Every person who works with people should be aware of how to appropriately use space surrounding another person. If you get to close to the person you're talking to things get kind of awkward. If you're too far away a shouting match occurs. So a quick refresher is in order on how to use up space.
As a general rule of thumb, the following rules should be followed:
1. Social Space: 4-12 feet (this is good for the initial introduction to the patient)
2. Personal Space: 18 inches to 4 feet (This is good for the interview)
3. Intimate Space: 0-18 inches (This is good for the patient assessment)
A majority of conversations should involve the use of social space. As a general rule, as you approach someone to talk, you should be about 4-5 feet away. I think 4-5 feet is a good distance. If you get to close take a step back. It's actually better to be too far away than too close. I call this the "Social Space Rule."
In my experiences through life I've found most people follow this rule. However, once in a while you get a space hogger. A "Space hogger" a person who feels the need to get right up close to you during even the most social of conversations. So you take a step back and they feel the need to re-occupy your personal space. Those conversations rarely flow smoothly because you feel uncomfortable, and are concentrating on the space rather than what that person is saying. It's not good.
This rule was taught to me by my parents when I was a kid, and re-introduced when I was in college in sales class. My sales teacher taught that proper use of space was 50% of the sale. So he hashed this onto us on a daily basis. His policy was if during a fake sale I invaded his space, he'd hash my grade by 50%. So you learned quickly of the importance of using space properly.
Don't be a space hog: follow the social space rule.
RT Cave Rule #59: Don't be a space hog: Follow the Social Space Rule. During a social conversation you should stay 4-5 feet from the person you're talking with.