How To Talk To Someone You Find Intimidating

Whether it’s at work, at a party or on a date, we often find ourselves in conversations that test our confidence. When talking to people we perceive as more intelligent, more powerful, more personable, more talented or more attractive, it’s normal to feel inadequate or intimidated. We worry this more-impressive person will judge us, think less of us or reject us.

There’s no shame in struggling in these social situations, said therapist Melissa Weinberg of Open Lines Counseling in Baltimore.

“We’re social creatures, and naturally we care a lot about what others think of us, especially those we respect, people who have some social standing over us or anyone we’re attracted to,” Weinberg, who specializes in treating anxiety, told HuffPost. “Rather than feel weird about it, beat yourself up or avoid situations, remind yourself of the universality of the experience.”

Below, experts offer tips on how to hold your own with people you find intimidating.

First, change the tone of your inner dialogue.

Self-talk is the way we speak to ourselves. For many of us, it’s that negative inner voice that’s always telling us we’re boring, unlikable, socially awkward and destined to screw up. Positive self-talk may not come naturally to everyone, but it’s something that can be cultivated with practice.

“People may rarely talk to themselves in a positive tone that is reassuring and supportive, yet it is pivotal in setting the mood and tone for your possibly intimidating social interaction,” said Kendra Witherspoon Kelly, a licensed professional counselor at the Resilience Project in Atlanta. “Say things that highlight your positive attributes or even the parts of you that are in progress of becoming better. Shine on yourself some!”



If you have these signs, then you have a strong personality that others may find intimidating! Some people assume that such a label is just a polite way of saying that a person is loud and obnoxious. But there’s a big difference between these and a more general strength of character. Someone with strong personality traits radiates self confidence.

Some examples of positive self-talk might be: “I’m anxious about attending this work event, but I’m proud of myself for getting outside my comfort zone,” “I’ve never had a problem making friends in the past — so why would this be any different?” or “My small-talk skills are still a work in progress, but I ask great questions and I’m a good listener.”

Figure out the gist of what you want to say beforehand.

You won’t always be able to prepare for these conversations, as they sometimes happen on the fly. But when you can, it may help ease your nerves if you think about what you want to say ahead of time. You don’t need to write and memorize a whole script; coming up with a few bullet points should do the trick.

“We’re social creatures, and naturally we care a lot about what others think of us, especially those we respect, people who have some social standing over us or anyone we’re attracted to.”

– Melissa Weinberg, therapist at Open Lines Counseling

“The more ready you are before the interaction, the more confident you’ll be,” counselor Caris Thetford wrote in a post for The Muse. “This may not completely nix your nerves, but that’s OK — a touch of anxiety can help you perform under pressure. The idea is to reduce or prevent crippling fear.”

Remember that this person is human, too.

No matter how much status this other person has, they have physical and emotional needs just like you (and everyone else). To remind yourself of this commonality, try using the phrase “just like me,” said communication coach Jennifer Kammeyer, who teaches leadership communication at San Francisco State University.

“Say to yourself, this person eats breakfast, just like me. This person feels sad, just like me. It helps to shift your perspective of the person from ‘intimidating’ to ‘human,’” she said.

Know what value you add to the conversation.

Pinpoint your strengths: Maybe you’re a great storyteller, a creative problem-solver or have a wealth of knowledge on a particular subject.

“Before you engage, remind yourself why you are there,” Kammeyer said. “Somebody else invited you to the meeting or the social engagement for a reason. Tell yourself why you were invited and how you are adding value.”

“Somebody else invited you to the meeting or the social engagement for a reason. Tell yourself why you were invited and how you are adding value.”

– Jennifer Kammeyer, communication coach

Let that thought empower you to be yourself in the conversation. Sure, you might turn the volume up or down on certain parts of your personality, depending on who you’re talking to and the setting. But whether you’re chatting with the head of your company or an attractive acquaintance at a barbecue, it’s still “you.”

“Communicating as our authentic selves allows us to be free in our conversations,” said Amelia Reigstad, a communication consultant and coach in Minneapolis. “Know yourself, how you react in situations and how you best communicate. To be an authentic communicator, give thought to actively listening, respecting yourself and others, taking responsibility for your own feelings, and know that showing emotions in conversations is OK.”

Be aware of your body language.

During the conversation, try to stay physically grounded in your body, as that can help you feel more mentally steady, too.

“Stand with your feet hip width apart or sit with your knees hip with apart and both feet on the ground,” Kammeyer said. “Don’t cross your legs or your arms. Focus on the feeling of your feet literally grounding you. Focus on your posture being upright with a strong belly and back. Grounding yourself physically helps with confidence.”

Dive into the interaction before you psych yourself out.

“The longer you linger and avoid getting engaged in the conversation, the more stuck in your fears you will remain,” Weinberg said.

Then take a deep breath and tune into the here and now — focus on the sound of the other person’s voice, the color of their eyes or the texture of your clothes. That way, you’ll be more present in the conversation and less preoccupied with how you’re coming across.

“Obviously, this is hard to control, but try to bring yourself to the present moment, notice that your attention is creeping inward to your own fears and discomfort, and remind yourself to listen,” Weinberg said. “Get yourself out of your head and physical sensations by turning your attention to the present, grounding yourself through your senses.”

Embrace the discomfort.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re in an anxiety-inducing social situation is trying to force their way out of those uncomfortable feelings, Weinberg said. But it’s a paradox: The more mental energy you exert trying not to feel anxious or intimidated, the more anxious or intimidated you end up feeling.

“The more you try to get rid of it, the more intense and distracting your anxiety will become,” Weinberg said. “Practicing acceptance and allowing the presence of anxiety is a much more adaptive strategy. Even though it can understandably be uncomfortable to practice, it can teach you that anxiety is tolerable.”

We’ve all been there: Somehow, you’ve found yourself in a conversation with a person you have nothing in common with, someone who intimidates you or someone who won’t stop complaining. These kinds of interactions can be uncomfortable, to say the least. Our HuffPost series How to Talk to Just About Anyone will help you navigate these conversations and others. Go here for all the latest.

Source: How To Talk To Someone You Find Intimidating | HuffPost UK Relationships


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Empathy & Perspective Taking: How Social Skills Are Built

Understanding what other people want, how they feel, and how they see the world is becoming increasingly important in our complex, globalized society. Social skills enable us to make friends and create a network of people who support us. But not everyone finds it easy to interact with other people. One of the main reasons is that two of the most important social skills — empathy, i.e. being able to empathize with the other person’s emotions, and the ability to take a perspective, i.e. being able to gain an information by adopting another person’s point of view — are developed to different degrees.

Researchers have long been trying to find out what helps one to understand others. The more you know about these two social skills, the better you can help people to form social relationships. However, it still not exactly clear what empathy and perspective taking are (the latter is also known as “theory of mind”).

Being able to read a person’s emotions through their eyes, understand a funny story, or interpret the action of another person — in everyday life there are always social situations that require these two important abilities. However, they each require a combination of different individual subordinate skills. If it is necessary to interpret looks and facial expressions in one situation, in another it may be necessary to think along with the cultural background of the narrator or to know his or her current needs.

To date, countless studies have been conducted that examine empathy and perspective taking as a whole. However, it has not yet been clarified what constitutes the core of both competencies and where in the brain their bases lie. Philipp Kanske, former MPI CBS research group leader and currently professor at the TU Dresden, together with Matthias Schurz from the Donders Institute in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and an international team of researchers, have now developed a comprehensive explanatory model.

“Both of these abilities are processed in the brain by a ‘main network’ specialised in empathy or changing perspective, which is activated in every social situation. But, depending on the situation, it also involves additional networks,” Kanske explains, referring to the results of the study, which has just been published in the journal Psychological Bulletin. If we read the thoughts and feelings of others, for example, from their eyes, other additional regions are involved than if we deduce them from their actions or from a narrative. “The brain is thus able to react very flexibly to individual requirements.”

For empathy, a main network that can recognise acutely significant situations, for example, by processing fear, works together with additional specialised regions, for example, for face or speech recognition. When changing perspective, in turn, the regions that are also used for remembering the past or fantasising about the future, i.e., for thoughts that deal with things that cannot be observed at the moment, are active as the core network. Here too, additional brain regions are switched on in each concrete situation.

Through their analyses, the researchers have also found out that particularly complex social problems require a combination of empathy and a change of perspective. People who are particularly competent socially seem to view the other person in both ways — on the basis of feelings and on the basis of thoughts. In their judgement, they then find the right balance between the two.

“Our analysis also shows, however, that a lack of one of the two social skills can also mean that not this skill as a whole is limited. It may be that only a certain factor is affected, such as understanding facial expressions or speech melody,” adds Kanske. A single test is therefore not sufficient to certify a person’s lack of social skills. Rather, there must be a series of tests to actually assess them as having little empathy, or as being unable to take the other person’s point of view.

The scientists have investigated these relationships by means of a large-scale meta-analysis. They identified, on the one hand, commonalities in the MRI pattern of the 188 individual studies examined when the participants used empathy or perspective taking. This allowed the localisation of the core regions in the brain for each of the two social skills. However, results also indicated how the MRI patterns differed depending on the specific task and, therefore, which additional brain regions were used.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Matthias Schurz, Joaquim Radua, Matthias G. Tholen, Lara Maliske, Daniel S. Margulies, Rogier B. Mars, Jerome Sallet, Philipp Kanske. Toward a hierarchical model of social cognition: A neuroimaging meta-analysis and integrative review of empathy and theory of mind.. Psychological Bulletin, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000303

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. “Empathy and perspective taking: How social skills are built.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2020. <>.



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Social Connection Could Protect Against Depression Best


In a new study, researchers have found a set of factors that could help prevent depression in adults. They named social connection as the strongest protective factor for depression and suggested that reducing sedentary activities such as TV watching and daytime napping could also help lower the risk of depression.

The research was conducted by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but until now researchers have focused on only a handful of risk and protective factors, often in just one or two domains.

This study provides the most comprehensive picture to date of modifiable factors that could impact depression risk. To that end, researchers took a two-stage approach.

The first stage drew on a database of over 100,000 participants in the UK Biobank to systematically scan a wide range of modifiable factors that might be linked to the risk of depression, including social interaction, media use, sleep patterns, diet, physical activity, and environmental exposures.

The second stage took the strongest modifiable candidates to examine which factors may have a causal relationship to depression risk.

This two-stage approach allowed the researchers to narrow the field to a smaller set of promising and potentially causal targets for depression.

The team found an important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion.

These factors are more relevant now than ever at a time of social distancing and separation from friends and family.

The protective effects of social connection were present even for individuals who were at higher risk for depression as a result of genetic vulnerability or early life trauma.

On the other hand, factors linked to depression risk included time spent watching TV, though the authors note that additional research is needed to determine if that risk was due to media exposure per se or whether time in front of the TV was a proxy for being sedentary.

Perhaps more surprising, the tendency for daytime napping and regular use of multivitamins appeared to be linked to depression risk, though more research is needed to determine how these might contribute.

The study demonstrates an important new approach for evaluating a wide range of modifiable factors and using this evidence to prioritize targets for preventive interventions for depression.

One author of the study is Karmel Choi, Ph.D., an investigator in the Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

By: Knowridge Science Report


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