8 Tips for Respecting Personal Space in Public Places

The closer our paths cross with others, the more important etiquette becomes to ensure a safe and polite journey over sidewalks, through doorways and lobbies, and in and out of elevators and other public spaces. Here are a few tips for plotting your course through the world in a friendly and mannerly fashion:

  1. Keep your head in the game. Between smart phones, ear buds and other tech gadgets, it is easy for us to become completely out of sync with our surroundings. Be aware of where you are, who is next to you, and what direction you are going.

  • "Go with the flow" takes on new meaning when you're walking in a crowd. When on a busy sidewalk, filing into a stadium or shopping at your crowded local grocery store, keep moving. Don't stop in your tracks to take a phone call or suddenly pivot and do a 180 with your cart to go back for something you forgot. Tourists, step to the side to take a picture of a tall building, particular site or monument from afar on a busy walkway.
  • Watch your volume. When talking on your cell phone, the general rule is to give yourself a buffer of at least ten feet to conduct a semi-private call without annoying others. If you must make or take a call when in a crowd, keep it as short and quiet as possible.
  • Approach doorways with consideration. In business and in general, whoever gets to the door first should open it. Hold the door for those behind you, especially when they are within a few steps of the door. If someone holds the door for you, acknowledge their kindness with eye contact, a smile, and a genuine "thank you."
  • Follow elevator code of conduct. Let others exit before attempting to enter. If the car is full, wait for the next one instead of trying to squeeze yourself into a small space. If someone is running toward the elevator and the doors are starting to close, hold the door, or press the open door button, instead of pretending you don't see them. If you are standing closest to the buttons, offer to press the floor button for fellow passengers.
  • Be a courteous seat mate. If you are in a waiting room, a crowded gate at the airport or some other area where there are lots of people, be aware of those who may need a seat more than you, and by all means, place your bags on the floor to make room for others to sit down.
  • Be revolving-door-friendly. If you reach the revolving door first, step in and get it started for the person stepping in behind you. Don't run or race through the revolving door, and definitely don't jump in with someone else.
  • Keep your umbrella to yourself. When in a crowded space, or walking down the sidewalk, your umbrella can be used as a dangerous weapon if you don't handle it properly. Keep it closed and close to your body when not in use. Make use of the umbrella stand when entering an office building, and shake the water off before entering the door. Common sense, yes, but there are those who can use a friendly reminder.
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