Intimidation. It’s a funny concept, isn’t it? When you say someone intimidates you, you’re usually referring to one of two meanings:
- The person was acting in a threatening, aggressive or abusive manner that scared you: ‘He came up to me in an intimidating way and asked me for the money back’
- The person made you feel uncomfortable with their confidence: ‘The way she walked into a room made me feel intimidated’
What’s the difference between these two meanings? Well, in the first understanding of the word, the person is actively and consciously aiming to belittle the other person in some way.
For the purposes of this article, this isn’t what I want to focus on.
The Oxford Dictionary defines intimidation ‘to frighten or overawe’. Frightening someone is of course not how we want to behave, but what’s wrong with awe? And how can you have too much of it?
When used in an informal, social context, the other meaning of intimidation can be in a passive sense-one person wasn’t doing anything in particular, it is perhaps just their confidence and the way they communicate, or what they are communicating about, that could intimidate someone.
‘I was at this networking event and there were a lot of doctors and lawyers, and I felt really intimidated’
What is this person saying here?
They are saying that their confidence made them feel inadequate.
In this context of using the word, I think that is no bad thing. Why?
Because feeling intimidated by people in this way is a choice.
The usual way we react when we feel intimidated is to shrink back — to close down our body language, to blush, or to lower our voice or our head perhaps.
But what if you became conscious of when people provoke those reactions in you, and instead used it as a tool to fuel your own growth?
I’ve recently got back from a two month stint working in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, where I met lots of remote workers and digital nomads. Some of these people were so on top of their game and creating their best life that it intimidated me a little.
However, I loved it. I hadn’t felt intimidated like that for a while, and it made me think about the potential value of what intimidation could do for us if we actually sought it out.
What if you aimed to make friends with people that ‘intimidated’ you?
What if you chose a partner that sometimes ‘intimidated’ you?
I don’t believe ‘over-awe’ is necessarily a bad thing. An unbalanced perception maybe, but at the same time, that feeling is telling you something important. There is something about that person you respect or admire. More often than not, it’s their level of confidence about something in comparison to yours.
This is no bad thing. It’s alerting you into spaces your soul can grow, if you so choose of course.
Think about situations you could put yourself in that might make you intimidated or uncomfortable. Do you get intimidated by beauty, intelligence, wealth, achievement or talent?
How could you decide to use these opportunities differently?
Also, what about people that you might intimidate? For me, once I decided to reframe my perception of intimidation, I decided that if someone is intimidated by me, that shouldn’t mean I should shrink back. No, in fact, quite the opposite- it’s about learning to be comfortable with it.
As humans we naturally don’t want to make others uncomfortable, when the truth is, we all need a little discomfort in order to stretch into the best versions of ourselves.