It can be difficult to gauge what other people might think of us and our actions.
Take commenting on someone’s work performance. We’re giving them constructive criticism to help them understand what they could potentially improve on.
But they might actually see it as harsh critiquing, which makes them feel anxious and intimidated by you.
People don’t often like showing fear or intimidation. It might make them look weak and cowardly.
But leaving it unaddressed causes strains in the relationship.
To help you become more welcoming, you can pay attention to these 12 signs that show that someone is scared of you.
1. They Avoid Being Around You
Have you started noticing that when you join in on a conversation at work that people begin dispersing?
As if they’ve all collectively remembered that they have something important to do?
When something scares us, we have a natural aversion to them.
That’s why we avoid talking about a serious topic with our significant other because we’re afraid of what their response might be.
It’s also why people might be moving away from you, rather than gathering around you.
They might feel intimidated by your presence, so they slowly move away from conversations that you’re part of, or they hurriedly walk away when you’re passing each other in the halls.
2. They Avoid Eye Contact
If you notice that their eyes are constantly jumping around while talking to you, that’s an evident sign that they might be afraid to meet your gaze.
A study found that avoiding eye contact is common among those who have social anxiety. That’s because eye contact can feel like we’re being judged if the person is intimidating enough.
If the other person’s eyes keep hopping from the person behind you, their shoes, the window to their right, and the table to their left, that might mean their attention is scattered and they feel intimidated by you.
3. They Quiet Down When They’re Around You
Have you noticed that when you talk to someone who is regularly talkative around other people suddenly becomes silent when you’re talking to them?
That might be because they’re afraid that they’ll say the wrong thing, something that might be offensive or uneducated to you.
Then when you’re watching them from afar, they return to their talkative ways.
It might mean that they’re simply uncomfortable talking to you, so they become reserved and withdrawn.
At most times, you might find that you do most of the talking while they idly listen and agree to everything that you say.
When this happens, try to be aware of the conversation itself — there might be some uncomfortable tension between the two of you.
4. They Bounce Their Leg Or Tap Their Fingers In Conversation
When you’re talking to someone, do you notice if they’re tapping their fingers or bouncing their legs often?
A study has shown that someone bouncing their leg could have a variety of meanings, including boredom and anxiety.
While it may be difficult to truly tell what a person is feeling based solely on their body language, the fidgeting is bound to have some psychological cause majority of the time.
It could mean that they’re feeling excited about something, bored of the conversation, or so anxious that they want to get the talk over with.
In any case, observing their movements might help you determine how to approach them in the future.
5. No One Argues With You
It feels like you can get away with saying anything that you want.
When you make a comment about how bad a beloved client is, everyone laughs along.
When you share an entirely different idea in a brainstorming session, everyone immediately latches and plays the game “‘Yes’ and”.
It’s entirely possible that they feel intimidated by you, and they aren’t willing to disagree with you.
6. They Hesitate When They Talk To You
You begin to notice that the majority of people you’ve interacted with seem to stumble on their words when they talk to you.
They often use filler words such as, “Um” and “Uh”.
As a study confirms, filler words are common among those who feel anxious about speaking — in this case, to you.
Another common trait among anxious speakers is that they speak much faster than they have to.
If you notice that someone is talking as if they’re hopped up on coffee, that might mean they’re anxious around you.
7. Their Body Language Says So
The body can usually send more messages than someone can say.
When someone is talking to you and they’re utterly interested, they tend to lean in much closer and make fierce eye contact, as if you were in a staring competition.
But if you notice that someone is instead pulling away from you, leaning back, slouching, or very slowly making steps away from you, that’s a subtle sign that says that they don’t feel comfortable being around you.
8. They Always Seem To Say Sorry To You
Apologies are significant things to tell someone. It’s a way for someone to take responsibility for their actions.
But when someone constantly says sorry to you, that might be caused by some underlying insecurity they have when they’re around you.
They might say sorry for even the smallest things, like accidentally grabbing for your pencil on the table or gently hitting each other’s shoulders along the hallway.
These are ostensibly insignificant things that don’t often get much attention.
But when someone is afraid of you, they become anxious and overthink the meanings of their actions.
They always want to appear favorable to you, but their litany of apologies seems to do very little to help their cause.
9. They Don’t Keep Up The Conversation
When you try talking to someone, you notice that they only seem to reply with short phrases and single words as answers.
They don’t bother really expounding or sharing their own thoughts on the matter, so you find that you’re the one steering the conversation for most of the time — which may not be the most productive way to talk to someone.
Conversations are two-way streets. It’s natural for someone to ask the other person’s opinion and keep the flow of the conversation going — but not someone who’s afraid of you.
Their short answers are ways for them to get the conversation done with as soon as possible, or because they may be so intimidated they couldn’t think of anything else to say.
10. They Allow You To Talk Over Them
In a group conversation, while everyone is talking, when you chime in, the whole group collectively quiets down.
While you may not notice it, because you’re so caught up in what you have to share, other people might actually feel intimidated by you, as if the alpha of the group has started speaking.
Maybe you wouldn’t exactly label yourself as being the most assertive person, but others might disagree.
11. They Do Their Work Slowly When You’re Around Them
You know how, when you want to show someone something amazing that you can do but suddenly can’t do anymore — because someone is watching?
This is how others might feel when you’re with them.
When you sit beside their desk and watch them work, out of your own curiosity, they might begin to slow down.
They stop writing and do much more “thinking” and “double-checking”.
They do things unrelated to work because they’re afraid of making a mistake in your presence.
It’s the same feeling when your teacher stands beside you while you’re taking an exam. You can somehow feel their eyes judging you, wondering if you’ll get the right answer.
12. They Tend To Be Defensive With You
When you ask them about why they chose a specific field of work out of your own genuine curiosity, they might come off as if they’re trying to plead innocent to a crime.
They say things like, “I had no choice” or “I know it’s weird but I like it.”
A common reason why people tend to behave this way is because they’re looking for validation from you.
Part of the reason why others might be afraid of you is because they don’t want to be on your bad side.
So they try their best to defend why they made their choices in the first place.
But in reality, you didn’t mean to judge them; you just wanted to know.
Being feared and intimidating can have its advantages when it comes to a competitive setting. You’d naturally want your opponent to be disarmed by your presence.
But when it comes to having to work together for a shared goal — whether it be a team sport or a team project — it’ll only be a hindrance to meaningful progress.
While you may feel that nothing is wrong, it’s still important to acknowledge how you come off to other people.
You don’t have to do a complete personality change for other people, but you also have to be willing to make some compromises to be more welcoming to others.
Relationships won’t flourish if one person only acts out of fear of the other.
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