I went with some friends to watch Basketball the other night.
After the game, I met a friend of a friend who’s really intimidating. Let’s call him Pierre. Tall, controlled facial expressions, good looking and well dressed. He came off as pretty unapproachable.
A few years ago, I know how I’d responded to anyone who intimidated me: I’d try to play it cool and wait for them to show friendliness before I dared to be friendly, too.
Now, I know how that road just leads to a stalled relationship (fueled by my fear to be rejected).
Another mistake I did, later on, was to try to get their approval. I tried being overly positive and happy towards them. Subconsciously, I approached them like I was their fan rather than their equal. That just made me come off as needy.
Today, I do the opposite of all that.
From the get-go, I smile warmly and make myself approachable and unintimidating. I “dare” to be the one to smile first.
As it turned out with Pierre (and as it turns out in almost every case), this intimidating, distant personality was just his “protection” against the world.
Most people walk around with a mask to protect themselves against potential rejection from others.
Another example is a friend of mine in Sweden. She’s an extremely successful businesswoman, beautiful, hard-working and intelligent. At first impression, I was quite intimidated by her. But once I got to know her, it turned out she’s a quite sensitive and caring person. She just puts on her mask to protect that vulnerable part of herself.
We put on our own masks to protect ourselves from others intimidating masks.
The one who dares to put down their mask first wins in life.
Here’s how you can do it in practice:
- Ask a sincere question to get to know who they really are
“What’s your favorite part of working as a lawyer?”
- When it feels natural, give them a sincere compliment.
“It was exciting to hear about your new business. I hope it goes well”
(You see, insecure people almost never compliment others. They’re too busy worrying how they come off to think about others.)
Being sincere and friendly, without being needy, is the best way to de-mask intimidating people.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!