Space Invasion; or, How Close Is Too Close?

March 2010
by Carol Kinsey Goman

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Space Invasion; or, How Close Is Too Close?

by Carol Kinsey Goman

One of the easiest mistakes to make during a business encounter with someone is to misjudge how much space the other person needs.

One night not long ago, when I was traveling on business, I had dinner in an oceanside resort, and I noticed a man and a woman seated across the room. The couple sat framed by a large picture window, while the setting sun turned the background shades of yellow, orange, magenta, and deep purple. It was a beautiful image. But then I began to observe the couple’s body language.

During the course of the meal, I watched the man lean toward the woman—and saw her respond by pulling away from him. He leaned toward her again—and again she pulled away. The more the man leaned forward, the more his dinner companion tilted back. By dessert, he was almost sprawled across the table, and she was practically falling backward off her chair. I couldn’t hear a word they were saying, but it was perfectly obvious that whatever he was proposing, she wasn’t signing on.

The funny part was, the man seemed totally oblivious to the nonverbal signals the woman was so clearly sending. He would have been much more successful if he had (literally) backed off.

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