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Shared Spaces

At home, at work, at school, out in public, on an airplane, in our cars, no matter where we go… We all share common spaces.By and large, we do a fine job of sharing those common spaces. We have to in order to function in society. But often enough, people get irritated by those who are sharing our space. Perhaps we could improve the way we share space. A little consideration for others goes a long way.


At the top of the list of ways we can improve our space-sharing habits is this – give others the benefit of the doubt. Chances are no one intends to irritate, offend or inconvenience you. It's accidental, so keep your response proportionate to a mere oversight.

Second, pay attention to others' reactions to you. Don't assume the scowl is unwarranted, the sigh is unrelated, or the glare is symptomatic of a personality defect. Maybe, just maybe, you've done something bothersome. Weigh the possibilities before ignoring your own culpability.

Here are some starting points, a few representative examples of behaviors you may exhibit without realizing they are stress-inducing for others.

Mouth noises
Gum-chewing, lip-smacking, open mouth eating and repetitive swallowing really bother some people. There's an untreatable condition called misophonia. Sufferers may react to these sounds with intense rage, and the condition tends to get worse with age. Check yourself when chewing, eating or swallowing. Maybe the over-the-top reaction is still a good cue to moderate your behavior.

Dogs in public
Your well-behaved pooch, gentle and docile and oh-so cute as he may be, will trigger fear in some people. It isn't deserved, and it may not be rational. Nevertheless, some people are terribly afraid of dogs. When you have your dog with you in public, be thoughtful and help those who seem skittish to get the wide berth they need.

Intense odors
Some people are highly sensitive to scents. For them, a little cologne can induce migraine headaches, burning nasal passages and watery eyes. You may smell divine, but the way it makes some people feel is far from divine. Foods can also carry strong odors that are pleasing to some and not to others. In the workplace, curry, fish and burned popcorn are examples of foods that some would rather not be smelling. Needless to say, personal hygiene falls into this category, too. Your less-than-fresh breath can be offensive... But be careful how you freshen up considering those with misophonia...

Talking or laughing loudly
In a shared space, some may not want to tune into you. They may need quiet time for independent activities or intimate conversations. The repeated disruptions of one boisterous or loud individual can be annoying. If you seem to be attracting a lot of attention from other tables in a restaurant, for example, perhaps you need to turn down the volume.

In tight spaces, it's not easy to give others space. How do you really share an armrest on a plane or avoid jostling someone in a slow-moving line with impatient people? If you're larger than others, this may be even more challenging. After all, you can't fold up your long legs and put them in the overhead compartment. So you're starting out with the hope you can take up a little more than your fair share of the available space. In these situations, a smile and a little empathy will go a long way.

This is just a partial list, meant to represent the myriad ways we can accidentally offend. That's why, in shared spaces, you should proactively anticipate what might be upsetting to others. You can be on the lookout for negative reactions and make minor modifications to your own behavior. When offended, you can remove harsh judgments and understand no one means to be offensive.

By giving the benefit of the doubt or making a slight behavior modification we can make the spaces we share more enjoyable for everyone.

As a leader, it’s imperative to understand why and how to show ever person that you care about them. Learn more about how you can CONNECT2Lead. And be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach. .