keep one at a distance

[keep one at a distance] or [keep one at arm's length] {v. phr.} Toavoid (someone's) company; not become too friendly toward.

Mr.Smith is kind to the workers in his store but after work he keeps themat a distance.

Betty likes Bill and is trying to be friendly, buthe keeps her at arm's length.

Compare: KEEP ONE'S DISTANCE, HOLDOFF(1a).