As much as people may appreciate connecting with others, they also like others to stay at a specific distance from them. This personal distance actually is a relational distance, and that distance will be unique to this relationship. It is constantly being negotiated between the two. Naturally, this distance will also depend on the situation. Queuing for example felt very different during the pandemic from how it felt before, or now.
I remember how I once experimented with this distance. Someone I didn’t know well had a much smaller personal distance than I did and kept coming too close. As we were both standing, I decided to get a better sense of her and my personal distance. I started to make small steps backward to which she responded by making a step forward. After a while, it felt almost like a dance.
This quest for an optimal distance plays out unconsciously with emotions and feelings too. It may happen with one’s feelings as well as another person’s feelings or those emerging in a group. It may become visible through somewhat abrupt changes in topics, sudden silence as well as sudden laughter and other spikes in noise, faces lighting up or closing down. But these are only the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous subtle moves, some of which lead to the group allowing itself to become closer or sometimes seeking to be more distant. Most of it remains unconscious, that is until one accepts the presence of this dance and starts noticing it.