02 October 2009

"Closer" --Ne-yo

*glares at calendar* Fine, October. I'm in winter clothes. Are you happy?

Moving on...

So, who's up for an experiment? Today, I've come to talk about proximity. Physical proximity. It's heady stuff. It can be used to intimidate and menace. It can also be used to entice. And, a few years ago, I learned it can have another use...

  • I went to ask an entertaining instructor a question and he smiled and walked toward me as I was speaking. He didn't stop. I was mid-asking and he was smiling and still walking. Eventually, I broke off with my question, discombobulated and alarmed that he might crash into me. I backed up. He kept toward me, smiling until he was probably a foot from me. Finally, I stammered out, "What are you doing?" He told me he'd done research and found that he could break down resistance quickly by literally getting close to people, by getting into their personal space--not in a threatening way but in a determined, friendly way. He was overdoing it to make the point but danged if he wasn't right. The mind follows the body. Much like smiling can improve your mood, getting closer to someone will get them feeling closer to you.
Try this with someone you like who you think likes you. Believe me, you'll find out quickly how good your instincts are. I'm not talking about jumping them or going nose to nose, just get a little closer physically than you normally would--come in a few inches--and watch their reaction. See if they aren't a bit discombobulated. See if their walls don't break down a little quicker. And if it's too hard for you to do this straight on, try getting closer from the side. Report back, I'd love to know how it works for you.

Obvious caveats that, if ignored, will get you a bloody nose or worse:
  • Don't sneak up from behind.
  • Don't do this in a high stress situation.
  • Don't do this with people that detest you.
  • Don't do this at work.
  • Deodorant and mouthwash are good things. Use them.


Narm said...

I am motorboating everyone I see today.

Even the guys.

Tina said...

I wanna hear how Narm's experiment went!!

I;m not in the mood to get closer to anyone right now. I'd rather run away and play hermit. I'd say that the theory is some what limited though by a person's confort range with invasions of their personal space. It may makes some feel more favorable but I think some people with higher personal space needs get more hostile if you crowd them.

f.B said...

those caveats are way too tempting to avoid.

do you mean you can't do them all at the same time?

Kate said...

It's not about discombobulating, it's about intimidation and I don't like that at all. It's a trick and I think it's dishonest.

Said from someone who is terrified of people getting in her space.

spleeness said...

Fascinating. I'm ok with people in my space if I like them -- then they can go closer than normal and it's ok. But otherwise? Totally uncomfortable. But whether or not someone on the borders of familiarity would edge closer by proximity alone? Will have to try this out.

Barbara said...

Personal space varies a lot from person to person. I once worked with a Vietnam vet who was totally paranoid about people being within 3 feet of his body. I wondered if he had always been that way and simply used the war to justify his feelings.

I'm still learning how to give good honest hugs that don't seem forced. It's hard when you don't grow up in a hugging family.

Mike said...

Whatever you do, don't turn around right now.

Little Ms Blogger said...

I'd so hate that! I like my personal space and actually cherish it. Once you'd get too close, I'd stop you, make you back up and then continue.

I think that instructor was making his point, but I hope he didn't do this in everyday life -- otherwise, I can imagine he'd get the shit beaten out of him.

Alex said...

If someone does that to me and I don't like them *a lot*, my reaction is to get pissed. Doubly so if I suspect it's some kind of deliberate tactic as your instructor was using. If someone did that to me, I might actually tell them to back off.

Little Ms Blogger said...

Because I think you could master the pole, I gave you the I've Shoulda Been a Stripper Award.

Please pick up at http://littlemsblogger.blogspot.com/2009/10/awards-sunday.html


Maxie said...

I vow to do this at the next blogger meetup. Although I think most bloggers are used to invading each others space.

Maya said...

Ooh, I love stuff like this. It's also interesting that personal space differs from country to country!

lacochran said...

Narm: That's the spirit and remember to twitterpic!

Tina: Very true.

f.B: Well, *you* could. Nobody else could get away with them.

Kate: It *is* a trick. It *is* manipulative. But it doesn't have to be evil. A few things to consider... The first night I met Shannon (aka Disaffected Scanner Jockey) in person we chatted at a party a few times over the course of hours. Toward the end of the evening, I was standing in the host's kitchen and Shannon walked in and briefly put her head on my shoulder. It was unexpected and surprising but also endearing. She got into my personal space quicker than I would have expected but, as her hygiene was/is good, and her intent was good, it was fine. (Not suggesting she was intentionally manipulating me but, if she had been, so what?) Also--why do you think you get such a high at your dances? If it was just the physical exertion you were after, you'd do solo dancing. No, you knowingly put yourself in strangers' personal space almost immediately and allow them into yours. And before you know it, you're laughing together. That's where your high comes from--that feeling of intimacy via quick proximity.

spleeness: Exactly the concept I'm trying to delineate. Good luck. :)

Barbara: Sure, there will always be people that don't want to get anywhere near you. And then there's the rest of us.
It *is* hard. My father's side would have preferred to merely shake hands if they thought they could get away with it.

Mike: I didn't have to turn around. Your Old Spice speaks for itself.

Little Ms Blogger: Well, I do have a fondness for confrontational people but I didn't notice him having any trouble with anyone else. Also, I wouldn't continue if I picked up on your discomfort. No point there.

Alex: Well, sure! I've had people I didn't like try to physically game me. No fun and I won't stand for it.

Little Ms Blogger: Awww, aren't you sweet! (Don't tell Mum!)

Maxie: Well, we do invite people in to our darkest corners. (TWSS.)

Maya: It's true! I wonder if your boundaries adjust after a few years in a new country?

Hannah said...

I studied this phenomenon in my undergrad. Two researchers-Baumeister and Bushman (2008) stated that personal space can be divided into four categories: intimate distance (0-1.5 feet), personal distance (1.5 and 4 feet), social distance (4 to 12 feet) and public distance. (12 feet and beyond. ex. When you are watching a performance)

Selecting the wrong type of distance with the wrong person is obviously not recommended. LOL

lacochran said...

Hannah: Definitely dangerous. But with the right distance and the right person? Grand!

Kristen said...

Hahahahahaha! Narm.

I'll try it, but if somebody decks me, it's your fault.

Alice said...

it's like on a first date that's going well, the guy will keep touching the small of your back - normally that is NOT OKAY DO NOT TOUCH ME THERE STRANGE SIR, but in that situation, it makes me want a first kiss to follow the first date..

repliderium.com said...

I do this on a regular basis just top freak people out though I usually do it with strangers or at inappropriate moments. It always makes me laugh. People just get confused. There is a moment that you can clearly see "WTF??" in their eyes!

Alex said...

Alice, that's a pretty valuable dating tactic. ;)

Hannah, that study must have been limited to Western culture... in some places it's much more normal to be right in your face.... even within Western culture there are variations...

Erin said...

I'm teaching a class today. Pretty sure I would get either fired or propositioned if I tried this. Good for theoretical daydreaming purposes, though.

Glad to be back on your blog - I missed it. Lots of good stuff to catch up on. :)

Titania said...

Hmmm, nice. I am definitely trying this... I will let you know if I get a black eye!