poeticignorance submitted: …Hi.  I was wondering if you or your followers could help me.  I work in a shop with lots of contact with the public.  Some customers stand closer than I’m comfortable with- either while talking to me or while shopping behind/beside me.  Several people have placed a hand on my arm while we were talking.  I feel like my personal space is being invaded every day. It’s very stressful but I don’t feel able to do anything about it without appearing rude (which could get me in trouble with  my managers, as well as potentially upsetting people).  Do you have any advice for discouraging this from customers, or for reducing the stress it causes?  Thanks.

I don’t have a good solution to this, unfortunately.

Sometimes people get the hint if you take a step backwards, but that doesn’t always work.

It can also work to have an object between you and them (eg: a counter, a washer they’re looking at, something like that), but it’s not always possible to do that.

Have any of y’all found something that works more consistently?

I tend to move away from the situation - to say “I’ll let you have a look at those, then,” or “Excuse me just a minute,” and walk off for a few seconds, maybe go to to check something or whatever.  You can even work it into the conversation - “Actually, I’m not sure about that! Let me ask a colleague/look it up on our system/see if I can find out for you.”  Usually creating that break resets the boundaries of social conduct.

(Note: this also works with customers who are getting verbally pushy or overwhelming in other ways, even when it’s not meant to be mean.)

All this obviously all depends on your particular culture/role/place of employment - it’s just what has worked for me.

If you’re decent at faking, I’ve found that turning to the side a bit, stepping away, and “sneezing” into your elbow or clearing your throat unattractively both helps you to step away and makes them less eager to touch you. It may not work all the time, but it’s something to add to your bag of tricks.