Organize Your Life into Four Spaces
Today, I’d like to relate something that my friend Paul Rienzo (@PaulRienzo) taught me. It has been a great metaphor for understanding my world and the relationships I have with the people around me. It helps me understand not only how to act, but also explains why I feel certain ways in certain situations, and it also helps me understand how others may be feeling.
There are many times when I have wanted to use this metaphor to explain what I think about a particular topic, but before I do that, I have to be sure that my audience will understand it. Today, I’m going to explain the metaphor. My hope is that you will find it as useful as I have.
I’ve been able to apply this in both my personal life as a friend, husband and father, as well as a guide to how the characters in my story should act.
Human beings are by nature social creatures. We form relationships of varying degrees with the people around us. This is normal and natural. You relate differently with a close friend of 8 years than the French model you just met, on the Internet.
Over the past 50 years, various studies by social scientists and cultural anthropologists have shown that we tend to move in four different kinds of spaces as we relate to one another. These spaces are the Public Space, Social Space, Personal Space, and Intimate Space.
Public Space “Red Space”
This is the space of the big crowd having a common experience. We tend to speak only in pleasantries. We reveal very little, if anything, of our true selves. Trust with people in our Red Space is nearly zero. Our shields are up and our masks are on.
- Real World: Movie theatre
- Church: Sunday morning Church
- Online: A webinar
- Bible: The Sermon on the Mount
- Writing: Keynote at a conference
Social Space “Yellow Space”
(Look at me. We are going to pretend that heading is yellow. It’s not really yellow. Your eyes are thanking me, trust me.)
The Social Space is a little smaller than the Public space, but not as small as the Personal Space. Here, we being to present a small part of our true selves. Trust with people in our Yellow Space is small. Our shields remain up, but our mask is not quite as tight.
- Real World: Sports Bar
- Church: Community Gathering / Pot luck / Dinner on the Grounds
- Online: Forums
- Bible: Wedding at Cana
- Writing: Large breakout session
Nearly all relationships start in either a Public “Red” Space, or a Social “Yellow” space. Over time as the relationship deepens, we allow people to come closer to us, and reveal more of our true self.
Personal Space “Blue Space”
The Personal Space is smaller than the Social space. This is the first space where we exert control on who enters. The people allowed into the “Blue space” are close to us both physically and emotionally. We feel safe enough to reveal who we really are and share private struggles. Trust is high. Our shields are weak and the mask is partially removed.
- Real World: Group of Friends
- Church: Small Groups / Sunday School Class
- Online: Chat Room / Twitter Chat / Guild Chat
- Bible: Disciples
- Writing: Critique Group
Intimate Space “Green Space”
You can usually count the number of people allowed into your Intimate “Green space” on one hand. This is a place of total disclosure. You open yourself up completely, and you are totally venerable. The shields are down, and the mask is completely off. You are most vulnerable and can be hurt the most. It is a simultaneously euphoric and terrifying experience.
- Real World: Husband and wife, your best friend, your wingman
- Church: Accountability partner
- Online: Private chat, private message
- Bible: Jesus and Nicodemus
- Writing: Critique Partner
All of us need people at every level, but we have an acute need for someone in the Green Space. We were made to do life together. It’s hard, almost impossible, to jump levels. You can’t go from a Red Space relationship to a Green Space relationship overnight. It takes spending time and earning trust.
If you’d like to hear Paul’s original teaching on this, you can download his podcast: http://www.crosstownonline.us/
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net