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Back Up! How to Politely ‘Check’ Someone Who is Invading Your Space

It’s been documented that the way we perceive space in the U.S. is different than others who live in certain parts of the world. If you’re like me, while you may be more tolerant of someone from another country invading your space, that doesn’t mean you’re just going to deal with it from any and every ole body.

Telling someone that you shouldn’t even be able to tell what they ate for lunch to back off a little can be tough. Shutting out that “friend” who is always telling you how to live your life can be uncomfortable. Hell, telling your significant other that you don’t want to be bothered can seem impossible, but your space is your space and you are entitled to it. Here’s how to politely “check” someone who is too involved in your business.

1. First things first: Know and set your limits.

Some folks you rock with heavier than others, so your “brotha from another mother” putting his arm around your neck means something different than that annoying-ass co-worker who always forgets to shower. Knowing who you will allow to do what will assist you in setting clear boundaries with those who always seem like they’re ready to cross them.

2. Understand that being passive aggressive won’t get you anywhere.

If Bob from the 13th floor all of a sudden starts calling you by a pet name, say something! If you’re a woman and you smile, he’ll think you’re flirting. Some folks are just clueless like that. If you’re a man and say nothing, then you’re taking the soft way out. Let Bob know upfront that you prefer to be called by your name, and he will respect it. Just passively expecting someone to pick up on context clues never works. Be direct or be prepared to be called “Pinky.”

3. Call it to their attention and give them time to correct their behavior.

There’s nothing like an invasive-ass friend who tells you what to do (or at least attempts to) all of the time. They claim to be looking out for you, but they’re annoying. Once you’ve corrected the “space invader” (no pun intended), give them time to correct their behavior. Old habits are hard to break, but while you’re being patient with them, pay attention to see if they’re actually making an effort to respect your space.

4. Understand that you may have to get gutta with some folks.

Politely checking someone doesn’t always mean being polite. You can have a respectful conversation with someone, and they will still do whatever they want to do. In that case, no more “Mr. (or Mrs.) Nice Guy.” Straight up tell buddy just how disrespectful he’s being and do it in a way to make for sure he gets the message.

No one likes to feel that their personal space is being violated. The good news is you can employ the “3-feet no pressure” rule at any time. Just be bold enough to do so as boundaries are the name of the game.


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