Vertical distance and proxemics, from the word proximity, are some of the types of nonverbal communication.
Have you ever said you needed your space speaking of your personal space?
The distance or space we feel we need is influenced by social norms, situational factors, personality characteristics of those around us as well as ourselves, and level of familiarity.
For example, the amount of personal space needed when having a casual conversation with another person usually varies between 18 inches to four feet. On the other hand, the personal distance needed when speaking to a crowd of people is around 10 to 12 feet.
What are Your Circles?
Put another way, what is your comfort zone around your body?
Edward Hall, an anthropologist, found that North Americans have four distinct ranges where face to face interactions have related levels of comfort.
Later studies found that these are circles around us. The comfort zones vary from culture to culture. The original work was in 1959 and there have been numerous changes as various cultures have melded.
The four distances of the 1959 Research:
0-18 inches: Intimate distance.
18 inches-4 feet: Personal distance.
4 feet—12 feet: Social distance.
12 feet—line of sight: Public distance.
Likewise the distance behind us that we feel uncomfortable if someone enters varies by who and when. You may feel totally comfortable if your wife is right behind you. A stranger may make you feel uncomfortable. However, standing in a line to get into see a movie may not be as uncomfortable as someone walking up behind you in an otherwise open space.
Vertical distance between communicators may indicate the dominance and subordancy of a relationship. Looking up or looking down on another person can affect some.
This is evidenced by how teachers are taught to be in the same horizontal plane as small children. Doing so helps students be more comfortable.
Likewise, when discipline is necessary, this knowledge may help the communicator to gain a psychological advantage over an unruly student.
Simply taking a lower position could help you be less intimidating.