There are numerous psychological tricks for dealing with intimidating people and I’m going to outline the most important ones below. Some people tend to have natural abilities when it comes to dealing with others, they tend to be able to read other people quite well and can read between the lines. The more emotional intelligence one has the easier it is to deal with intimidation from others.
The reason for intimidating behaviour
As a general rule, I have often found that the people I encounter who are aggressive, judgemental, miserable, rude or just plain horrid usually have a reason for being the way they are. As a Psychologist, I find it easy to look beyond the behaviour to the underlying reasons. I very rarely take people at face value. Having said that, understanding the reasons doesn’t automatically make me like someone!
It does offer me more tolerance though. When we come across an angry and unhappy person, many of us take this behaviour personally. We tend to respond with anger. I remember when I worked at Broadmoor Hospital, we would have supervision to help us cope with the various personalities we had to deal with. The person who had come to talk to us explained that the aggressive and intimidating behaviour that we received most days from those held in Broadmoor was more about them than it was about us. She went on to explain that these negative behaviours were projections of inner misery and chaos. Ever since then, when I meet someone who spews out anger and negativity, it offers me a glimpse of how awful their internal experience of the world is. A person who is content and has peace of mind is very unlikely to project anger and bitterness on a regular basis.
The vulnerable inner child
We’ve all been in the company of someone who makes us feel on edge, uneasy or unsure of ourselves. There is a very clever way to deal with this situation. Every single one of us was a child once, fairly powerless and open to the rules, restrictions and attitudes of the ‘powerful’ adults around us. Adults can often seem like intimidating people when we are young and have to go along with what they say.
If you can tap into this energy/mindset, it might just give you the edge when dealing with intimidating people. Imagine yourself talking to the little child inside the intimidating person. Be careful with this though – I don’t mean you should put on a condescending voice and offer them a sweet!
What this technique does, is allow you to ‘frame’ the other person in a different light. It helps you to see them as a person, who was once small and powerless just like you. It resets the psychological parameters. We often get caught up in the hype surrounding a person – they’re the CEO of a huge corporation, they’re a celebrity..whatever it is, it can lead us to thoughts that don’t assist us. We automatically put ourselves on the bottom end of the seesaw. Remember – you can choose what to think about any situation.
You can choose to believe that someone is scary, or better than you or unmanageable and feel the accompanying negative emotions (working for you?? didn’t think so…) or you can choose to see the inner child in someone and experience the emotions associated with that thought. Believe it or not, we all feel like children inside, no matter what age we are. We can all be regressed to feeling like that little kid again depending on how someone behaves with us. Have you ever been around your parents or an adult that knew you as a child and suddenly realised that you have changed your behaviour? Perhaps you have gone back into ‘kid mode’? Acting sheepish and childlike amongst adults from our childhood is quite common.
In order to appeal to the child in another adult, it is important to act like an adult dealing with a difficult child. Stick to the facts and take the dignified path always. Look at the other person as someone to figure out and understand rather than someone to challenge. Ask questions such as “and how is that going to work?”.. “Why? What? Who? When?”…. Intimidating people are often all bravado and have very little to back it up with. They are used to others being intimidated and accepting their behaviour. When you approach them with curiosity it takes them by surprise and they often begin to unravel when they are asked to explain themselves in more detail. Never be confrontational or belittling with intimidating people. The aim is to diffuse, not to cause more damage.
Ironically, many intimidating people have learned this behaviour due to feeling powerless and unheard as children. This is a generalisation but I have come across many clients who seem intensely gruff on the outside but once you get to know them, you realise it’s all a ‘front’. They have, more often than not, adapted this behaviour to cover up their own insecurities.
See intimidating people as telling you something non verbally – intimidating behaviour isn’t normal when someone isn’t being threatened or is not in fear. They are giving you behavioural cues that you can use to your advantage.
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