Slow Dance Down the Hall

MC40_feetWhen I was an undergraduate student living in Edmonton, I made friends with a cheerful, animated PhD in Mathematics, who was originally from Venezuela. We had lots of fun together, and he would often come visit or we would chat in the hall where we lived.

Inevitably, as we chatted, he would take a step towards me and I, feeling the space was too close, would take a step back. He would step forward again and I would step back.

We were both frank people, so eventually I asked him why he kept stepping in so close. He answered: because I kept moving away, and it seemed too far for talking. Thus we both realized that we each had different expectations of personal space.

After that I learned to consciously plant my feet in a conversation (with anyone) and let them decide how close or how far they need to stand to be comfortable. Over time I’ve learned to navigate conversations at distances that used to make me feel uncomfortable, although I still sometimes have to remind myself to avoid the shuffling “Canadian retreat”.

It’s a little thing, but goes a long way in developing rapport with others, and avoids the slow dance down the hall.

- Tiara in Vancouver