In North America our personal safety zone tends to be about three feet in diameter around us. The same distance as our outstretched arm and fist or our outstretched leg if we were intending to strike or kick someone in self-defence. Our comfort zone i.e. the area where we will let those that we trust into tends to be about 18 to 30 inches in diameter.
In a business networking session I’m sure that we don’t attend with the idea that we are going to have to physically defend ourselves. I believe that this is a situation that can cause stress in some people in networking situations. To have an effective discussion with someone who you are meeting for the first time as in a business networking session often means that you are permitting a stranger to enter your comfort zone. Crowded, noisy rooms tend to necessitate drawing in closer to the other person just to be able to hear them well.
While it is socially acceptable for women to hold or touch each other while in conversation, even in a first meeting encounter, the same cannot be said about two men conversing.
You may not even be aware that you have a comfort zone until someone invades it. That feeling of anxiousness, uneasiness may be your subconscious calling to your attention that something isn’t right. Perhaps that is the time to take a step backwards to continue your conversation.
If you are confident in your networking conversations, allowing others into your comfort zone and paying close attention to the conversation by actively participating in it can go a long way in building your reputation as an effective networker and somebody worth meeting and getting to know.
Many networkers have challenges of inserting themselves into groups that have already formed and are actively discussing a topic. A group that the members are standing close enough to converse with each other, yet not within each other’s comfort zones, would likely be a group that would be open to having someone else join them. On the other hand, two people standing very close together, perhaps a little ways away from the rest of the group would seem to be having an intimate conversation and would not likely be open to someone joining them. If they were to separate from each other that could indicate that the private or intimate stage of their conversation has concluded and they were now open to be joined by others.
You can learn a lot be observing others. In your next networking session observe how people are standing. Are they close together or far apart? Does an individual networker use the same technique with everyone they meet or do they vary their closeness in conversation. Try out some different distances to your conversational partner and see how it feels to you.