You probably don’t think of yourself as having a personality that intimidates people. But there are certain circumstances in life where you may notice someone starts to act a little strangely around you, almost as though they feel threatened.
How a woman responds to intimidation not only depends on the context, but also on the woman herself.
When another woman is intimidated by you she may either put you on a pedestal and show signs of nervousness, or become more aggressive towards you, taking the line that attack is the best form of defense.
If you have a sneaky suspicion that someone you know is feeling intimidated by you, here are the clear signs to watch out for.
How do you tell if a woman is intimidated by you?
1) She avoids looking at you
When someone is feeling intimidated, often the first clues we get are in their body language.
A lack of eye contact says a lot. In fact, you can often tell in their eyes alone when someone is intimidated.
She may find it very difficult to make direct eye contact with you. Instead, her eyes may naturally find the floor or shift from objects around the room nervously. Either way, she will most likely avoid having to look at you face to face.
It’s a very primal instinct as in the animal kingdom, direct eye contact can be an aggressive or threatening act, which symbolises social dominance.
For example, dogs perceive direct eye contact as a sign of challenge, and similar behavior has also been observed in bears and primates. In this way, diverting your gaze becomes an act of submission to someone.
Looking away also contributes to a sense of psychological distance. If you intimate a woman she may avoid eye contact to feel shielded against the intensity of the situation.
2) She’s quiet around you
Does this woman seem to be tongue-tied whenever you are around? Another strong sign of intimidation is being quieter than normal.
That may mean speaking less altogether. One girl confessed in a Reddit discussion that being lost for words is how her intimidation usually manifests itself:
“Unfortunately I’m intimidated by women who are prettier than me. And no, I’m not catty or gossipy about them or anything like that. My fear usually manifests as being unable to speak or get comfortable around them.”
It can also mean that someone becomes audibly quieter rather than speaking loudly around you. Voices change when you talk to somebody intimidating.
That’s why even the pitch of the voice can give clues to how someone is feeling — with more high-pitched tones associated with nervousness, fear, and intimidation.
One study found that men and women tend to speak with higher-pitched voices to interviewers they think are high in social status. Apparently, using a higher-pitched voice could signal that you’re not a threat.
3) She doesn’t ask you questions
Asking people questions when we are engaged in conversation is one of those social skills that we’ve all learned.
It indicates to the other person that we are interested in them and making an effort to find out more about them. It’s essentially a way of keeping a discussion going. If nobody asks any questions, the chat will die out pretty quickly.
Of course, self-absorbed people also might not ask questions, but it can also be a sign of intimidation too.
If someone feels unsure or nervous speaking to you, then chances are they are actively trying to avoid prolonging the conversation longer than it needs to be.
In short: if you scare them, they want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, and not asking questions is a way to help that happen.
4) She nervously fidgets
You’ll notice that as well as emotional cues, many of the signs of intimidation on this list are physical cues.
Our body language is often far more revealing about our subconscious feelings within a situation than anything in particular that we say.
Anxious fidgeting is a habit that many people engage in without even realizing to get rid of a build-up in nervous energy.
According to BBC Science Focus Magazine, “fidgeting occurs because the body has elevated levels of stress hormones, which are prepping your muscles for sudden exertion. If you don’t have any tigers to run away from at that moment, all that energy has nowhere to go and jiggling your leg or biting your nails is a way to partially relieve that.”
If she fidgets, seems a little flighty or jumpy, it is a signal that her body is having trouble relaxing around you. This is probably directly because her mind is not at ease around you.
5) She keeps her physical distance
As a general rule, the closer we allow someone into our personal space, the more comfortable we are around them.
Personal space is the area surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs. Most people value personal space and feel discomfort if it is “invaded”.
Unless we feel an intimate bond with another, we don’t like that line to be crossed. The brain uses personal space as a way to protect us.
According to National Geographic:
“We have this “second skin” hardwired into our DNA. The brain computes a buffer zone around the body, which is very flexible. It changes in size, depending on context, computed in a manner that’s largely unconscious. We can’t help it. It’s part of the scaffold of how we interact socially, on which all of our social interactions are built.
“It has a huge impact on the way we react to each other, understand each other, and feel about each other.”
That’s why the more she hangs back and avoids getting into your space, the less at ease she likely is in your company.
She might avoid getting close enough to touch, or you notice that she stands back from you whenever you talk.
6) She holds back or acts passively around you
You just get the impression she isn’t being her authentic self around you.
That may mean she acts very timidly, and is never forthcoming in a conversation. She doesn’t seem to be honest with you about certain things. She may avoid giving any constructive feedback, particularly within a work context.
If you seemingly hold some sort of position of power over her and she feels intimidated she may become overly agreeable.
Rather than speaking her mind or offering her own perspective, thoughts, and ideas on a matter, she is more likely to be a “yes woman” and just goes along with whatever you say.
A refusal to give feedback or criticize someone else can be a sign of their intimidation. For example, they may be scared about your reaction.
It can be helpful to ask yourself if there is any justification for another’s apprehension to do so. Could your own body language, demeanor, or the way you speak be coming across negatively?
7) She’s paranoid about what you think
When we’re at ease with someone, we tend not to be looking for the worst.
So if she seems to overly read into everything you say (no matter how innocently it was meant) or thinks you are out to get her somehow, it’s one of those signs someone is threatened by you.
When we fear we may be under attack, it’s natural to become more observant. But her heightened sense of guard around you may have led to paranoid beliefs that you don’t have her best interests at heart.
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8) She angles her body away from you
Turning away from someone physically is our way of shielding. The threat in this instance is not a physical one, but instead an emotional one.
It is an indication that interpersonal contact feels unsafe and is unwanted. Angling away from you in conversation or perhaps when standing together in a group is a signal that she is made uncomfortable by your presence.
Turning the body away is like creating a literal escape route. This sign of closed-off body language is detached or disengagement, as highlighted by Forbes:
“When people are engaged, they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their torso. However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they will turn away – giving you “the cold shoulder.” And if your colleague is feeling defensive, you may see an attempt to shield the torso with a purse, briefcase, laptop, etc.”
9) She has decided she doesn’t like you, without even getting to know you.
We all are guilty of making snap decisions on someone without having enough information. But when someone takes an instant dislike to you, it can often be more about them than it is about you.
The assumptions we make about others usually reflect more on something within ourselves than within others.
Whilst it’s reasonable for someone not to particularly take a shine to you if the first time you meet them you are obnoxious, rude, or do something to offend, it’s more suspicious if their seeming dislike of you has little basis.
It could be that certain traits and qualities you have make them feel insecure about themselves. Without the self-awareness to reflect upon what is motivating their emotions, she may mistake that discomfort within herself as a dislike for you.
10) She seems to avoid you or try to exclude you
What’s the easiest way to avoid feeling intimidated by someone who is threatening to us? It’s probably to try to avoid being around them as much as humanly possible.
Ok, that might not be the most mature or healthy way of dealing with the discomfort of intimidation, but there’s no denying it is the simplest solution.
Perhaps she does a disappearing act whenever you are around or comes up with excuses to leave the conversation or situation.
She may even purposely exclude you. When it seems like everyone else you know is on the invite list but you, that emittance may be a conscious one.
Perhaps ignoring you is more subtle than that. Maybe it feels like when other people talk she reacts positively but when you speak she seems to ignore you.
Of course, this can also be a sign that someone doesn’t like you, and not that you intimidate them. But if you’re also picking up on other cues from the list, she may just be giving you the cold shoulder because she is uncomfortable around you.
11) It seems like she’s judging or assessing you
Whenever a woman looks another woman up and down, she is silently assessing her.
Checking someone out is natural, and we all do it, some are just more obvious about it than others.
There are also different ways of doing this, and it’s certainly not always negative. However, we can usually sense when it’s being done in a judgemental rather than curious way.
Have you ever gotten the impression that the cogs are turning in someone’s head whilst you are speaking? That they are spending most of their time and energy on sussing you out rather than listening to what it is you are saying?
If she feels threatened by you, she may be trying to figure out where she stands, whether she can trust you, and how she feels about you.
12) She constantly tries to find fault with you
As I said in the introduction to this article, everyone responds differently when they are feeling threatened by someone else.
How we behave when we feel physically threatened is also often very different from how we may behave when feeling emotionally threatened.
Some women when they’re intimidated, rather than withdraw within themself may try to find subtle ways of reassuring themselves.
For example, if a girl is intimidated by your looks she may seek to offer herself validation by trying to find flaws in you.
Similarly, how do you know if a girl is jealous of your relationship? She may be dismissive of its merit, or passively aggressively nitpick about your relationship or your partner.
As well as being overly critical of you, she may find it difficult to acknowledge something and give you credit — even if it’s clear you have done well or are in the right.
She may make cutting “jokes” that are a little too close to the bone. When it comes to the mean girl, it’s the age-old story of tearing others down so that we can feel better about ourselves.
13) She brags around you
Bragging usually comes down to some form of insecurity. If someone feels threatened by certain aspects of you, they may seek to compete.
That’s why boasting, as well as a sign of intimidation, is also one of the subtle signs another woman is jealous of you.
Dr. Susan Whitbourne, Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts says insecurity usually plays out in four ways through bragging:
- She tries to make you feel insecure about yourself because she is projecting her own insecurities onto you.
- She tries to showcase her accomplishments to cope with her own feelings of inferiority and convince herself she is worthy.
- She does the “humblebrag” way too often, but these self-deprecatory statements are actually a subtle way to show off.
- She complains about low standards around her with the inference that her standards are much higher than everyone else.
14) She’s defensive
Feeling intimidated by someone else places us on guard. Whenever we are on guard there is a chance that we can become defensive.
Defensive behaviors are common responses when people feel personally attacked, even when that perception exists entirely in their heads rather than in reality.
That may play out in snappy, unreasonable, or unfair behavior towards you. For example, you may find that she becomes suddenly annoyed or angry at you quite randomly.
If you are having a discussion about something and your opinions differ, you may feel as though she is ignoring or deflecting your point of view.
You may find that she uses certain dismissive expressions or phrases in order to shut you down — “what a load of rubbish”, or “you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Getting defensive tends to happen whenever we’re feeling backed into a corner. Her intimidation by you could create this effect.
15) She tries to get one over on you
One-upmanship is another clear sign of someone’s deep-rooted insecurity — an insecurity that may spring from intimidation.
No matter what you do, does she always try to outdo it and go one step further?
As the Stereophonics song goes “If I had myself a flying giraffe. You’d have one in a box with a window”.
Even if she pretends she doesn’t care, the fact that she always tries to outshine you suggests otherwise.
When she feels like she can’t beat you, she may resort to trying to knock you down instead.
Talking about you negatively behind your back or seeking to undermine you in some way reflects that she sees you as a threat. If she cannot outdo you, she will try to diminish you in the eyes of others instead.