I Didn’t Mean to Intimidate You is No Excuse
Position intimidates. High titles inspire fear. Your right to tell others no creates unease.
Intimidation is easy, even if you don’t mean to.
- Combine silence with frowns.
- Keep people in the dark.
- Stand over and cross your arms.
- Don’t smile. Stare. Never laugh.
- Get angry, hold grudges, and get even.
- Remain distant and aloof.
- Use fear to get what they want.
- Create emotional barriers.
- Focus on what but neglect how.
Leadership by intimidation is quick and easy. Unintentional intimidators, however, get what they want and lose what they need.
A More excellent way:
Lower intimidation – elevate influence.
Leadership by influence, rather than intimidation, is noble but messy.
Influence requires connection.
#1. Embrace your position and power.
Unwillingness to acknowledge the perception of others prevents you from dealing with unintended intimidation. You’ve been told you intimidate people. But, you brushed it off. “No I don’t.”
You may think you’re a pussy cat but you’re not.
#2. Practice vulnerability:
- Shine a light on unintended intimidation. Tell people you’ve heard you’re intimidating. Ask for suggestions on eliminating intimidation.
- Tell stories about your failures and success.
- Explain intentions up front. Let others know what you want early in conversations. Don’t make them wonder.
- Lay out your concerns about projects or people with optimism.
#3. Seek their best interests:
The door of influence opens when others believe you seek their best interests.
#4. Basic Tips:
- Develop comfort with yourself. Your discomfort with you makes others uncomfortable.
- Interact while walking, driving, or eating.
- Smile more.
- Sit at the side of the conference table rather than the head or foot.
- Relax. Intensity combined with position intimidates.
Unintended intimidation always exists if you have position or power. Diligently work to eliminate intimidation. “I don’t mean to,” is no excuse for unintended manipulation.
More: “The Pussy Cat Problem”
How can leaders overcome unintended intimidation?
Holding grudges and unwillingness to acknowledge others perception are perhaps the biggest intimidation. It is natural for people to hold grudge about others when they do not like, question,or do not accept the ideas or opinion. People have their rights to express their opinion but one should listen to others. When we tend to hear what we like, we tend to develop shield that does not allow what we dislike. And realizing this habit is one thing and working to overcome such shield is another but often more difficult. When people work to overcome such behavior, they start creating platform to connect with people. And people start believing in person.
Leaders can overcome unintended intimidation by questioning their intention. I agree that it may not be intentional but answer lies there. Many times, we believe that we are right but others feel opposite. So, leaders should try to appear right. I think this is perceptual gap and need is to bridge the others perception by positive action.
Let us not forget the intimidating leader who says, “You’re too sensitive” as a was of justifying intimidation.
Well for me spiritual beings having a human experience suffer from a spiritual malady.
Not knowing who they are they decrease or inflate their idea of themselves to compensate for their fear generated by their lack of understanding.
So first and last people have a choice, to get their own houses in order or not.
Now you can go religious, yep like Cardinal Bling and his 42 million dollar home improvement project. Or the Elevation Dude explaining to his flock why he us building such a huge home in Charlotte. Makes me want to hurl.
Are these examples of humility or spiritual pride and ignorance?
Never see the Spiritual dudes living in mansions puffing up their own ego really only showing they are totally off. Never see the Spiritual Dudes doing such stupid stuff!!
Jesus, Ghandi, ect ect ect. Do you?
I feel following a fella or gal who has a true insight into the human condition makes sense. Everything else is an extension of where we start, is it not?
If you are following a person who does not understand our decision making starts with why…..RUN!!!! All one has to do is google it and see folks have figured this stuff out. Then use it to your advantage living with Gods other kids. The research has already been done, biological fact, not theory.
It is like following a person right now who says the sun revolves around the earth. It was cool till it was proven otherwise. You wanna follow a person who states that arrogantly with no interest in finding out if they are right? It is one thing to not know.
It is quite another to be mistaken with no interest in investigating thoroughly the accuracy of ones beliefs. Isn’t it?
So if you are following a person not wiling to investigate what they think in one area you can be assured they are close minded in other areas. RUN!
That who you really want to follow?
I suggest……RUN, RUN as fast as you can and find an honest, open and willing person.
SP back to now
It’s interesting how titles can intimidate. It’s also interesting how some people change when they get promoted to a new “title” – almost as intimidating.
I contend that we are people first and foremost while the title helps to clarify where the greater accountabilities lie. I love it when I walk into a facility where the team is a seamless blend of leadership at all levels.
If people fear the people they are working for, their intentions for doing a good job are more for self preservation than delivering excellence to their customers.
Regular interactions with the team certainly will help leaders know their teams and in turn the teams get to know them. Among the points mentioned, I think the key to reducing intimidation is developing / having a strong relationship with your team.
Great post as always Dan.
Intimidation is a tricky one! Most of the time, I do not want to be consciously intimidating. If I am not trying to be intimidating, then I think that the person who feels intimidated should ask themselves what is going on w/ them.
Boy, do I hate to confess this, but the truth of the matter is sometimes, if I am honest, I consciously or subconsciously try to be intimidating. You say, Why in the world would you do that?? Well, I think that it is because I am insecure on some level & I think that I can cover that by being intimidating.
Truthfully, I am not sure about all this stuff. It is difficult to figure it all out when you are the “principal player.”
For the most part, I do not find intimidation to be attractive whether it is occasionally in me or someone else. Intimidating things that I would like to see deleted: staring, arms folded, frowning instead of speaking, rolling one’s eyes, speaking in a disrespectful tone, getting in somebody’s face, etc.
Now just in case you are reading this, I would request a favor from Leadership Freak. Occasionally, I like to share your Leadership Freak w/ other leaders that I know. However, Yahoo scrambles the text so badly that I will not send it. If you don’t mind, if you would begin to send Leadership Freak to email@example.com I would appreciate it.Then, I will be able to selectively pass some along. Gmail does not seem to scramble the text.
Thank you so much!
Just a question – this is also coming from a similar experience of mine.
What happens if some of your team says that you are intimidating to them but you only hear it from someone else. And the people that say you are intimidating never show any sign of uneasiness when interacting with you either or makes any comment on it.
On the other hand – most of my team thinks I’m optimistic, too friendly and too nice, and tells me that regularly.
So I must confess I am confused by how the majority thinks I’m not “intimidating” or stern enough but on the other hand, some say they feel bullied instead .. should I take a similar approach at reducing potential intimidation or just change my interaction styles when dealing with each team member separately based on their personalities? Or am I simply reading too much into a potentially isolated example?
Great question. I think I’d focus on specif behaviors rather than trying to conform to everyone’s opinion.
When someone says, “You’re too friendly,” ask them to give you an example. What are you doing that’s too friendly? Ask them to suggest alternative behaviors that express the message you’re trying to give others.
The ultimate goal isn’t pleasing everyone else. The ultimate goal is being sure your exterior behaviors align with your authentic self.
I’ve been told that I intimidate people. I don’t want to so I’m asking what behaviors are intimidating and what behaviors alleviate the issue.
I like simple things so I narrow it down to one thing I should do more of and one thing I should stop.
We shouldn’t forget that feeling intimidated can be about them.
Hope that’s useful
Great points! I often struggle so much with anxiety that I pull away from others. My mother has told me multiple times growing up that this scares people away. Becoming more confident (without being arrogant or close-minded) helps people to be less intimidating.
Dan this is, unfortunately, on point with a meeting we had last week with a senior leadership team. The company is undergoing major changes and in the process our team began working with the direct reports of the senior team and the two project sponsors who are members of the senior team. Over time the more junior team (the entire team) came to us with a collection of concerns they had with their leadership. These do not constitute crazy non-business like concerns: need a clear vision, project prioritization, enhanced more clear communication, etc. We requested a meeting with the senior team so we could facilitate a process between the two teams that we hoped would bring forth clear understanding.
From the moment we walked in the room we got the look of death from two of the senior team members. My interpretation is that they were saying “why are you bothering important people like us with these trivial concerns?” In retrospect, I should have stopped the discussion and just simply stated what I was observing instead of trying to garner their attention. Later that day our contact on the senior team pinged us to say the meeting went very poorly. That was Thursday and we still have not heard back from him.
Nonetheless, the meeting between the senior team and their directs will occur and I am quite anxious about making sure the lower level team does not get slaughtered given our experience. Now I know why those folks did not want to just talk directly to their bosses who, as you aptly say, believe they have the right to intimidate those below them, don’t know they are and don’t understand the consequences.
7 0f 15 directors have left the organization in the last 3 years and the project is now “red” in many areas. How do you get some people who think they rule the kingdom to look in the mirror?
Unintended intimidation will always be a thorn until leaders really make an attempt to understand their people and the efforts their people are making to produce excellent results. There are many ways to skin a cat. As a leader, it does not have to be your way. A leader must have confidence in their people and show them your confidence by allowing them to grow and even fail without the “I told you so.” This will help to break down the intimidation.
I like this alot! This is something everyone should read! I fall into the Intimidation is easy, even if you don’t mean to category. Im not a mean person but i guess you can say I look mean. I don’t mean to be intimidating, but i just have a hard exterior but a pretty cool guy.
Intimidation is the worst way to get the best out of people
A wise person helped me see I could be intimidating. I’m a public figure… and large (6’4″). My size alone can be intimidating. I have a colleague that is 6’11” and he really experiences it. I don’t have the luxury of a neutral expression. We try to disarm with smiles and pleasant expressions. Just a thought from another angle to this conversation.