There’s a fine line between extreme confidence and being intimidating. While you might think you have a self-assured and commanding personality, others might perceive you as threatening and domineering.

Here’s how to tell the difference between the two – and what you can do to make sure you stay on the positive end of the spectrum.

What does it mean to be intimidating?

Being intimidating is defined as being frightening, threatening or overbearing. When people find you intimidating, they might not feel comfortable being themselves around you. They might avoid talking to you and be reluctant to be honest or open because they’re scared of your reaction.

It’s worth remembering that when people find you intimidating, it can also be outside your control. Sometimes, you’ll be perceived as being intimidating and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s because the way you come across to others is influenced by their preconceived notions and ideas as well as your own behavior. Different individuals and groups can be perceived as being more intimidating than others because of conscious or unconscious bias. And that’s not your fault.

But while you can’t control what other people think about you, it can be helpful to know whether or not people find you intimidating and if your personality type tends to be more intimidating than others. Here are the signs.

4 signs you intimidate others

Watch out for these indicators that you intimidate people or make them feel uncomfortable.

  1. They change their behavior around you

If you notice that people actively change their behavior around you – or if other people mention it – it’s a good sign that they find you intimidating. They might become more reserved or even avoidant when you’re around, choosing not to talk to you or contribute to the conversation.

  1. They speak quietly and avoid eye contact

When you have a healthy relationship with someone, they’ll usually look you in the eye during conversation. If someone is avoiding eye contact with you and speaking quietly or showing defensive body language like standing with their arms crossed, these are all indications that they’re intimidated by you.

  1. They don’t offer constructive feedback

People who are intimidated by someone tend to avoid offering constructive feedback beyond obvious praise phrases like “it’s great.” This is because they might be afraid of what will happen if they contradict you or point out what you could do differently. If you find that everyone around you is a ‘yes man’ it might be a sign that you’re an intimidating character.

  1. They get defensive

Another good indicator that you might be intimidating is if you find people quickly becoming defensive around you. If you open a conversation and the other person immediately becomes aggressive, protective or seems on guard, it could be because they find you intimidating and they’re worried about what you’re going to say or do next.

3 top personality types most likely to be intimidating

If you’re not sure whether or not you come across as intimidating towards other people, take a look at your personality type to see if it’s a tendency. Here are three types that often come across as intimidating and overbearing, especially when they’re under stress. 

  1. ENTJs

Outspoken, assertive and blunt, ENTJs are often perceived as intimidating by other personality types. Their characteristically candid conversation style can often be taken the wrong way. What’s more, their lack of emotional awareness can also lead them to come across as intimidating and harsh. If you’re an ENTJ, chances are someone has called you intimidating in the past – but maybe not to your face!

  1. INTJs

Thanks to their blunt and serious mannerisms, INTJs are also one of the personality types most likely to be branded intimidating. Unlike charismatic ENTJs, INTJs tend to be reserved and distant. When coupled with their sometimes condescending attitude, they may come across as intimidating until you get to know them better.

  1. ISTJs

Loyal, principled and orderly, ISTJs may be very surprised to find themselves on this list. But to many people, ISTJs can come across as insensitive and dogmatic. This can lead to them being perceived as intimidating, especially by people who don’t know them well enough to understand that they are just being driven by high quality standards. They use language that can often come across as disapproving, and that may prompt people to avoid being open and honest around ISTJs. It’s not helped by their natural stubbornness either!

How to moderate your behavior

If you think people find you intimidating, there are some steps you can take to try and come across as more approachable. Here are three strategies to try.

Smile more

Sometimes the simplest changes in your behavior can have the biggest impact. If you suspect that people find you intimidating, you might find smiling an effective way to lessen the tension. Though it can sometimes feel forced or performative, smiling helps to convey positive emotions. A single smile can make all the difference!

Watch your body language

Much of what we convey in social interactions is non-verbal. Your body language says a lot about your state of mind and can heavily influence how people perceive you. If you’re worried about coming across as intimidating, make an effort to adjust your body language to show openness, interest and acceptance.

You can make your body language less intimidating by:

  • Uncrossing your arms
  • Avoiding sudden gestures
  • Respecting people’s personal space

Work on making your body language more open and non-confrontational to seem less intimidating to the people you’re talking to.

Avoid dominating the conversation

Sometimes people come across as intimidating when they dominate a conversation and refuse to listen to other people. If you suspect this applies to you, try working on your conversation skills to improve your relationships with others.

Take time to listen to other people, make eye contact and respond to what they’re saying with thoughtful comments and questions. Use open-ended questions to invite other people to share their thoughts and ideas. Over time they’ll start to find you less intimidating and easier to talk to.

Remember, you can’t always control what other people think about you. But if you notice that your behavior is being intimidating or even threatening, it’s important to take steps to moderate your behavior to help yourself and everyone around you.

Elizabeth Harris
Elizabeth is a freelance writer and ghostwriter. She’s an anthropologist at heart and loves using social theory to get deeper into the topics she writes about. Born in the UK, Elizabeth has lived in Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Dubai before moving most recently to Budapest, Hungary. She’s an ENTJ with ENFJ leanings. Find out more about her work at