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 wish I had a solution to this. I find customers quite often either put their arms around me, pat my head, or laugh as their children prod and poke me. I honestly have no idea how anyone can grow up thinking this is an acceptable thing to do to a service worker.

Tbh I just move away and say ‘please don’t touch me’. It will probably get me into trouble someday though. Would love to hear other people’s thoughts.

Have others who have done this found that it gets them into trouble?

Uh, I’m guessing I’m from a completely different culture than the OP, so maybe this is completely useless, but I’ve found a few things that work pretty well.

If someone seems to not realise that they’re standing too close (maybe they’re being emotional, excited, stressed, and not paying attention) then simply telling them that, as polite as can be, will usually resolve the problem without anyone getting upset, because no offense was meant.

If someone seems to be doing it intentionally (maybe they want to intimidate you or sexually harras you or something), then what they are doing is wrong, so again, saying something might work. What also works pretty well for me is to simply step up to the challenge. That is, if someone stands too close to you, trying to look down on you, try standing taller, meeting their eyes full on and maybe even taking a step closer, like generally showing with all of your behaviour and body language that you are not scared and not intimidated and you’re the stronger one in this confrontation. (though admittedly, i’ve got an easy out on this since i’m pretty tall, broad and have a rather low voice, so i can get at least some of that across simply by existing. if you’re small/have a high voice/are built rather slender or thin, it might be more difficult, though you could still pull it off)

And, last but not least, if someone is simply freaking careless, badly behaved, or a freaking annoying brat, well. I live in a culture where respect and proper distance are highly valued, so I’d have absolutely no problems when I tell someone that they are being freaking impolite or disrespectful and that this stops now, and I mean now, please, if they would. I mean, maybe it’s difficult in places where that insistence on respect and proper (procedural) behaviour is less of a cultural imperative, so that might not work for you.

And if it doesn’t, well. As said before, anything to put some distance between yourself and people is usually a good thing, even if just crossing your arms over your chest, if you can do that.

What I’ve found, also works pretty well when insisting on personal space is to back it up with religion/culture/law. It’s sort of strange, but I’ve found saying that something offends/violates your religious beliefs, your customs and traditions or would be technically speaking against the law, people are far quicker to accept it and not take offense than if you simply say you’re uncomfortable. This is mostly a possibility when it comes to sexual harrassmen, but it might also work for bratty children. Also, please stick to the truth when you do that and don’t abuse other people’s culture/religion/whatever for doing something like that. Seriously, don’t.

And, last but not least, if nothing at all works and if you do have that opportunity, maybe you need to admit defeat and look for another workplace where that problem is less prevalent. I realise it’s not always an option to simply up and leave, but if it is, and the problem is getting so bad that it starts fucking up your mental health, it’s definitifely a chance worth taking.

I don’t know if this works or not. Reblogging in case others do.