Amusing Body Language For The Park – How To Built, Maintain And Protect Your Personal Space In Crowded Public Areas

Christopher Philip

This was a year of amusement parks for me and my wife, which gave me a chance to practice some body language techniques first hand. We hit a local thrill ride park then we were off to visit Disney World and Universal Studios. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time in line-ups and in close proximity to other people.

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Throughout the adventure I had the chance to develop some strategies to maintain a greater than average level of personal space which is, as we know, at a premium in all crowded areas. These techniques aren’t simply useful in amusement parks though, they work equally as well in an elevator, a busy street or in the mall. Use these tips to maintain space and protect your sanity!

1) Use your elbows! This is a cue designed in light of our more portly cousins whom naturally take up more space. Our elbows are also sharp and when we place our hands on our hips, it creates an open air buffer around our bodies sending daggers into anyone that invades our newly defended territory. This also helps protect our kidneys and other sensitive areas from others.

2) Stand sideways. The normal way that most people cue is in single file facing the objective. This can present some interesting situations to say the least. It opens up hip to hip contact, or worse genital to rear-end contact! It also can leave women open to unwanted accidental contact. We’ve all seen or experienced this contact ourselves so it’s not necessary to say that it needs to be avoided.

What’s worse is that it doesn’t always happen by mistake. I’m protective and aware of my personal space and that of those in my company so I am careful to notify them of persons getting too close. Standing sideways eliminates stranger’s ability to ‘bump’ and ‘grind’ and moves your senses into a position whereby you can make eye contact if necessary. Facing forward, on the other hand, opens up your backside to attack because you aren’t able to monitor what is going on.

3) Using barriers and cul-de-sacs. It strikes me as odd that most people don’t use their environment to its fullest potential. When in cue there are often areas where space is in abundance, yet people still line up like cattle. When a line forms a bend or even a ninety degree bend, there exists an excellent place to camp out until the line begins to move again. I suppose most people are focused on their goal which is to get as close to the front as possible, however ducking out to the side rarely permits others from jumping ahead since our culture prohibits cutting. If you can rest on a barrier or rail then do so.

This will turn your body sideways in relation to the cue and will create space in front of you. Our culture prohibits others from moving into this space because it nears them to cue jumping so in most cases they will remain behind you leaving a large amount of space to your front. After-all, it is the distance from the goal that determines the order so to level that distance is nearing someone to cue jump. The barrier that you lean against also protects you and turns you into an un-movable object.

4) Use walls, refuse bins and rails to your advantage. We’ve all been irritate by the group of people in front of us that suddenly stops dead to begin a conversation, or conversely, by those bumping into us as we try to orient ourselves in a crowd. To avoid aggravating others and find space to catch up with your company, simply duck behind the flow of traffic into an eddy. The flow of a park traffic is similar to that of water and when water has to travel around a rock or obstruction, there is a dead area behind it where the water slows. Ducking behind a pole or against a wall is the perfect place to gather yourself and your crew and discuss whatever you need to.

5) Don’t over advance. When the line begins to move forward, be cautious about how many steps forward you take. If you over advance you will be stuck with limited space to your front and back until the line begins to move once again. Your forward steps are the only way you have to control space since you can’t control how closely you are approached from the rear. Take large and slow steps and keep your body loose. People behind you might feel annoyed and encourage you to advance further to fill in the holes but stick to your guns, filling in the space does nothing to get you to the front any sooner. I try to keep enough space for at least one fictional person in front of me at all times. Another technique to try is to allow the person behind you to park themselves before taking your final step. When people move forward they take up new ground and then stop. Once they’ve stopped it’s nearly impossible to push them backwards so allow them to plant and then you can safely take another half step forward.

6) To create more space face backwards. When you get stuck behind someone who over advances or bumps into you frequently make them feel uncomfortable by facing either sideways as mentioned before with elbows out or face them directly, and if brazen, make eye contact. This will unsettle them and hopefully they will get the idea. A dirty look can help as well. I’ve always been a proponent of nonverbal correction in others as it can be very powerful and much more proper then anything said verbally. Don’t be afraid to upset others. They’ve upset you, so only deserve the same in exchange.

7) When cued, assess others. When my wife, sister, or any female friend is with me, I always assess those around them to make sure they aren’t in any danger. Reading other people’s cuing habits tells me if they are up to no good as in the case of pick-pockets. Not to alarm others, but you might be surprised to learn that some people have sticking hands and fingers, so to speak and will get their jollies by bumping up against other women. When I feel put-off by someone, I’ll place myself in between them and my company to protect them.

8) Don’t cattle just because you were asked. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you know that the employees will often ask you to take up all the available space around you so they can jam as many people into the attraction as possible. This does not mean that you have to. If they asked you to jump on the backs of the person in front of you, would you? I doubt it, and you wouldn’t because it would be inappropriate. Never substitute your judgment for someone else’s, especially for that of a teenager! If you don’t want to move ahead and cram in, then don’t. I certainly didn’t. In fact, when asked to move ahead I simply expanded my body with my elbows out and legs further then shoulder width. I figure that larger bodied persons can take up more space, so why can’t I.

9) How to punish people for their intrusion. Eye contact is a great way of pushing people that overstep your boundaries. Most people avert their eyes while in public, but a straight stare will tell them you aren’t tickled by their actions and also serves to humanizes you in their eyes so they’ll be less apt to intrude on your space. I’m also not afraid to push back with a hip or elbow if people bump or push into me, I treat them as they treat me, so they should expect some guff for their lack of respect, and that is exactly what maintaining proper distance means – respect.

10) A side note. Be weary of people carrying bags, or extra weight! My wife and I both notice that each were more likely to bump into us frequent and unapologetically. Also of note is to be careful and respectful of other people’s space when in public, especially if you are visiting a foreign country. Always follow the social norms of the natives, as it is them that set the rules, not you. If you follow the tips and maintain personal space herein, it will lead to a better experience for everyone.

So there you have it: Top 10 ways to build, maintain and protect your personal space in crowded public areas. Now go out there and Have Fun!

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