Arm’s Length Works For Him & New Year’s Resolution Might Leave Her Friendless

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

DEAR CAT: Did you ever see the episode on Seinfeld about the “close talker?” I know a guy like that. Luckily we don’t work together all the time but I see him every week and it’s always the same thing – he stands and talks so close to your face that you could smell his breath (he doesn’t have bad breath but you get the picture). One day after a meeting he got so close that I put my arm straight out into him and said, “arm’s length works for me.” I kind of laughed so he wouldn’t be offended but he huffed and said, “sorrrry!” Since then it has been weird, possibly because there were other people in the room that day and maybe it embarrassed him. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Men do not need to stand that close together but I would feel the same if a woman did that. One of his coworkers told me afterward that it bugs him, too, but he never thought to do/say anything about it. Was I wrong? — SAFE DISTANCE

DEAR SAFE: It’s not wrong that you said something, it’s wrong that you put your hands on someone in the workplace. Of course you didn’t mean anything aggressive by doing it, and your point is valid that you’d feel just as uncomfortable if a woman got up in your face, but you wouldn’t put your hand on a female coworker’s chest or stomach (or even on her shoulders) to push her away. In this scenario you should have said, out of earshot of others, “we don’t need to stand so close, do we?” Then jokingly added, “I like my space.” Most people would get the hint. Some people stand quite close to compensate for their own hearing loss, which doesn’t change the uncomfortable effect on you but it might be one explanation. The next time this happens…Cat’s Call: Use words, not hands, to hold them at bay.

DEAR CAT: I like to make New Year’s resolutions that I’ll actually keep and this year I’m doing “get rid of all friends who are in pathetic relationships.” I swear if I have to deal with one more female friend who says how great her relationship is even though it is obviously terrible and then have to “be there” when it “suddenly” goes bad, I’ll lose my mind! But then I think, will I have any friends left? It is very tiring to “be there” as expected when friends finally start complaining openly about bad relationships when all that bad stuff was clear from the beginning and they act like, “he just changed out of the blue!” The only time I ever told a friend “he was always like that,” she pretty much stopped talking to me. It hurt me at the time but looking back it was a relief. What can you do in these situations and still have friends? — CAN’T TAKE THE BITCHING

DEAR CAN’T: We’ve all been there when a friend gets serious about a relationship that’s bad from the get-go, then we have to act surprised when it ‘suddenly’ goes downhill. I wonder, though, that all your friends are like this? How about adding a second resolution: busy yourself with activities and people (if you know any) that have nothing to do with emotional drama. Sports, hobbies, culture, anything at all that keeps you occupied with topics that fulfill you rather than drain you. As a result, you’ll likely develop some fun friendships. That doesn’t mean ignore your close friends, just make yourself less available for bitch sessions. They aren’t your bad relationships, after all, so…Cat’s Call: You don’t have to bear the weight of them.

What’s YOUR call? Share it below! Submit questions to: or click here!.


    I would have done the same exact thing as you did. And, although Cat commented on the “touching” part, I didn’t read where you stated you actually touched the guy.

    I know the “play” as I would do the same thing to a few people – stick my arm out at arm’s length without touching the person and tell them like you did.

    Kudos to you, he may have learned his lesson.

    — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/03/2012    Reply

  2. He said he put his arm “into” him which means he touched him. I think that went too far. It’s a weird when people stand so close when they talk because it’s not normal. It’s probably true that some people do it when they have hearing problems. But get a hearing aid, don’t make everyone uncomfortable.

    To Can’t Take The Bitching: Most relationships have problems, including the ones that start off great. If you choose to keep friends who have such bad problems you have to deal with it when they complain about them. Otherwise you’re just a fair weather friend.

    — Caroline    01/03/2012    Reply

  3. @Carolina,

    That is an inference, but not exactly factual. Why? We know he did not put his arm “into” the other man. That would have been rather bloody.

    Therefore, he could have meant “into” to mean into his space, I don’t know, neither can anyone else, unless the letter writer actually states that he touched the other person.

    And, having done practically the same on several occasions, I put my arm into the other person’s space – almost a touch.

    — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/03/2012    Reply

    1. My interpretation is that if he’s standing closer than arm’s length away, which I’m going to assume he is since the letter writer said “arm’s length works for me,” then where did he put his arm when he “put it straight out”? I mean, did he push the air next to the guy? No, because he said he pushed his arm into the guy. I think he’s clear he touched the guy, unless he took a big step back himself and THEN put his arm back.

      I actually feel ridiculous even having spent my time writing all that, since the point is that the guy was a little abrupt, Cat suggested a good way to deal with it in the future, and the close talker needs to learn to leave people a little breathing room. Honestly, I really can’t imagine having a conversation with a co-worker who is closer than arm’s length away. I mean, that’s actually really close.

      — Megan, Point Breeze    01/04/2012    Reply

      1. Whether abrupt or not. Whether he actually touched the person or not.

        The action of putting the arm straight out and “into” the close-up artist seems to have worked.

        Problem solved.

        Actually, when that would happen to me, I would take a quick step back and put my arm straight out (without touching) and say, “Arm’s length, please” or something to that affect.

        — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/04/2012    Reply


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