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I was at a networking function and this one person tended to get too “close” when speaking with me and others. It made us a little uncomfortable. What is the rule-of-thumb when it comes to distance between people when doing business?

Home / Answers From Ask! The Image Guru Blog / I was at a networking function and this one person tended to get too “close” when speaking with me and others. It made us a little uncomfortable. What is the rule-of-thumb when it comes to distance between people when doing business?

Whether you are doing business or socializing in our culture, (North America) the norm is what scientists call the “social” distance. This is about 4-5 feet distance between people, which is equivalent to that of a handshake.

The key is how you handle the situation. First recognize if the other person is perhaps from a culture where standing closer is his or her norm. If this is the case, try to keep that distance to avoid the chance of offending them.

They should; however, understand that in North America, our norm is different and should adjust. The same is true for when you visit other cultures where their norm is closer than yours.

If they are native Americans then you can step back or to the side a bit to make it a more comfortable situation. You want to avoid offending someone. In this case, this person might not even know, as they seem to be a little unconscious about what they are doing.

Other spatial distances:

  1. Public: This is about 7+ feet like that at a bus stop.
  2. Person: This is about 2 foot distance between two people.
  3. Intimate: Well, no explanation necessary here!

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