We are a wide-eyed set of people. If we see something we fancy,we can’t help but ogle at the hapless individual under our scrutiny.
I tried to de-construct this behaviour as best I could. I also attempted to understand why, people find it so hard to hello each other in office corridors, lift spaces etc.
Here’s my take on the same.
Indians share shoulder space with approx 1,139,964,932 people. (Latest figures at the World Bank, World Development Indicators).
This is especially true in metros and cities in general where the density of population is just that, dense.
According to popular psychologist Allan Pease, author of the book The Definitive Book of Body Language,
The average person needs approx 24.5 inches (60 centimeters) on either side, 27.5 inches (70 centimeters) in front and 15.75 inches (40 centimeters) behind of personal space.
Personal space can be defined as the invisible bubble around every individual, which he/she considers as his/her space, and stepping into that zone would be intruding.
Personal space is a universally human concept. However, the average Indian is forced to continually tolerate intrusion of his/her personal space almost a million times every day.
Consider the following:
Case 1: The moron who almost stamps your toes (and well shined shoes!) in the bus.
Case 2: The female who can’t stop talking on her mobile phone and invariably ends up leaning on you while riding the lift together.
Case 3: The team mate who insists on standing so close to you while discussing work issues, that you can smell his breath.
So what happens when we have to jostle for personal space?
According to Allan, intrusion into the personal space brings about the age old reflex of Fight or Flight.
Consider all the above cases, How would YOU react to them? Most likely, In some manner of fight or flight. Intrusion of personal space also leads to a lot of involuntary muscle contraction, and raise in body temperature and a distinct rise in blood pressure.
The body prepares for attack, or to run away.
Now as Indians, we have already established that we are masters of conformity, moving together in large crowds doesn’t bother most. This phenomenon is possible because we simply do not see.
We mentally consider the intruder as absent. This is such an ingrained reflex now-a-days, that most people don’t even notice that they are doing it. No rise in Blood Pressure, No adrenaline rush. Simply because the person doesn’t exist.
Wisey Natz came up with a good analogy for this – The Ostrich effect. Its a known fact, that ostriches if outrun (by a vehicle), will hide their heads in mud of surrounding bushes. “If I can’t see the predator, He doesn’t exist.”
The Ostrich effect is also handy for Indian females, as they have to bear the horridly mentally incapacitating stares of a billion Indian males on a daily basis. Does it faze them? No, Not at all. The Ostrich effect in action.
So where does the Ostrich effect go horribly wrong? When you have to wish people in office corridors, when a lady expects the gent ahead of her to open the door for her, or atleast let her exit first.
When the office lift is so overfull, that people are literally squeezed in like sardines in a tin can. That’s when.
People!! Be aware of your personal space, know when you are intruding. And please be aware of your fellow mates around you.
One by one, we can make a difference.