Proxemics plays a critical role in professional workplace communication, and should always be taken into account, especially when dealing with difficult people, or aggressive communicators. Proxemics is the study of how we physically position ourselves when we’re communicating. It helps us understand how we ought to position ourselves when communicating with the opposite sex. It’s always something I teach visually in my on-site communication training seminars, but since you can’t see me, I’ll explain it verbally here in my communication blog.
In general, we should approach people as studies and history show they wish to be approached; that is, sidle up (stand at an angle, or shoulder-to-shoulder) when we’re communicating with men, and stand face to face when communicating with women. If you have never noticed this before, the next time you’re in a crowd of people, observe how men tend to stand beside one another as they speak, and women tend to stand facing one another head-on.
This becomes very important in sensitive communication situations. Don’t stand face to face with men (particularly with American men), but rather at an angle so that you are not perceived as threatening, too aggressive, or in their space. On the other hand, if a woman says she believes you don’t “listen to her,” and you think you do, be extra conscious of facing her head-on the next time you speak to her, and notice how much more effective your communication will be .
Never forget that when communicating, knowledge alone is not power. Applied knowledge is power. Apply this knowledge of space and territory the next time you’re in a business situation, especially when the situation requires you to use every possible communication strategy available to you to gain a professional communication advantage.
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