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Communicating with someone who intimidates you can be quite the daunting task. If you’ve ever found yourself stuttering, stammering, or even radio silent in the presence of a more menacing personality, I feel your pain.

As a staunch introvert, loud, aggressive, or insensitive people intimidated me (and sometimes they still do). I avoided them like the plague. When I had to engage them, I’d often lose my train of thought, fumble through my words, or simply fade into the background, letting those around me dominate the conversation.

I eventually realized that there were two glaring problems with my approach:

  1. You won’t always have the luxury of hiding from those who make you uncomfortable.
  2. Hiding or avoiding never actually solves the problem.

If you’re feeling intimidated by someone, understand that your fear gives them power over you and allows them to dictate your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Here’s how to handle even the most intimidating individuals.

Identify the Source of Your Intimidation

Start by looking within. After all, reflection is what introverts do best.

Ask yourself why you’re intimidated. What is it about this person that induces fear? Is it their overall demeanor, personality, approach, tone, title, position, education level, financial status, viewpoint, or something else?

And, is there a pattern in the type of people who intimidate you?

When I think back, I can definitely spot a pattern to the type of people I felt nervous around: people with some perceived “power.” Their ability to effortlessly be who they were, speak their truth, and command the crowd only punctuated the fact that I struggled to do so myself.

Which leads me to my next point…

Tune Into Any Insecurities

What are you personally struggling with that might be coloring your experience with this person? Is there an underlying fear or limiting belief about yourself that’s actually in play?

This might be a belief that no one cares about what you have to say, which might affect how you interact with those who speak up seemingly without fear. Feeling misunderstood or a sense of powerlessness can rear its ugly head when someone else unapologetically takes charge of a situation.

What stories are you telling yourself about this person? What assumptions are you making about them and your relationship? Is there any truth to these stories?

Humanize Your “Monster”

Dig beneath the surface. You may find that underneath their scary exterior, there’s a person. Get to know and try to understand that person. Recognize your similarities rather than focusing on your perceived differences.

Also, realize that even the most challenging people are struggling with their own insecurities (which may manifest as aggressiveness or insensitivity). While this doesn’t excuse their behaviors, tapping into this perspective can empower you to communicate without fear and not take their behavior personally.

Tap Into Your Inner Assertiveness

In his book, The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, Gay Hendricks describes the “zone of genius” as the place where your greatest passion and your innate gifts meet. Your zone isn’t just about what you’re decent, good, or even excellent at—your zone is where you thrive and shine.

What’s your zone of genius? What unique power and talents do you bring to the table? Focus on those strengths—rather than fixating on your perceived weaknesses—and tap into your inner rock star.

Prepare for the Encounter

Get yourself in the right headspace for the interaction. When possible, prepare and rehearse what you’d like to say beforehand to avoid fumbling over your words or being silenced. Keying into the other person’s preferred communication style can also be helpful in meeting them where they are and having a productive conversation.

Clear the Air

If there’s any tension between you and your “monster,” you may need to confront the issue head on, in spite of your discomfort. Have a conversation to get to the root of the issue and move beyond it once and for all. The successful approach to clearing the air includes:

  • Scheduling a time to talk and not catching the person off guard (and putting them in defensive mode)
  • Mentally preparing yourself for the discussion ahead of time
  • Considering what role you could be playing in the tension between you two
  • Really listening to the other person’s point of view and trying to see things from their perspective
  • Developing a plan for interacting beyond the conversation

Learning to speak up for yourself can be an uncomfortable, yet absolutely life-changing process for an introvert. When you look inward, challenge the stories you’ve been telling yourself about those who intimidate you, and use your voice, you gain confidence in yourself and your abilities and reclaim your personal power.

This article was originally published on Introvert, Dear. It has been republished here with permission.