Respecting Personal Space: Some People Hate Touch Or Are Triggered By It

By: Ali Sakr

This article is one of many that just took more time to start than to actually write. Maybe it’s because I found the topic quite awkward from the get-go, or perhaps it just feels like a touchy subject. Didn’t expect that, did you? Puns right from the start – I must really be running out of ideas, huh?

Alright then, with our required dose of cringe-inducing wordplay out of the way, let’s move onto the actual point.

Everyone has a psychological bubble which they like to keep to themselves. This is called interpersonal space, and it’s the volume around you which you don’t want anyone else occupying. We do often allow friends and family to pop this bubble, but the degree of closeness at which we start feeling uncomfortable varies greatly from person to person. Some people in particular (let’s call them X to save time) find the idea of touching others – anywhere from strangers to family – repulsive. While this can be the result of some childhood trauma they’ve unfortunately had to experience, that likely isn’t the case. Most of the time, it’s just their personal nature. Nothing is wrong with them; it’s as regular a preference as having a favorite color.

When dealing with X, you often need to be extra aware of your movement. You might naturally be a touchy person, so you’d need to work on suppressing what might come to as second nature, by constantly reminding yourself to maintain a certain distance from said person. This usually isn’t the issue that many find difficulty facing; instead it’s finding out who is like X. While X could simply make our lives easier and just be upfront about it, not everyone feels comfortable laying out all their preferences and pet peeves when meeting someone for the first time. This is why you need to know how to find all the Xs around you.

First off, I’d recommend not making things any weirder than they might already be. You can probably imagine that “Hey, dude. Do you mind when I touch you?” can sound odd to say the least. Yes, there are better ways to phrase it, but I’d like to think my point still stands because otherwise, I wouldn’t really have anything to continue writing about. So, body language. The easiest way to test if someone is a X or not is as easy as giving them a little tap on the shoulder or a pat on their back. Try to notice if they impulsively jerk away for half a second, or if they turn around to face you a bit faster than a non-X would. Another way to test this out is to try observing how comfortable your potential X is when shaking hands. How close do they lean towards you, or do they instead hold their arm outstretched at a distance?

These little things can matter. They might not to you, but they can often be the difference between X being completely relaxed, and X sitting guard up, ready to ninja their way out of a (literally) tight situation. This is why you should always do your best to be wary of getting too close to new people. Okay, I actually didn’t intend this one, but I’m not complaining either. What can I say, it’s a talent.

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