Give all people their ‘critical distance’

By Marianna WrightReaders Interactivity Journalist


Don’t assume that someone might be okay with getting their personal space invaded. There are many variables to take into consideration and, according to psychology professionals, this changes not only from gender and culture, but also from your social life and professional life.

According to Dr Roghy McCarthy, a psychologist and a British expatriate who has been living in Dubai for 18 years, these boundaries are something that most people need even though women tend to be more conscious of space than men.

McCarthy said: “Women are complaining because we need our space. We call this our ‘critical distance’. We need around one meter to feel comfortable.”

With friends, this space is equally important. Just because you are close with your friends, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary to be physically close. McCarthy said: “Being friends doesn’t mean you need to stick to together.”

To cope with people getting in your critical distance, it’s a matter of accepting the situations we are in. She said: “We have to get used to desensitisation and accept that things won’t always go our way. It’s part of being human beings.”

According to UK-based Mahria Qayyum, a senior assistant in learning and development with a background in psychology, in the workplace people need to be considerate, especially in multicultural UAE.

Qayyum said: “Women [living in a conservative] culture inherently have to think about their level of interaction, their status, reputation and image.”

Men, on the other hand, are inherently more open, according to Qayyum. She said: “When they are interacting with another man, they know to keep a certain amount of space. In the UAE, especially, as people are coming from different cultures, many men will actively try to give women their distance.”

Dealing with people getting in your space in the workplace can be challenging. Qayyum said: “First decide whether it’s something you can accept, then you can proceed with methods of coping. … If [you don’t like it], you have to feel out how to be professional in letting the person know you’re not comfortable. You want to remain professional, but not rude.”

Qayyum ultimately says that you should always voice your concerns because people don’t know how you feel and people will assume you’re okay with their proximity.

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