Jerry Seinfeld shared the following quote during one of his monologues in season five of Seinfeld.
“I really feel as human beings, we need more training in our basic social skills. Conversational Distance. Don’t you hate these people that talk to you – they talk into your mouth like you’re a clown at a drive-through.”
In this episode (“The Raincoats”), Elaine’s boyfriend is a “close talker” (CT), a man who invades your personal space.
I ran into a close talker this week at a business lunch and it still has me shook up.
The man was the same height as me. We were both dressed in suits and ties, had similar builds and the same color hair and eyes.
He approached me with a question and steadily began entering my personal space like Napoleon plowing through Europe. In about 20 seconds I was pressed up against the wall, and I had yet to say anything. But I could tell he chose the tuna salad.
This experience was exactly like a scenario I read about in the USA Today on Tuesday. The article “Does height equal power? Some CEOs say yes,” offered some good insight into social domination.
In the article, Lara Tiedens, an organizational behavior professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business stated that people often use height, or the appearance of height (high heels or lifts) to look more powerful. She describes these power players who look directly at others, use an open stance and vigorous gestures, speak loudly in a deep voice, interrupt at will, and lean in close or otherwise reduce the space of others and expand their own.
Since “CT” and I were so similar, I contend he chose to invade my space to gain an advantage. I observed him speaking with others, mostly women, and he kept a comfortable distance. Then again he was taller than them.
Have you met a close talker? How do you think height affects power plays at work? Please share you experience.
Next time I run into a close talker, I hope he’ll pick the chicken salad instead.