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How Do I Politely Tell Strangers That They Are Invading My Personal Space?

A man looking at a woman's paycheckGreg

Q: Often when I’m at the ATM, people waiting in line crowd in close behind me. How do I politely tell them that they are invading my space and need to step away?
Jill Broecher
Spearfish, South Dakota

I can see why you’re skittish. You’re keying in your PIN and perusing personal financial information while someone is hovering in your personal space.

My suggestion: Tense up and jump a little, as if someone snuck up on you, and shoot a startled look over your shoulder.  Make eye contact, smile apologetically, and say, “Oh, hi. I didn’t realize someone was standing so close to me.” Chances are the person will back off—literally.

—Michelle Slatalla


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