an informal leader puts himself at the center of general attention. The focus of the audience's attention is on speakers speaking from the podium, whose spatial location (at a certain elevation above the audience) allows them to stand out from those sitting in the hall and attract the attention of listeners. Those sitting in the audience can also, to a certain extent, attract attention to themselves by their location. First of all, these are those who sit in the center, especially in the front rows. And, conversely, those who want to go unnoticed, “in the shadows,” usually sit at the back or to the side.

Thus, the position in front in the center is an active participant in communication, and behind on the edge is a passive observer. True, the location of those communicating may also reveal national specifics. Thus, the Germans have a traditional habit of keeping doors always closed. Germans associate closed doors in buildings of institutions, establishments, and organizations with order and neatness.

Russians do not have strict rules regarding the permanently closed doors of rooms in which verbal communication occurs. Therefore, Russians visiting a German institution for the first time may have an idea of ​​the atmosphere of secrecy, mystery and discomfort associated with this.

A special place in the scale of communication zones is occupied by the characteristics of distances in communication between strangers and unfamiliar people. As observations show, strangers who want to ask a passerby about something approach him a few steps, look him in the face and usually stop so as not to block his path, but at the same time delay him somewhat. This is typical for communication both inside buildings (in corridors) and outside.

Within the role space, positions are distinguished: in front, behind, right, left, above, below, close, far. The position in front is the position of a formal leader. It is occupied by high-status participants in business communication: commanders of military units, leaders of political movements at various kinds of demonstrations and rallies, including the president visiting a particular country and heading a delegation.

The “behind” position is occupied by those following the leader, as well as those who want to hide from the views of those present. Those who know that they will be subjected to severe criticism at the meeting usually sit back.

The position “at the top” is largely associated with the expression of superiority: formal or situational. An example of an expression of superiority would be the location of judges in a courtroom, whose chairs are usually located on a raised platform in relation to the dock, or a professor giving a lecture to students from the podium.

The position “in front” or “at the top” is the position of the leading, political leaders, and the position “behind”, “below” is the vanquished, led.

The ability to choose an adequate distance for communication for the interlocutor is an important prerequisite for its effectiveness. Inadequate use of the interlocutor's zones guarantees difficulties in establishing contact and mutual understanding.

Therefore, if you want to establish contact with your interlocutor and conduct a constructive dialogue, set a distance of approximately 1.5 meters and try not to have a huge desk between you and your interlocutor. That is why effective business communication is often conducted at special tables for business conversations and negotiations.

Psychologists note that the location of the interlocutors at the table determines the status of the negotiators. If communication is competitive or defensive, then people sit opposite; during an ordinary friendly conversation, they take a corner position; in case of cooperative behavior, they take a position of business interaction on one side of the table; an independent position is expressed in a diagonal position.

Perhaps some of our readers will consider this information to be insignificant details, but this is not so. Observe the distance at which people of different status, age, nationality, gender, etc. communicate. You will find that these “little things” often affect the outcome of the relationship.

Victor Zaraichenko

Types of distances during communication

Edward Hall identified four types of distances that interlocutors maintain in the communication process: intimate, personal, social and public distance. Let's look at each of them in more detail.

intimate distance

A person maintains an intimate distance only when communicating with the closest people - family members, lovers. Close friends also often use intimate distance when communicating. It ranges from 15 to 50 cm. The closer the relationship between the interlocutors, the shorter their distance. For example, couples in love often strive to reduce their distance to a minimum.

Psychologists have noticed that the size of intimate distance varies among representatives of different countries. This is due to the peculiarities of the culture and traditions of each nation.

While in the intimate area, the interlocutors have the opportunity to touch each other. Insufficiently sociable people try to expand their intimate distance, especially when communicating with unfamiliar people. As a rule, they avoid crowds and public transport, where passengers are forced to literally hug each other.

Individuals prone to aggression unconsciously strive to increase their intimate distance. To do this, they can sit lounging on a chair, wave their arms during a conversation, and spread their legs wide apart. Penetration of another person into their intimate area often causes aggression and discontent.

People who like each other try to keep a close distance. If a person dislikes his interlocutor, he unconsciously strives to move further away from him. Loving spouses have a very short intimate distance. Married couples who are unhappy with their relationship, on the contrary, increase their intimate area.

Personal distance

The personal zone is used in friendly and business communication. Its distance ranges from 50 to 120 cm. Personal distance can also be divided into near and far. The near one is intended for communication with friends and relatives, and the far one is for colleagues and business partners.

National characteristics also influence the size of personal distance. For example, in Russia it is customary to be much closer to the interlocutor than in the USA. Americans prefer to communicate with each other at a greater distance, and Russians may perceive this state of affairs as disrespect or arrogance. Therefore, people who come to a foreign country often experience discomfort.

In addition to national characteristics, personal distance is also influenced by a person’s individual characteristics. For example, extroverts, optimists, sociable and self-confident people try to stay close to their interlocutor. But introverts, people who have a negative worldview, are unsure of themselves and suffer from complexes, on the contrary, strive to increase the distance between themselves and their interlocutor.

Age factors also influence personal distance. Children and older people like to be close, while young people and middle-aged people tend to sit further away from their interlocutor. This is explained by the degree of self-confidence and personal security.

Social distance

The distance intended for communication with unfamiliar and unfamiliar people, as well as business partners with whom you do not meet very often, is called social distance. Its size is 120–350 cm. It is at this distance that people who are unfamiliar with each other usually stay.

Social distance allows you to look away from your interlocutor if you don’t want to communicate with him, and thereby show him your disinterest in the subject of the conversation.

Public distance

This distance is intended for speaking in front of an audience. Its size ranges from 350 to 750 cm. It is at this distance that the person speaking in front of the group is usually located. In small rooms, the lecturer, speaker or artist is located at a closer distance to the audience, and in large halls - at a further distance. Public distance is not intended for dating, but only for performances.

How to maintain the correct distance?

Correctly determining the optimal distance between you and your interlocutor can significantly increase the level of communication .

In this case, neither you nor your partner will experience discomfort.

learn to maintain the correct distance between you and your interlocutor by paying attention to the following features.


To determine the intimate communication zone, just briefly move closer to your partner and look at his reaction. If the interlocutor does not move away, does not try to step aside , this may mean that you are one of the people who are allowed to be at such a distance.

The opposite state of affairs can be evidenced by a number of unconscious movements, nervous tapping of fingers on the table, raising of shoulders and retraction of the neck, closing of eyes, looking to the side, fidgeting in place, crossing legs.

Thus, the interlocutor’s body will tell about the violation of the boundaries of intimate space even if he himself correctly remains silent about it.

It should also be remembered that violating intimate distance can be perceived as flirting if your partner is of a different gender or as familiarity.

If you do not intend to make such an impression on your interlocutor, it is categorically not recommended to invade his intimate space to such an extent.

Sometimes violation of the boundaries of the intimate zone is intentionally carried out by managers, as well as aggressive people, in order to suppress the will or show their dominant position .

In some cases, for example, during congratulations , violations of the intimate distance between those people who usually stay in a personal zone when communicating are acceptable.

However, the kiss of a male colleague to his employee when congratulating her on her birthday and the kiss of two lovers are strikingly different, if in the first case a distance of 10-15 cm should be maintained between the bodies, then the lovers usually press their bodies against each other.


The personal spatial zone is the most universal in communication. However, its boundaries may vary in some cases. For example, older people and children try to be closer to their interlocutor than teenagers and middle-aged people.

Also, the boundaries of the personal zone depend on social status; a subordinate will strive to be further from his leader, but the latter, on the contrary, may violate this distance.

also matters . Taller people tend to want to be closer to their partner, while a shorter person tends to keep a more respectful distance.

However, in women the opposite tendency may be observed: a short woman will move closer to a tall man upon contact, while a tall woman will move away at some distance.

This is due to mental attitudes that a man should be bigger, larger than a female representative, so tall women increase their personal area when talking with short men, as if trying to hide their shortcomings.

It is also worth paying attention to the emotional state of the person with whom you are communicating; a confident, calm person will not be as busy maintaining his own personal boundaries as a partner who is depressed about something.

Aggressive people prone to conflicts, on the contrary, expand their personal communication zone.

This is signaled by sweeping movements and gestures, which seem to show that this distance is controlled by me , and accordingly, its violation can be perceived as an act of aggression.


The social zone of communication is maintained if you do not need to establish a personal relationship with your interlocutor, that is, when only official communication takes place and personal motives are not affected.

In this case, it is specific business aspects that are discussed, and not any specific person.

In this case, there may be a desk between the people communicating, or the interlocutors may be at different ends of the office, not trying to shorten the distance .

The conversation itself is not confidential, is not emotionally charged, and is conducted in a calm, clear, even voice.

Public area

Public communication is the type of communication in which one person interacts with a group. A comfortable distance in this case is 4-8 meters. It allows you to convey verbal and a significant part of non-verbal information to listeners without using aids such as microphones, loudspeakers and television screens.

Features of personal zones in different cultures

It is interesting that different nations have different sizes of personal and intimate zones, and this discrepancy can cause a completely unpredictable reaction. For example, the distance between interlocutors, which for a resident of Brazil would be in the personal zone and comfortable, will become unacceptable for an American. Because for an American, such a distance is no longer personal, but intimate territory, and he will react negatively to the invasion. During the dialogue, the Brazilian will try to close the distance, and the American will constantly retreat. As a result, both will remain dissatisfied with each other - the American will consider the Brazilian annoying and tactless, and the Brazilian will consider the American arrogant and cold.

In addition to the distance itself, accepted as the norm in different cultures, there are other points that can have a huge impact on the course of communication between their representatives. The same means of communication can have completely different meanings in different cultures. For example, consider the Arabs and Japanese. Despite the fact that the size of personal space in both cultures is almost the same, they have completely different attitudes towards touch. In Japanese culture, touching is not accepted. For Arabs, on the contrary, touch is a means of expressing sympathy. If one interlocutor avoids touching another, this can be interpreted as disrespect or even contempt. Therefore, a dialogue between a Japanese and an Arab will most likely leave a very painful impression on both - the Japanese will silently suffer from the “rudeness” of the Arab, and the Arab from the “arrogant contempt” of the Japanese.

In addition to distance, proxemic interactions also include how people mutually orient themselves.

It is very important where a person’s body is turned during communication. If people are facing each other (in dialogue) or everyone is facing the imaginary center of the group (when several people form a circle), then they form a closed figure

A closed figure is a nonverbal signal to others that external interference in the conversation is undesirable at the moment. When a new participant tries to join a conversation taking place in a closed figure, two scenarios are possible.

  1. The first option is to turn the body towards the newcomer, the figure opens and includes a new participant, after which it closes again. In this option, the new participant fully joins the conversation.
  2. In the second case, only heads are turned towards the person who wants to join the conversation, and the figure remains closed. In fact, this is a nonverbal signal indicating the extreme undesirability of interfering in the current conversation.

It also happens that during a conversation in a group of three people, after a while two of them form a closed figure, excluding the third from communication. Proxemics in this case is used as a means of nonverbal pressure. In this case, it is best for the person who has been excluded from communication to leave without waiting for the awkwardness to escalate.

In addition to switching off, the opposite option is also possible - involving a person who, for some reason, is silent, into a conversation. This technique is performed using visual contact. When communicating with one of the interlocutors, the gaze is briefly transferred to the second and back. This creates the illusion that all three people are participating in the conversation. This tool is especially useful for unobtrusively involving a shy, timid person in a conversation. An insecure person who doesn’t know how to connect to a conversation will definitely feel gratitude to the person who non-verbally connected him to the conversation.

A good knowledge of proxemics can significantly improve the effectiveness of communication. Understanding the mechanisms by which people subconsciously evaluate their interlocutor allows you to avoid annoying mistakes and blunders caused by a lack of information, as well as incorrect decoding of non-verbal signals.

Spatial zones

Hall identified four zones (sometimes called distances) that people observe when communicating:

  • intimate area;
  • personal zone;
  • social zone;
  • public area.

These zones can be schematically represented as follows:

Intimate area

It is most convenient to imagine the intimate area in the form of an imaginary bubble with a radius of about half a meter. There is a person in this bubble. If someone else is in this area, physical contact is expected, for example, touching, stroking, hugging, etc. (Here it is appropriate to use two terms: proxemics-takesika).

The intimate zone is observed by a person only when communicating with the closest people - relatives, family members or very close friends. Interestingly, the closer people are to each other in terms of relationships, the smaller the distance between them. Each of us has examples of this - just remember how we strive to close the distance with our loved ones.

The intimate zone gives people the opportunity to touch each other. If a person is not sociable enough, he will strive to expand the intimate zone, in particular when communicating with strangers. Such a person may avoid public transport or crowded places where people are in close physical contact with each other.

If a person is aggressive, he can also increase the intimate area, and he will do this unconsciously. For example, he can stand with his legs wide apart, wave his arms while talking, or sit imposingly on the sofa with his arms outstretched to the sides. If someone suddenly invades “his” space, he may become aggressive and angry.

Here are more examples: people who sympathize with each other will be located closer to each other; a person who dislikes his interlocutor will move further away from him; The distance between spouses with relationship problems will always increase. Remember different situations from your life, and you yourself will be able to find confirmation of these words, and this applies to both personal and business communication.

And some more practical information useful in life. Under normal conditions, you should not be too close to a person, otherwise you can provoke a conflict (the video presented above illustrates this perfectly). When a stranger invades the intimate area of ​​one person, the first person’s body will release stress hormones, causing mental mobilization aimed at repelling aggression. This self-defense mechanism is inherent in us by nature.

Despite this, today's life often forces us to be in close contact with others. We all travel in the subway and elevators, stand in lines and jostle in the crowd. This is where certain compensating mechanisms were born - unspoken norms of behavior that are recommended to be followed. If you don’t want trouble (or you’re just thinking about others and don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable), you shouldn’t talk loudly on the phone (or in general), while being close to someone, without taking your eyes off looking at strangers, etc.

Following these simple rules can make your life and the lives of those you encounter more comfortable.

Personal zone

The personal zone is a space for friendly and business communication. The distance in this case can be from half a meter to 1 meter 20 centimeters, i.e. there is near and far personal distance. In the first case, relatives and friends are allowed into the personal area, and in the second - business partners, colleagues, etc.

The personal zone differs in that, as a rule, there is no physical contact. It can also be called the “zone of sympathy”, and here, as in the first case, sympathy affects the distance - the more people like each other, the less distance between them.

It is also interesting that the size of the “sympathy zone” can vary dramatically among different people, depending on their personal characteristics. For example, sociable people, optimists and extroverts reduce their personal distance, while closed, complex or insecure people, “negatives” and introverts will increase this distance. In some cases, a wide personal zone creates the illusion of security for a person.

In addition, personal distance may also depend on age factors. You probably yourself have noticed that children and older people strive to be physically closer to those with whom they communicate, while young people and middle-aged people, on the contrary, feel more comfortable when located further away from their interlocutor. Proxemics explains this (in psychology) by how confident and protected a person feels.

Social zone

As one might expect, the boundaries of the social zone are even wider - they range from 1.2 to 3.7 meters. Business communication almost always corresponds to these limits. By the way, the phrase “sit down at the negotiating table” also has an interesting interpretation from the position of proxemics: the table is an indispensable component of negotiations, and its size corresponds to the social zone. The same applies to the shape of the table and how the interlocutors are located at it.

Note that the location of the interlocutors at the table itself divides the space into personal segments. As a rule, the border is always located in the center of the table, and a person perceives the part up to the border on “his” side as personal (sometimes even intimate) territory. And if someone suddenly puts something on someone else's half, it can become an invasion of a personal (or intimate) area and cause a negative response.

And again, a little bit of practice. For a boss-subordinate conversation, psychologists advise choosing rectangular or square tables and placing chairs opposite each other. In this case, it is necessary that the boss’s chair has a higher back and is generally more massive. This creates a certain mood, because the boss seems to “rise” over the subordinate, and the latter already initially feels “weaker”.

In the case of business negotiations or any other communication, for example, for a meeting of a large group of friends, it is worth using an oval or round table without sharp corners and the same chairs for everyone. In this situation, all communication participants will feel in the same position.

And a little more about psychological comfort. Take note that whenever there is some movement behind a sitting person (for example, someone is constantly walking, a door is constantly opening/closing, the noise of cars outside the window is heard, etc.), he is in a stressful situation . This can affect the state of the interlocutor and communication in general. Therefore, if you want your partner to be comfortable, if possible, sit him with his back to the wall or to a part of the room where nothing is happening.

Let us note one more feature: social distance offers a knowledgeable person an important advantage - if he does not want to communicate with his interlocutor, is tired or is simply not interested, he can look away from his partner without harm, and this will not be perceived as something tactless.

Public area

The public zone is familiar first hand to teachers, lecturers, speakers and all those who have to speak in public, because it is intended specifically for communication with the audience. The size of this zone varies from 3.7 to almost 8 meters, and this is exactly the distance at which in most cases the speaker is located in front of spectators or listeners.

A public area is a means of communication that allows information to be conveyed to a group without the use of aids such as projectors, loudspeakers or microphones. And this applies not only to verbal, but also to a significant part of non-verbal information. However, one point needs to be taken into account here - if the room is small, then you should be located at the minimum distance from the audience for a public area, and if it is large, then the distance should be increased.

These are the four zones that proxemics defines. Communication is a real art, and psychological science makes it possible to use things to master it that we often don’t even think about.

You, of course, noticed that certain attention is paid in proxemics to the location of interlocutors in space, and not just the distance between them. And here, too, there are several important features that are important and need to be taken into account when communicating.

Social and community distancing

Despite the importance of the personal and intimate zone, their study is not the basis that proxemics studies. This is due to the relative one-sidedness of the distances presented above

They are easy to understand, and even easier to identify patterns. More interesting are the social and public areas. They are used in the process of business and public communication. Over the years, people have studied these two distances to find an effective way to control the masses. People who have excellent control over public and social distances are always good speakers.

Intimate area

It is an imaginary bubble in which a person is enclosed and distant from the body by 0.5 meters.
Having other people in this space usually involves physical contact, such as hugging, stroking, touching, kissing. Under normal conditions, only close people can be close to a person without the risk of provoking aggression: relatives, spouses, very good friends. If an unfamiliar person tries to get into the intimate area of ​​a person, then the latter releases stress hormones, mobilizes the body, and prepares to repel aggression or escape. Nature has provided this mechanism as a means of self-defense. However, city dwellers are often forced to tolerate strangers in their immediate vicinity. For example, in public transport, elevators, in a crowd on the street. This gave rise to a series of compensating mechanisms, a set of unwritten rules that all citizens follow in similar circumstances. It is not recommended to stare at strangers or talk loudly (even with your friends). Following the unwritten rules of behavior in society is the simplest means of helping the nervous system cope with the stresses inherent in life in a metropolis. Villagers who find themselves in a big city initially experience enormous psychological stress precisely because they react sharply to an invasion of their intimate space.

How does the violation of these distances affect a person?

Violation of spatial boundaries occurs quite often - for example, in public transport or an elevator, when strangers are forced to stand very close and sometimes touch each other.

At the same time, the reaction is almost always the same - people tend to express a minimum of emotions and avoid eye contact.

In an elevator, people look at the floor indicator, and in public transport - at the windows, while everyone makes a minimum of movements.

This is due to the fact that even a forced violation by another person of the permissible boundaries of communication leads to discomfort. Invasion of personal space is unconsciously perceived as a threat.

The heart rate and blood pressure increase, blood rushes to the head - the body instinctively prepares to protect itself from an intruder of personal territory.

Incorrect violation of distance during communication can lead to rejection by the interlocutor . If you allow yourself to touch a new acquaintance a few minutes after meeting him, he may view this as an invasion of his personal space and henceforth try to avoid you.

As a result, this can hinder the building of trusting relationships not only in the business sphere, but also in the personal sphere.

intimate distance

The distance between people, taking into account intimate distance, is no more than 45 centimeters. This allows you to share personal thoughts and opinions without fear of being heard by other people. When people communicate in intimate areas, words don't really matter. The most important role is played by non-verbal factors: gaze, movements, touch.

The effect of the intimate zone is most clearly visible between spouses.

People who are dissatisfied with their marriage will always be at a distance that is significantly greater than 0.5 meters. An absolutely opposite picture can be seen between happy couples.

It should be noted that the boundaries of the intimate zone may differ for each person. For example, people who are prone to using brute force create for themselves an intimate zone of a larger radius than that of other people. This situation arises due to the constant readiness of rude and cruel people for danger.

Spatial arrangement

The orientation of interlocutors in the communication process plays an important role. Any business coach and negotiation specialist will tell you that the atmosphere in an office or classroom (or any other room in general) most directly affects the success of communication. For it to be constructive and give positive results, you need to be able to position your interlocutors in a special way that promotes the right psychological mood.

Next we will talk about the spatial arrangement of communication participants at the table, because It is at this table that in many situations the interlocutors sit, both during business and friendly communication. Proxemics studies this issue very carefully, and experts identify four main positions occupied by participants in communication:

  • Corner location. With this arrangement, the interlocutors sit diagonally; they are separated by the diagonal of the table. You can almost always notice that good acquaintances, friends or relatives sit this way when communicating. This position is good because the interlocutors can see each other and record all non-verbal manifestations of partners - gestures, facial expressions, pantomime (here it is appropriate to talk about the joint use of concepts: prokesmics-kinesics). The corners of the table play the role of a kind of dividing barrier, thanks to which psychological comfort is created for people. It is also interesting that with a corner arrangement, the table is never divided by people into “their” zones.
  • Business communication position. The second type of location is more suitable for business meetings. The interlocutors occupy one side of the table, i.e. sitting next to each other. This not only allows, for example, to view documents and other materials together, but also promotes more confidential communication, which does not have a positive effect on the entire process of interaction between people. By the way, during group meetings, people often sit on one side of the table working on the same project, performing common tasks and/or sympathizing with each other.
  • Competitive and defensive position. The classic arrangement is when the interlocutors take seats opposite each other on opposite sides of the table. This option is typical for opponents with opposing views on the problem under consideration, and in most cases corresponds to business negotiations. People in a competitive-defensive position are separated by a table, which makes communication formal. There is no need to talk about ease and trust here, and if you need to come to a compromise, it is better to choose a different location, for example, a corner one.
  • Independent position. Another frequently encountered position. Corresponds to situations where people are not interested in communicating with each other. People simply sit at a respectful distance from each other. If it is a table, then on different edges of the table, if it is a bench, then on different edges of the bench, etc. Each of us can see people in an independent position in parks, at bus stops, in libraries or restaurants (we are, of course, talking about people who do not know each other).

Of course, in one article it is unlikely that it will be possible to consider all the interesting things offered by proxemics, but from the above we can conclude that this direction of psychological science is very useful in everyday life. By understanding the intricacies of spatial relationships, we can understand the personality traits of other people and find the right approach to each of them, as well as simplify communication and make it more productive.

If you want to understand this topic in more detail, we recommend reading books on proxemics. Among such books are:

  • Edward Hall "The Silent Language";
  • Julius Fast, Body Language. The ABC of Human Behavior";
  • Alan Pease "Body Language";
  • Yu. I. Filimonenko “Attitude to space as a function of the subconscious.”

And to conclude the article, we present some interesting data about intercultural differences among people from the perspective of proxemics. This information may also be useful to many.

Kinesthetic means of communication.

Kinesics - movements that are reflected using the subject’s optical system: gestures, postures, facial expressions, appearance, handwriting, etc.

Kinesics includes movements that are reflected using the subject’s optical system, that is, a visually perceived range of movements that perform an expressive-regulatory function in communication.

The kinesic structure performs the function of supplementing or replacing speech messages, and therefore is endowed with a unique priority in creating the image of a partner and the entire communication situation. The study of kinesics is a huge area of ​​research in psychology, communication theory, and cultural studies. The most studied elements of the kinesic structure of nonverbal behavior to date can be considered facial expressions, gestures, postures, and glances.

Individual characteristics

Although the concept of proxemics implies a certain distance, which is expressed in specific numbers, these indicators can be considered more conventional than a specific guideline in the communication process. If you observe several people selectively, it will be noticeable that one is able to easily let other interlocutors approach him, while the other keeps everyone at a distance, although the topic of conversation and the status of the interlocutors are the same in both situations. This is due to the characteristics of each individual; This is influenced by others, family, upbringing and other factors.

Communication between people is rarely reflected in such indicators as nationality and race, as well as the cultural characteristics of the interlocutor. Even hostility between people is more often expressed through verbal communication and gestures than by distance between interlocutors.

Spatial zones of communication in psychology, what is it?

Protecting personal space is natural for every representative of the animal world, including humans, although with great reservations due to its socialization.

Depending on how we treat a person, what kind of relationship we have with him, we maintain a certain distance with him when communicating.

This feature was identified in the late 1960s by American psychologist Edward Hall , after which he developed the theory of communication distances.

He combined the laws by which individuals are positioned relative to each other in the process of communication into a separate section of social psychology, called proxemics, from the English word proximity, meaning “closeness.”

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