Have you given a second thought to the idea of personal space when you acknowledge a guest? Of course you remember to smile and to welcome your guest warmly. This is a great beginning to a successful interaction. Now consider completing your heartfelt welcome by being aware of special differences in your guest’s perception of personal space.
When approaching your guest to offer your hand, please consider personal space. In North America, there are four space-oriented zones:
- The intimate zone is a distance of about eighteen inches from one person to another. Save this one for your friends, family, and lovers.
- The personal zone is about one to four feet. Interact with your guests, fellow team members and your friends at this comfortable distance. I call this the cocktail party zone.
- The social zone runs from four to twelve feet. This zone is reserved for strangers, perhaps the plumber or the UPS™ delivery person.
- The public zone begins at about twelve feet and extends outward. Use the public zone when you speak in front a group of people.
Given that hospitality is a global business, you also need to consider that every country has its own zone considerations. Research the customs of your guest’s country before his or her arrival to make sure you present yourself as knowledgeable and respectful.
Be aware of the personal space considerations of your guest’s country. Your guests from the Netherlands, Western Europe, Great Britain and Asia will tend to stand rather far away from you. No matter how uncomfortable you are, do not move forward.
Latin Americans and citizens of Arab countries stand so very close that North Americans and many Europeans often find themselves stepping back to maintain a comfort level. Do not move back; this will be offensive to your international guest. Hold still and let your foreign guest set the ground rules.
In all guest interactions, regardless of your guest’s country of origin, remember that stance may send either a positive or a negative message. Greet your guest by standing with your shoulders facing his or her shoulders. Do not place your hands on your hips or cross your arms in front of your body. Never straighten your clothes or touch your face or hair. Remember to maintain good posture. Smile. Your hands will remain straight down, by your sides. This will convey a relaxed and competent appearance.
If you are still feeling unsure of how to proceed, you may want to further research the protocols of your guest’s country. Or, if you are on unfamiliar ground and do not want to create an international incident, see if your Human Resources Department has access to the services of a certified International Protocol Consultant. This person can brief your team. Business customs differ dramatically from country to country. Be prepared!
Excerpts of blog may have been taken from the book: Hospitality Management – People Skills & Manners on and off the Job. Copyright © 2015 Lyn Pont, Ph.D.
“Pont’s book is a must-read for anyone considering a career in hospitality.”
— Isadore Sharp, chairman and founder, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
See the book at: www.HospitalityManners.com
Visit Lyn at: www.MannersForBusiness.com
Lyn Pont, Ph.D. – World’s Top 30 Hospitality Professionals, Global Gurus
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