While there’s no set criteria for what makes a person intimidating, it’s usually some combination how your interactions have gone with them in the past (if applicable) and your perceptions of that person as being smarter, better organized, more prepared, funnier, more attractive, more charismatic and/or more powerful than you. And once you have it in your head that someone’s intimidating, it can be hard to convince yourself otherwise.
Fortunately, there are ways to make speaking with a person you find intimidating a little easier—something Kelsey Borresen at the Huffington Post covered in a recent article. Here are some expert-backed tips to help you get through the conversation.
If you know ahead of time that you’ll be speaking with someone you find intimidating—like during a meeting or at a particular event—come prepared with at least an idea of what you want to say. No, that doesn’t mean writing out, memorizing and reciting a script—just a few general bullet points will do, Borresen writes.
Remind yourself that this person is also a (flawed) human
Just because you perceive someone to have some advantages over you doesn’t mean that they’re not a complex human being with fears and flaws. “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,’” communication coach Jennifer Kammeyer told the Huffington Post.
Don’t forget about what you bring to the conversation
No matter how intimidated you are by that person, that doesn’t take away your strengths, so lean into those. “Before you engage, remind yourself why you are there,” Kammeyer told the Huffington Post. “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.”
Use your body language to your advantage
This goes beyond not cowering or slouching or making it obvious that you’re intimidated by this person, and actually using your body language as a way to help ground yourself during the conversation. Here are instructions on how to do that, courtesy of Kammeyer:
Stand with your feet hip width apart or sit with your knees hip with apart and both feet on the ground. 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.
Even if you’re not feeling confident, you can at least look the part.