Pro­tect­ing per­sonal space and bound­aries

The Weekly Vista - - Opinion - DAVID WILSON

Did you ever see the

Se­in­feld episode in which Elaine had a boyfriend that they de­scribed as a “close talker?”

Have you ever met some­one like that — a per­son who has to get about 5 inches from your face while he or she is talk­ing to you?

There’s not nec­es­sar­ily some­thing wrong with a close talker, ex­cept that there is a fail­ure to un­der­stand the con­cepts of per­sonal space or agreedupon bound­aries.

Most of us like a small halo of space around us, no mat­ter where we go or what we are do­ing.

For in­stance, imag­ine that you are go­ing to at­tend a small meet­ing in a con­fer­ence room in a build­ing you’ve never been to be­fore. As many as eight to 10 peo­ple might at­tend and you are the first one to ar­rive.

Ten chairs are ar­ranged in a semi-cir­cle and you sit down at one end.

The sec­ond per­son comes into the room — a per­son that you’ve never met — and that per­son says hello and then plops down right next to you.

Of the nine empty chairs avail­able, he chose the one right next to you.

How do you feel? Most of us don’t like some­one we don’t know in our per­sonal space un­der those cir­cum­stances.

On the other hand, if all 10 chairs are taken ex­cept the one next to you, and the fi­nal per­son comes into the room and takes that seat, then it is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter al­to­gether.

He needs a seat, and the only op­tion is right next to you.

In that case, it is so­cially ac­cept­able for him to sit down by your side.

It is the same way when we ride an el­e­va­tor. We do not or­di­nar­ily like stand­ing close to strangers, but ev­ery­one tends to al­low that on an el­e­va­tor be­cause we sim­ply want to get to another floor.

But out­side the el­e­va­tor? There’s no way that 12 strangers are go­ing to stand in a tight clus­ter.

There are sim­ply cer­tain un­writ­ten rules about not get­ting too close to a per­son we don’t know very well.

Those rules are in place be­cause that is the way about 98 per­cent of us want to be.

In fact, we have such a firm con­vic­tion about hav­ing some breath­ing room around us that we will skip out of some places if they are too crowded.

Stud­ies have shown, for in­stance, that when a church au­di­to­rium ap­proaches 80 per­cent ca­pac­ity, that peo­ple will stop com­ing.

There is room for more, but there is no room for ev­ery­one to have space.

And at that point, in many cases, a per­son’s per­sonal space be­comes more sa­cred than the pub­lic wor­ship of the Almighty.

Maybe we shouldn’t say it that way but, nev­er­the­less, choices are made that re­flect that be­lief.

And speak­ing of churches, there are some peo­ple who like small churches, say­ing they are com­fort­able with small groups where ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­one else. Other peo­ple like a much larger church, one where it’s so large you can blend in. Some peo­ple say they don’t like small churches be­cause lit­er­ally ev­ery­one in the place can turn around and see you come in. Not so in a large church.

But on the other hand, some folks say that a par­tic­u­lar church might be too big for them. I think I un­der­stand that if they mean they like to know ev­ery­one who at­tends.

The pas­tor of a very large church was hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with a per­son one time who told him, “I don’t like your church. There are just too many peo­ple there for me.”

The pas­tor replied, “At what point do you think we should start telling peo­ple not to come?”

Truth­fully, there is noth­ing wrong with a small, cozy church and there’s noth­ing wrong with a modern-day mega-church.

The only thing that mat­ters, in ei­ther case, is the con­di­tion of a per­son’s heart as he comes in or as he leaves.

But that gets us back to the dis­cus­sion about per­sonal space. We have to ask, “Will heaven be crowded?”

Be care­ful how you an­swer that.

David Wilson, Ed.D., of Spring­dale, is a for­mer high school prin­ci­pal and is the com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the Tran­sit and Park­ing De­part­ment at the Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas. His book, “Learn­ing Every Day,” is avail­able on Ama­zon. He may be con­tacted by email at dwnotes@hot­mail.com. Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.