I was working on a project last week at my local Starbucks when I watched a personal space scenario unfold.
Two women came to sit at the large square table which is normally in the center of the room, but instead was extra close to the window tables. Instead of sitting opposite from each other, they sat diagonal to each other. And instead of sitting in the two locations farthest from the woman next to them at a smaller round table by the window, they sat in the two seats closest to her so that the second lady when she sat down was directly facing the window woman with barely 18″ of space between them. This became obvious to her as she lowered herself into her chair saying self-consciously “Oh, I’m in your space aren’t I?” But instead of changing to the chair on the opposite side of her friend (which would have given the window lady her space back), she just scooted her chair 6″ away, then began to engage her friend in an animate conversation.
I watched as the woman at the window (who had said nothing at all) stiffened, squirmed and shifted in her chair and within 10 minutes she got up and left.
Next, another woman sat at the window table. Starbucks was packed and no other spot was open. She picked the other chair across from the one the first window lady had been in, which was right next to the “space invading” lady. They were practically shoulder to shoulder for a moment when the square table lady sensed an invasion to her space and shifted her seat away a few inches.
Even though this new lady had a better space created for herself, she only lasted in that spot long enough to notice a different spot open up. She got up quickly with here drink and moved leaving that small table open. No one sat there again until the two talkative women left.
Later I looked up from my work only to find a whole new group of people arrive to sit down at the square table, and wouldn’t you know it, they shifted the square table away from the round window tables two feet to gain greater comfort for both themselves and the pair at the window.
I am always amazed when I watch how people take up space and I often wonder if they are even aware of what they are doing. I wonder if that first scenario put a damper on the woman’s day and she didn’t even know why? If she had been self-empowered she could have asked the two at the square table to please shift the table over. But seldom do I witness this. Usually we just move out instead of declaring what we need to strangers. Yet both groups would have been more comfortable with the bold clarification. The two chatty ladies hardly had any privacy for their conversation sitting so close.
Well, perhaps one day we will all get it that we have a right to take up space and get our needs met and we can be bold about it while still respecting the space of those around us. We do this in two ways… first by being aware and asking for what we need and second by being aware of and courteous to the needs of others.
So, what would you have done if you were the lady by the window who had her space invaded? It’s something to think about. If you have an “eye-witness” story to share I’d love to hear it.
’till next time,
Your Personal Space Coach©