If someone displays these 10 subtle body language cues, they’re secretly intimidated by you

You may not think of yourself as intimidating.

In fact, you think of yourself as the opposite of intimidating – you’re an open, kind, and friendly person that everyone should feel comfortable around.

But here’s the thing – what some people find intimidating others do not – and vice versa.

Intimidation is subjective and can be influenced by various factors.

So, while your intentions may be genuinely warm and welcoming, individual experiences, cultural differences, and personal insecurities can contribute to how others perceive you.

That’s why being aware of the subtle body language cues associated with intimidation can be a valuable tool in navigating social interactions with sensitivity and understanding.

Here are 10 subtle body language cues that reveal someone is intimidated by you:

1) They avoid eye contact

The thing about eye contact is that it can be super intense.

Depending on the context, gazing into someone’s eyes or avoiding them altogether could mean several very different things.

For example, if you’re completely head over heels in love with someone, you may not be able to look away.

But here’s a different situation – say you want to sell your company and you’ve decided on a price but the buyer is trying to lower it. During these intense negotiations, you would keep eye contact to show that you’re standing your ground.

And when people avoid eye contact, it could be because they’re hiding something. They think if they look you in the eyes for too long you’ll be able to see right through them.

Or, maybe they’re shy or they find you intimidating.

You could be their boss or someone else in a position of power and they’ll avert their eyes when you make eye contact because it makes them feel vulnerable.

See how powerful something as simple as eye contact is?

2) Their body language is closed

Just like with eye contact, there are other ways that body language can reveal how someone feels about you.

When someone feels intimidated, they may experience fear, anxiety, insecurity, stress, powerlessness, and self-consciousness.

And the result?

Closed-off body language.

Arms and legs crossed, shoulders hunched, and head pointing down, all this signaling a subconscious attempt to protect themselves from a perceived threat – you.

They may even create a physical barrier by placing various objects between you – like putting a rucksack or laptop on the table between you.

3) They agree with everything you say

Have you noticed that a certain someone agrees with every single thing you say – even when you’re not sure that it makes much sense or other people openly disagree?

Sounds like another subtle body language cue that they’re intimidated by you. It makes sense if you think about it.

This person either wants to gain your approval, avoid confrontation, or both.

They’re scared that if they disagree with your point of view they might get in trouble. Or, at the very least, you’ll think less of them.

4) They hardly ever speak out

Carrying on from the previous point, when people feel intimidated, not only do they agree with the person who intimidates them, but they usually have difficulty expressing their opinions.

You see, intimidation makes people hesitant when it comes to expressing personal opinions or preferences. It’s just so much safer to be quiet and keep to oneself.

For example, say there was a big brainstorming session at work and everyone was invited to pitch their ideas on how to deal with a certain problem.

Even if the intimidated person had a great idea that was sure to solve the problem most quickly and efficiently, nobody would ever know it. Why?

Because they’d be too scared to share their idea in case it wasn’t as smart as they thought. So, they’d let someone else’s less good solution be used.

In short – if you notice that someone keeps to themselves and that you don’t remember them ever expressing their opinion, chances are it’s because they feel intimidated.

pic2149 If someone displays these 10 subtle body language cues, they're secretly intimidated by you

5) They speak at a low volume

While this may not be the case with everyone who feels intimidated, you’ll find that certain people will unintentionally lower their vocal volume.

The reason?

An attempt to draw less attention to themselves and avoid confrontation or scrutiny.

More often than not, this will have the opposite effect and leave people wondering, “Wait, what did they say? Why are they whispering?”

6) They fidget like bored kids in class

They’re nervous and that kind of energy often manifests in fidgety behavior.

Pay close attention to how someone acts:

If they’re constantly adjusting their clothing, playing with their hair, moving around in their chair as if it was on fire, or stirring their coffee for the hundredth time, it’s a clear sign of discomfort.

Clearly, they’re intimidated by your presence for some reason (Yes, yes, I know! You’re a lovely person and yet that’s the way they feel).

7) They mirror your behavior

Why would they do that? Are they making fun of you? No!

It turns out that when some people are nervous, they’ll unconsciously mirror your movements.

For example, if you cross your legs, they’ll cross their legs. You sip your drink, they’ll sip theirs. You laugh a certain way, they’ll mimic your laughter!

They’re doing none of this on purpose, what’s happening is that they’re subconsciously trying to establish a positive rapport with you.

I’m no anthropologist or psychologist but if I had to guess, I’d say this kind of behavior dates back to prehistoric man and that mimicking was a way of saying, “I’m a friend, I pose no threat to you!”

8) They’re always “sorry”

If you often find yourself wondering why someone keeps apologizing to you for the smallest and silliest of things, you could be onto another subtle body language cue.

Now, I’m not sure about the dynamics of your relationships, but for whatever reason, they find you intimidating.

When people who are intimidated engage in excessive apologizing, it’s a kind of coping mechanism that helps manage their feelings of discomfort and anxiety.

Here are some reasons they apologize:

  • They don’t want any kind of conflict
  • They don’t want to offend you
  • They want you to like them and are desperate for your approval.
  • They’re seeking reassurance from you. They acknowledge a fault and hope you will respond with positive feedback.

9) They laugh nervously in your presence

Did you know that laughter isn’t just an expression of joy?

It can also be the result of anxiety and stress. Certain people, when intimidated, will start to laugh nervously.

You might have seen a caricature of this in a movie or cartoon when someone who is in the presence of a “scary guy” laughs nervously.

All in all, laughter is often a sign of discomfort and a coping mechanism.

But how can you tell?

Because the laughter will be out of place and happen for no apparent reason.

10) Difficulty making decisions

Finally, feeling intimidated can turn decision-making into quite a challenge.

Scared of making a mistake, the intimidated person will rely on others for guidance.

Looking for reassurance and security, the intimidated person will look to those they see as more authoritative to make the decisions – i.e. you.

And while you may find it annoying to always be the one who makes the decisions, it’s clear that they lack confidence and struggle to make decisions independently.

So if you find yourself in the company of someone who always says, “I don’t know, what do you think we should do” I’d say it’s another surefire sign that you intimidate them.

Anything you can do to put them at ease?

As cool and approachable as you may be, here are some tips you can try to put people at ease.

  1. Smile: I know that it sounds simple but a genuine smile can go a long way in making others feel at ease. A smile signals friendliness and warmth, helping to break down barriers.
  2. Be mindful of your tone of voice and speaking volume. Speak in a calm and friendly manner. Don’t use aggressive or dominating language. Remember to actively listen to what they have to say.
  3. Find common ground: Look for shared interests or experiences that you can talk about. This will help create a connection and make the interaction more relatable and comfortable for the other person.
  4. Show vulnerability: When dealing with someone who is vulnerable and intimidated by you, sharing something about your challenges, mistakes, or fears can make all the difference. It will help humanize you and make you more relatable, reducing the intimidation factor.
  5. Be patient: Give them time to get to know you and become more comfortable in your presence. Don’t rush the process; be patient as they adjust.
  6. Encourage them to share more about themselves by asking open-ended questions. This shows your interest in them and allows for a more relaxed and natural conversation.
  7. Be mindful of personal boundaries and respect personal space! Give them enough space to feel comfortable and avoid coming across as intrusive.
  8. Show understanding and empathy toward their feelings. Let them know that you value their perspective and are open to working together in a positive and collaborative manner.
Picture of Jelena Dincic

Jelena Dincic

Jelena has a background in photography and film-making and has spent the last few years as a content editor and copywriter. Jelena is a citizen of the world who is passionate about travel and learning about new cultures. She’s a foodie who loves to cook. And, as an art lover, she is always experimenting with new art mediums. When she’s not at her computer, she’s usually out and about in some forest with her dogs.

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