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Nonverbal communication and space
In an interesting book entitled The Hidden Dimension, anthropologist Edward T. Hall discusses space, how people structure it, and how space influences communication.
"Proxemics" is the term Hall has coined for the interrelated observations and theories of man's use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture.
One use of space with which most of you are familiar is someone's favourite chair.
Frequently it is Dad who has a chair which is his, and it is extremely dangerous for anyone else to sit in it. The person who sits in "Dad's chair" without asking permission seems to be invading personal territory.
When such an occurrence takes place, we frequently think of the intruder as ill-mannered. You will even find some people who become quite upset at this invasion of their private space.
Another place where most of you have observed special treatment of space is in business offices. Office space is usually allotted on the basis of a person's position in the structure and on the organization chart. This is such a common occurrence that it receives special attention in office management textbooks. Some have noted that private offices vary from 600 square feet for senior executives to 200 feet for senior assistants, and 75 to 100 square feet for cubicles in an open office space."
Some older-style companies have a "space manual" that lists the amount of room to which a particular level manager is entitled. One company has such a manual that lists not only size of office but also desk top size so that position in the organization structure also indicates and dictates desk top space. The manual also prescribes how many chairs "with arms" and "without arms" are permitted in an office which has a desk top of certain size.
In addition to the concept of physical space, Hall also discusses personal space. Each of us is surrounded by a "space bubble", varying in size according to the activity or type of communication taking place.
Hall classifies these "space bubbles" or distances in four types (each with a close phase and a far phase):
Intimate Distance (Distance: Touching to 11/2 feet)
This is the distance of lovemaking, wrestling, comforting, and protecting;
Personal Distance (Distance: 11/2 feet to 4 feet)-
This distance is reserved for more than just a casual friend or fleeting encounter; however, it is a no-contact distance. 'Where people stand in relation to each other signals their relationship, or how they feel toward each other, or both. A wife can stay inside the circle of her husband's close personal zone with impunity. For another woman to do so is an entirely different story;
Social Distance (Distance: 4 to 12 feet)
Impersonal business or casual conversations can be carried on in this space. People are very much aware of the presence of one another, but they neither interfere with each other nor are they oppressively near;
Public Distance (Distance: 12 to 25 feet, or farther) -
A person at this distance is outside the circle of involvement. This is the distance reserved for public speakers and/or public officials or for anyone on public occasions.
Reports I have written:
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing
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