Intimidating people; the ones who make us afraid to speak. They adjust our behaviour, make us hold back and hibernate like timid hedgehogs in winter. Perhaps your boss, colleague or a complete stranger. What makes a person intimidating and how can we respond?
Some people enjoy making others feel less than. Maybe they talk down and use belittling language, perhaps they verbally judge and mock. Mostly however, it’s us ourselves who create the fear. As Dr. Mike Bechtle website suggests, when we view someone as “better than us”, we begin to worry about embarrassment and how we’ll compare. We’re intimated because we don’t feel we are equal. That instability makes us panic and infuse self-doubt.
Standing next to a person you consider stunning; speaking to a highly intellectual person – conversing with a louder personality. Intimidating people make our insecurities stand like shivering arm hair. In some cases, our partners unintentionally cause a passive response. Psych Central spoke to a psychologist Julie de Azevedo Hanks who says people struggling to show assertiveness may fear social exclusion, “shame” and “being challenged”. With loved ones, it’s sometimes more difficult because we additionally fear losing them.
Intelligence is my insecurity. Although I read and educate myself vigorously and work hard to build my career beside intellectual clients, my high school doubt convinces me I’m dumb. In the presence of medical students, financial experts and science fanatics, I crumble trying to prove myself. When researching What Defines Smart, I discovered puzzling evidence over the definition, yet I follow my presumptuous stereotypes.
When you’re an introvert
I grew up in the shadow of my extrovert sister. She established conversation with distant relatives, she found effective ways to communicate while I smiled and nodded. Finding my voice against hers challenged me to confront my issues. Throughout school, I remained “quiet” and “shy”. Confident, assertive people frightened me. This due to experiences of interrogation and judgement. I remember a popular girl asking me (aggressively in a patronising tone) “why don’t I ever speak”. And I froze, not sure how to respond.
Finding out why a person intimidates is the first step according to The Muse. They recommend trying to find a pattern and recognise the link between that and your insecurities. They further state to humanise intimidating people by recognising “similarities” instead of noticing differences. It helps to analyse their actions and ask whether their way of avoiding self-doubt is to dominate and speak up.
When we understand our feelings, it’s easier to work on challenging them. The more confident, stronger and happier we feel within ourselves, the less we’ll project on others. It’s like jealousy – when you see someone with something you want, you can’t help but feel a sense of anger. By accepting ourselves, we accept the great qualities we notice around us.
Tips to handle intimidating people
I use to work with a girl who repetitively gave me orders when we were valued at equal positions. She criticised my choices and diminished my thoughts by always managing to one-up my memories. On the other hand, when I have worked next to people who were quieter and less confident than me, I happily shined as the dominant figure. I admit – me leading and possessing authority gave me a sense of power and comfort, knowing I wasn’t the one who felt tested. So, in acknowledging how to respond to intimidating people, I think we also have to confront whether we intimidate. Learning not to abruptly jump to conclusions, actively listening and respecting opinion makes a huge difference.
Publication INC shares 7 steps for dealing with highly intimidating people. Their list includes planning the key points you want to address, adapting your body language and practicing speech beforehand as tips to prepare you. Additionally, they mention to “Talk firmly from the heart”. Try to avoid starting sentences such as:
“I’m not sure but…”
“This may sound silly but”
“I’m not an expert… I guess”
Beginning in an unsure negative tone places you away from power. How do you respond to intimidating people? What makes you feel inferior to someone?