• Ruchi

PROXEMICS : A Relationship Dynamic

During this covid-19 Pandemic, staying at home and practicing social distancing has made me realize space/distance acts as major factor in interpersonal communication , Proxemics is one study which tells a lot about it, I have researched about it and so below are my thoughts..

Ever wondered how you can identify who is dominant or boss in office or at home or in a relationship. Just a simple observation and you can click this in just a second.

Look at below pictures

One thing is common how everything is pointed at that one person, at whom everyone is paying attention may be during presentation or at dinner table. How much work space along with personal space you have been provided for example your manager gets a separate room facing the window from where he /she can look at everyone working. Ever wondered why you have a say or two while watching your favorite show on TV? or a movie ? Ever wondered why only that particular person is allowed to sit on one chair facing everyone at dinner table esp in large families? Who is getting more luxury or pleasurable things at home ? It says a lot about relationship dynamics. Now I guess you have figured out who is the dominant one. 

As per the Wikipedia, Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behavior, communication and social interaction. Proxemics is derived from word Proxemity means nearness. 

Proxemics is one among several subcategories in the study of non-verbal communication including touch, body movement, paralanguage and structure of time.

Why is this important?  It remains a hidden component of interpersonal communication that is uncovered by observation.

When it comes to understand the interpersonal communication, human behavior. It gives us an insight in evaluating not only the way people interact with others in daily life, but also "the organization of space in their houses and buildings, and ultimately the layout of their towns".

Broadly the Proxemics can be divided into two types of spaces horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal space can be divided into four types of zones. First one, is personal zone, which people regard as psychologically theirs. It is reserved for family members, children, partners. Personal zone is also called an Intimate zone. Entering somebody's personal space is considered an indicator of familiarity or may be intimacy. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anxiety, anger or even rage when their personal space is encroached. Another zone is used for conversations with friends, associates or even for group discussions. Further zone is reserved for acquaintances, newly formed groups, strangers. Last zone, is used for public distance, range specifically for larger audience, public speaking, lectures etc.

Now-a-days because of urbanization and overpopulation, personal space is getting lesser day by day. It is difficult to maintain personal space in day to day life especially in crowded spaces e.g. train, subway, elevator. This can be psychologically disturbing and uncomfortable to many, though many consider it as another part of modern lifestyle. You can easily see when someone is uncomfortable in crowded situation (personal space is encroached) when there is lack of eye contact, or just by looking at body posture. Preserving personal space is important and intimate contact such as groping etc. is unacceptable physical contact. According to the scientists Amygdala is major area which decodes and process people’s strong reactions to personal space violations as Amygdala is either damaged or absent in those who repeatedly violets or commit crimes like sexual assault or rape.  Also, it is activated when people are physically or mentally close.

So, the study of Proxemics is like a system that gauges effect of distance on interpersonal communications and it can be affected by different cultures or environments.

As we have discussed about the horizontal distance, similarly vertical distance also affects the Proxemics. For example, Teachers especially the ones who teaches small children should understand that students will more comfortable with a teacher when they all are in a same vertical place. This way, we can improve teacher-student communication. On the other hand, a strict teacher or may be somewhat manipulative teacher can use this information to use in order to get a psychological advantage over an unruly student.

As per the Wikipedia, Edward T. Hall, the cultural anthropologist who has used biometric concepts to categorize, explain, and explore the ways people connect in space.

Behavioral categories can be divided into:

  1. Kinesthetic factors: This category deals with how closely the participants are to touching, from being completely outside of body-contact distance to being in physical contact, which parts of the body are in contact, and body part positioning.

  2. Haptic code: This category concerns how touch can affect a person such as caressing, holding, feeling, prolonged holding, spot touching, pressing against, accidental brushing, or not touching at all.

  3. Visual code: This denotes the amount of eye contact between participants, ranging from eye-to-eye contact to may be no eye contact at all.

  4. Thermal code: This denotes the amount of body heat that each participant perceives from another.

  5. Olfactory code: This deals in the kind and degree of odor detected by each participant from the other.

  6. Voice loudness: This deals in the vocal effort used in speech. It varies from silent, very soft, soft, normal, normal+, loud to very loud.

 I believe Reading makes us wiser and interesting. 

Be happy Anyway !! 

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