Some context: she has been here three months, our workspace is about 3x2m (so claustrophobic already), she is very nice but has already expressed to me views where she doesn't really understand mental health issues. I'm not comfortable explaining to her that I don't like physical contact and my issues with spatial awareness, and, if pressed, why.
  1. I've said to people "Oh. That's a little closer than I like" and kind of smile awkwardly. I've also sort of waved my hands in front of myself and said "Oh. This is my personal space" and smile friendly. I think that using an upbeat sort of tone of voice helps, instead of sounding angry.
    If they ask why, you don't owe them an explanation. It's okay to say "I like it that way" or "It keeps me comfortable" and be done.
    Suggested by @pili_ervin
  2. Can you just tell her you feel claustrophobic? I say I can't read or type when someone is close enough to watch me. That always works, and is the truth.
    Suggested by @Boogie
  3. Get in her space and apologize for being in her space because you'd hate to make her feel claustrophobic.
    Suggested by @Boogie
  4. I've learned the most direct way (politely) is the best. Make sure you're not around others. "Are you able to please give me some more space?" *motion with your hands how much you need "I just find you get in too close". How she reacts is her business. Or you can ask (sincerely) why they stand so close.
    Brought to you by someone who has had this situation with a guy.. and also had to ask a colleague to put some deodorant on. Direct, sincere, polite.
    Suggested by @jessicaz
  5. Make a joke about it like "Oops! You're popping my bubble. Would you mind taking a step back?" Or "Simon says take two baby steps backwards." And smile and laugh and then with a sudden straight face say "but seriously."
    Suggested by @julieann718
  6. 30cm is awfully close, at least for here in the States. She probably doesn't realize and would be perfectly fine if you honestly tell her you need a little more space to be comfortable.
    Suggested by @jennifergster
  7. Caution tape.
    Or you know what the others said.
    Suggested by @bsizzle33
  8. Great suggestions above. If you're not comfortable with those can you blame your eye sight? "I'm far sighted and you're very blurry when you stand this close. Can you take a few steps back?"
    Suggested by @mallofamanda
  9. Play "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police. It's fullproof! 🎶🎤😃
    Suggested by @BrentMWiggins
  10. Pull out your phone and start playing "Don't Stand So Close to Me" while you look them in the eyes.
    Suggested by @sarahmccoy