In 3 days, I violated the rules of communications in 3 different situations when messages to welcome myself next to people I did not know were delivered non-verbally. I specifically acted against norms of proxemics. Proxemics is the area of nonverbal communication that focuses on space and distance and a person’s personal space. It is where you evaluate how intimate the relationship of two people interacting. The closer you get the higher the intimacy level the people must have.
There was a male student sitting by himself on a bench outside of a lecture hall reading Newspaper. For the most part, there weren’t any other students around and there were two empty benches nearby. I wanted to see his reaction when I sat next to him very closely and looked over his shoulder to check out what he was reading. While I looked over the article, he slowly turned his head and looked at me then back at the article. He then laughed a little and asked what I was doing. I smiled and I didn’t say anything and kept looking at his face. He was trying to avoid eye contacts with me and prepared to leave. I explained to him what I was doing and about my goal to break norms of nonverbal communication to unsuspecting individuals. He thought it was funny and said that I definitely did make him feel very uncomfortable as well as very confused.
The next stop on my nonverbal communication norm-breaking project was in the Student Union. There were two young women eating dinner at a nearby table. There was an empty table next to them and students eating at other tables around them. The two women were mid-conversation when I took a seat next to them at their table. Not saying a word, I simply sat down and waited.
Their initial reaction was confused and they stared at each other. One of the girls pointed to me and opened her eyes wide to her friend as if to ask “Do you know her?” When they realized that I was a complete stranger to both of them and just invited myself to sit down and join in their dinner conversation, they started laughing and reacted with a confused “Hi!” They stared and waited for a response and then I started laughing with them and explained what was going on and why. The two young women said how awkward they felt when a complete stranger joined them at their table for dinner.
The next stop on my project was in front of my apartment. There was a girl who was talking on the phone. I tried to stay too close to her and then I pretended to listen to her phone conversation. For the first time, she looked at me and she tried to make a little more distance from me. However, I kept going closer to her and thus invaded her personal area. Finally, she went inside of Starbucks. When we found her inside of the coffee shop, she was still using her phone and she kept ignoring us. After her phone conversation, we explained to her about our nonverbal communication project and asked her a question about her feelings. She said that it was uncomfortable, and she felt that I was invading her privacy and too close to her personal space.
From the both situation, people felt that they were surprised and uncomfortable as well. I knew that I did inappropriate things that we normally won’t do in our lives.
Intimate distance was invaded as I sat very close to the young man on the bench reading the newspaper and casual distance was made awkward as I put myself at this distance with two young women where I welcome myself at their table same as with a girl who I met in front of Starbucks conversing whom I did not know.
The young man sitting on the bench and the talking on the phone prepared to leave or left because I think they don’t want anyone invading their privacy, especially a person they don’t know. The girls on the table were quite confused so I think they thought that I am just being friendly with them so they said “hi.” I think they did what a normal person would do in those situations.
While I’m doing the exercise, I’ve thought that breaking communicative rules like proxemics could result to sending a wrong message. Like what I did when I welcome myself by sitting on a table where two girls were sitting. They conceived a message that I’m being friendly to them. But what if, you just have to sit there because there were no other sits available. The interaction would be unhealthy.
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