Why You Need to Ask for Your Personal Space (and How to Do it)

personal space

Have you ever had a stranger touch you while you were in line at the grocery store?

Have you ever received an unsolicited comment about your body or clothing while walking on the street?

Or, perhaps you’ve encountered someone listening to music on their phone without wearing headphones. Maybe your mom “borrows” much of the clothing in your wardrobe, but never actually returns anything.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? If the answer’s yes, you could be dealing with an invasion of personal space in one form or another.

While some infractions warrant a more serious response than others, all personal space issues are important. If you’re dealing with an invasion of your personal space and you’re wondering what to do, you’re in luck.

Here, we’ll detail why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for space and how you can go about doing just that.

What Is Personal Space?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines personal space as the distance from one person to another in which you feel comfortable talking or standing next to the other person.

Put plainly, your personal space is the amount of space between you and someone else in which you feel comfortable operating. Whether you’re having a conversation, standing in line behind them, or something else.

Why Is Personal Space Important?

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that when something (in this instance, a human face) comes towards us and into our personal space – a neural network (or part of our brain) that carries out a specific function will activate.

There’s a certain amount of personal space you’re accustomed to and comfortable with. And, when someone (or something) encroaches on that space, the signals in your brain start to fire…and these signals can make you feel uncomfortable and may even cause you to feel anxious and/or frustrated.

Of course, these negative feelings can have a serious impact on your mental well-being which can, in turn, impact your entire life.

To ensure that you don’t feel uncomfortable, anxious, or frustrated, it’s important for your personal space to remain intact.

If you find that most people don’t respect personal space or the requests that you make, you may need to voice your needs to them to regain control.

How to Regain Control of Your Personal Space

Below are 5 helpful tips so you can learn how to successfully regain control of your personal space.

1. Determine Your Boundary Needs

Everyone’s different. And as such, your personal boundaries aren’t going to be exactly the same as anyone else’s. This is why, in order to determine what your needs are, you’re going to have to get a little introspective.

If you need more personal space than someone else you know, there’s nothing wrong with you. If you need less personal space, that’s fine, too! Whatever your situation, it’s important to be aware of your needs when interacting with other people. When you can, let them know what you need and, if possible, provide an explanation of why.

2. Be Polite, but Stand Your Ground

At the end of the day, you’re not going to get the personal space you need if you don’t communicate that to others. If you’re worried about someone thinking that you’re rude because you’re being direct about what you need, try not to.

If there’s a certain person who consistently goes in for a hug or kiss and makes you uncomfortable, try to demonstrate what you’re OK with using your body language.

For example, this may mean that instead of opening your arms as if you’re welcoming a hug, you could try to extend your hand and give a handshake instead. Whatever you do, do it in a way that is calm and clear, but firm, so that the other person gets what you’re hinting at.

3. Start Small

Are you afraid to say “No?” You may not know how to set boundaries and be firm enough to stick with them yet.

If it’s something you know you need to work on, practice by saying no to other things. Start with something small, like saying no to plans with a friend or rescheduling them for a time when it will suit you better.

Practice these small steps on people you feel most comfortable with, and you’ll begin to gain confidence about saying no. It will become easier for you to do this in more important situations, and as a result, you’ll be better able to set boundaries regarding your personal space.

4. Say Yes When You Know What You Want

A big part of asking for more space is being comfortable with what you want.

Before you tell everyone in your life you need more space, start asking for other things you want. Want to watch something else on TV, or try out a different restaurant this week? Speak up.

Knowing when it’s appropriate to say yes will making saying no easier too.

5. Feeling Guilty? Don’t.

When it comes to your boundaries, feelings of guilt should be the last thing on your mind. Sure, you might worry about what others think – that’s normal. But the truth is: you have a right to your personal space, and if someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, they don’t deserve to have access to it.

If they’ve disrespected you on multiple occasions, it’s time to stand your ground and say, “I’m done.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Your Personal Space

Asking for personal space isn’t always going to be easy. In fact, most of the time it’s not going to be easy at all.

But if you’re dealing with negative feelings as a result of a breach of your personal space and you feel it’s beginning to affect your well-being…you need to speak up.

When you’ve had enough and decide it’s time, use these 5 tips to help you find the confidence to ask for the space that you need.

You’ll be glad you did!

And if you need more help boosting your self-confidence, don’t forget to smile.