Proxemics in Effective Communication


Proxemics, which was developed by anthropologist Edward Hall, is the study of how we communicate with each other through space. This type of nonverbal communication is dictated by the relationships we have with others. When we violate the rules of proxemics, we can make other people uncomfortable, and it makes communication difficult.

Types of Proxemic Distance

  • Hall identified four types of proxemic distance: intimate, personal, social and public.

Intimate Distance

  • Intimate distance ranges from zero to 18 inches away from another person. This distance is reserved for people in close relationships such as mates, family members and close friends.

Personal Distance

  • Personal distance can range from 18 inches to 4 feet away from others. Most of our personal interactions take place in this proxemic distance, and it is usually reserved for close relationships.

Social Distance

  • When we conduct business or gather with others socially, we use social distance--which is about 4 to 12 feet. This amount of space is indicative of more formal communication.

Public Distance

  • Public distance is ideal in situations where we are surrounded by strangers such as on a bus or train. When people invade this distance, which is about 12 to 25 feet, we might feel unsafe.

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  • Human Communication: Principles and Contexts; Stewart Tubbs and Sylvia Moss; 2008
  • Human Communication: The Basic Course; Joseph A. DeVito; 2008
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