The Importance of Personal Space
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The Importance of Personal Space

A look at personal space, why it's important, how to respect it, and what's healthy.

Having time to yourself is important, but so is having boundaries.  When someone crosses a line with you, you are uncomfortable for a reason.  Usually, it is because you aren't close to that person and don't know him or her that well.  But personal space also involves developing your own identity that can only happen if you are given the time to devote to yourself.  How you feel about yourself carries over into your outlook on life, job satisfaction, and all of your relationships.  By setting healthy boundaries, not talking about every little thing about your life, or expecting others to do so, you provide a level of trust from others, so that they too can maintain their own personal space.

Even if you are extremely close to your parents or another relative, your best friend, or spouse, there are some instances where having personal boundaries are necessary in order to keep your relationship intact.

  1. Keeping your word.  You might be given confidential information from work or from a confidant; you are expected to keep it to yourself.  It means not talking about it with others close to you.  Sometimes when you are quick to spew info about someone or something else, you might not be considered a person to trust, because who's to say you wouldn't do that with everyone?
  2. Maintaining your privacy.  Being completely honest with everyone about every little detail about your life is for the most part TMI - that is, too much information.  It can make others uneasy to hear every sordid detail of your life, and give them a bad impression of who you really are.  Having a little bit of secrecy actually makes you that much more desirable.  You can still be an honest person, just selective in what you share, so that others want to be around you and learn more about you.
  3. Having some quiet time.  If you are constantly thinking, talking, or doing, your body can quickly become overloaded.  Sometimes you just need a break from your busy life and from being smothered by people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  When you define your personal space, you let people know you can't be bossed around, you set your own comfort zone, and you can have more confidence in yourself.

Within Your Boundaries

In certain cultures, standing too close or far away from someone you are talking to is considered rude, and the same goes for hand gestures or physical contact - like hugging, kissing, shaking hands - or even facial expressions.  Depending on where you live, having too much or not enough personal space can be a problem!  In most cases, however, people tend to put up more boundaries than are necessary, because they are afraid to be hurt.  You know when that is apparent, when the person who does this remains somewhat cold, aloof, and hesitant to interact much with you and keeps to him or herself.  Again, trust is very important when dealing with people and their "walls". 

Know that some people may never fully take down those walls, or it might take a long time in coming.  Either way, you must be patient, and have a fine balance between being persistent and flexible so as not to scare off the individual or make him or her stay burrowed away.  And if nothing works, or if you have a hard time tearing down your defenses for the sake of someone trying to get to know you better, you must know when to call it quits, and that perhaps you were never meant to have a deeper relationship with that person.  After all, you can't make someone like you.

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Comments (1)

I like this article. I come from a big, bustling family of ten, and grew up with little personal space - at least physically. Thanks for wonderfully articulating what I had sorely needed before :)