Violation of Personal Space with the Help of Non-verbal Vocabulary

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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When it comes to breaking non-verbal rules, I’ve found it to be a thrilling exercise that provides both amusement and an entertaining experimental assignment. For this task, I intentionally infringed on people’s personal space. I received a variety of responses and reactions, ranging from casual to authoritative colleagues. The ones who allowed me to get the closest were those I would rank as equals rather than as superiors. I observed these interactions while I was in communication with and following individuals.

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Next, I will describe my observations of these interactions, their conditions, roles, and responses.

For my first case study, I only managed to get within a foot and a half. The interaction I observed was between one of my co-workers and one of the Team Leads. I began to inch forward until the Team Lead stepped back. As I followed suit and took another step towards them again, the Team Lead took a step backward and started questioning my actions. At that moment, I wanted to be cautious, so I matched his backward step. The Team Lead became visibly perturbed, unsettled, and confrontational. The power dynamics mirrored those typically shown by a boss. I explained to the Team Lead and the co-worker why I was invading their personal space. The Team Lead told me that he had felt as though I was displaying aggression, and that I was trying to take something from him, even though he had no idea what that something could be.

For my second case study, I decided to test a Supervisor whom I had known in the Army when we were NCOs together. He and another Supervisor were having a discussion in the hallway one day.

We all worked very closely together daily, as our mission is to assist veterans. We often shared a substantial amount of information via email or directly with our co-workers. As they were talking, I used the same method to get about four to five inches away from him. Unfortunately, he physically restrained me with his right arm, albeit not in a forceful or authoritative manner as we were at work. He was rather confused and agitated, wondering why I was intruding into their conversation until I explained the assignment. They both started laughing and said no one had ever done something like that to them before.

For my third example, I’m going to use one of my kids, who has the pleasure of being my next person of interest. I chose him because I wanted to observe how the results of a nonverbal communication violation would work with someone who is always around me and knows the way I am. He is my son, and we have a great, loving, working, and emotional relationship. For the assignment, during a time when he was cleaning, I walked up behind him and stood, looking over his shoulder for about 2 to 4 minutes. I was within inches of him so, at that point, I tapped him on the shoulder which startled him momentarily. I explained to him what my assignment was and asked him if he could give me any feedback. He told me that within the house, with both of us present, he feels safe and knows nothing is going to happen. I asked if he even knew I was behind him for about 4 minutes and his reply was, “No not at all”. Additionally, he stated, “Dad, I know you like to play games sometimes – too many games in the house.” According to my final thoughts after these observations, Wood (2016, p.139) states that “non-verbal communication often establishes relationship-level meaning,” and the situations above show that the liking and power associated with that idea have their limits.

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Violation of Personal Space With the Help of Non-verbal Vocabulary. (2022, Aug 24). Retrieved from