Being intimidating isn't all bad. Often, your personality can be misconstrued through other people's judgements and preconceived notions. Still, there may be certain situations where you want to be more in control of how you're perceived. So if you're wondering whether you're
coming off as intimidating, then it may be time to break down how your behaviors look through other people's eyes.
Whether or not you're seen as intimidating can vary, while some people may be
seen as intimidating regardless of where they are or who they're around. Coming across as intimidating can largely be connected to what kind of communication feels most natural to you. "Individuals who are extroverts, who [have] Attention Deficit Disorder, who have grown up in very verbal families, who work in environments where verbal intimidation is commonplace, all [can] develop styles of communication that can be seen by others as intimidating," Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. Everyone has a different level of self-awareness, and sometimes it takes a bit more digging to see whether you're really making other people feel safe around you. Sometimes, the signs aren't quite as obvious as you'd think.
Here are eight unexpected signs you may be giving off intimidating energy, and what to do about it, according to experts.
People Back Away From You
Body language says a lot in conversation, whether it's just you and a friend talking, or if you're interacting with a whole group. Even someone subtly inching away, or turning their body away from you, could be a sign of this.
"[If you're giving off intimidating energy,] people physically back away as you are talking," Dr. Klapow says. "They take a step back; they end conversations and look to leave the room." If you notice people doing this around you, it could be because they feel you're encroaching on their space. Standing a bit farther back, and speaking at a lower volume, may help prevent this.
People Are Quiet Around You
When people don't feel quite comfortable with the energy of those around them, they tend to get quiet.
"[You may be giving off intimidating energy if] people are very quiet and don’t interact with you," Dr. Klapow says. "You may be positive, passionate, and engaged, and yet no one seems to reciprocate." While your energy is well-received around loved-ones, you may want to adjust to match the tone of those around you more when you're in new settings.
You Cut People Off In Conversation
nervous habit of cutting people off mid-sentence is relatively common, but it could come across as intimidating
"[You may be perceived as intimidating if] you find yourself chomping at the bit to say something," Dr. Klapow says. If you're so nervous that you can't wait to let others finish speaking, it may be worthwhile to find new ways to
practice mindfulness, or even find a therapist who can help you with possible social anxiety.
People Sometimes Avoid You
Being avoided can be an incredibly lonely and upsetting feeling. And it often leads to more questions than answers. If there's a pattern of people avoiding you, however, it's possible this could be due to your intimidating energy.
"[If you come across as intimidating,] people begin to avoid you," Dr. Klapow says. "[...] They do what they can to make sure you are not in a position to interact with them." Talking to the people closest to you about what kind of impression you give off may help you adjust to different social situations if you want, or need, to.
You Consider Yourself Assertive
One of the main differences that can cause you to come across as intimidating is being an extrovert surrounded by introverts. If you're especially assertive, too, you may find this gap to be even more noticeable.
"People will often perceive you as intimidating when you're extremely assertive," psychotherapist and relationship coach
Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA, tells Bustle. "When you're quick to speak your mind, and expect the same from others, your personality can come off as aggressive by people." While this definitely isn't a bad thing, taking time to assess whether the people around you are particularly quiet or sensitive may help you avoid this misunderstanding.
People Avoid Eye Contact With You
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Eye contact is one of the most helpful clues you have when trying to understand how others perceive you. And if you notice that people tend to avoid looking you in the eyes, they might feel intimidated.
"People find it difficult to sustain eye contact with someone they fear," Mendoza says. If you want to make people feel more comfortable, you may decide to be a bit more quiet, or even passive, for a bit — until people get to know you better.
You Don't Show Many Facial Expressions
Not everyone is expressive. But if you're frequently much less expressive than others — keeping a blank face for long periods of time — this may be misinterpreted by others.
"Lack of facial expression [...] can easily be seen as intimidating," licensed marriage and family therapist
Rev. Connie L. Habash, tells Bustle. "Someone who is always serious can make others feel like they can’t relax and just be themselves." Finding ways to relax and express emotion around others can help you avoid being seen as intimidating.
You Treat Conversations Like Debates
Not everyone approaches disagreement the same way. But if you tend to enjoy disagreements and proving yourself right, you may be alienating some people.
"People can feel intimidated by someone who comes across too strongly with their opinions or knowledge," Rev. Habash says. "Intimidating people sometimes treat conversations like debates." Remembering that conversations aren't always about evidence and getting the upper hand may help you prevent a tendency to get carried away in the moment, and from being misconstrued.
When adjusting your behavior so as not to intimidate people, it's important to account for your motivations. "Sometimes being independent, having a strong mindset and personality can come off as rude and intimidating, rubbing people the wrong way," Mendoza says. This doesn't always mean that you should have to edit yourself. But if you find yourself in a position where you'd rather not be perceived as intimidating, there are small actions you can take to make people more comfortable.