Are Men Intimidated By Me? How You Know They Can’t Handle You

We’ve all had that moment in the workplace or at school when we into a heated discussion with one of the guys about feminism. They rile you up by pretending not to know what it is and in return, you willfully misunderstand and twist their arguments. You’re both joking (mostly) but you also struggle to understand each other. You can feel the colleagues around you start to get uncomfortable, even as they’re entertained. They sense the challenge in the discussion and it’s hard to tell where it will go. Here’s how you know when men are intimidated by you.

You’re bold. No matter how much men think they’re aligned with women’s values or believe in their image of equality, they’ll always stand up straighter with a bold woman. They can play nice and schmooze the other women, but as soon as someone challenges them, it’s like everyone’s a teenager again. In an English class when two factions of the school are debating whether or not English is a ‘real’ subject. Or whether the authors meant all these minute details at all. (They did.) As a general rule, when someone’s voice gets louder in these situations, they’re losing the argument.

You have a strong opinion on everything. This isn’t the behavior of a shrinking violet in the office. No, you’re a big presence in the courtroom, and people know that. They come to expect it from you. There’s no passivity or wishy-washy self-deprecation. No, you got to where you are now through hard work and self-advocacy. Why stop now? This is something that men don’t realize — how much women soften their decisiveness in the workplace to pander to the office ego. As a result, it inflates their own perception of how the social dynamic runs. They presume that this is our natural way of being, where we are most content. Oh to be a fly in the wall during that conversation when the wrong person gets ahold of it.

You talk a lot. Not only do you have these opinions, but you also voice them. Hey, if it’s in the interest of your company or your client, why wouldn’t you tell them their idea will blow up in their face? It’s not productive to just share a knowing glance with your female colleague when a guy in the office does the rounds. You have to be clear and show your worth. Be active, play the game, but also, don’t be afraid to throw the rules out of the window. You’re here for your expertise and to provide best practices. If that talent intimidates people, then so be it.

You challenge them when they’re wrong. This is even more important. When you notice another employee is doing something wrong, or you identify a way in which you can help him, he might brush it off. Or, he may try to mansplain the same basic concept to you in front of the higher-ups just so that he can hear the sound of his own voice. But he doesn’t mean anything by it, it’s just his way of getting known in the office. He just has to accept a challenge.

You don’t back down. Most people when met with resistance would back down. Not you. Never. If you believe in something or know in your heart of hearts that it’s the right thing, you won’t be talked out of things easily and you certainly won’t give up at the first sign of trouble. You stick to your guns, and that’s intimidating.

They get on the defensive. If someone is intimidated by you then it means they’re impressed by you – particularly as a woman. Somewhere inside of them, they want your approval. Or, it makes them question their own life and values, as it would with everyone.

They stand up straighter around you. You aren’t necessarily the boss in the office, but you’re the natural leader. That’s what being assertive and good at what you do will get you. Men and women in the office will take notice of that. Some will support you and wish you well and share their own skills and expertise. For others, this process will take a little adjusting to, which might just mean they’re intimidated by you.

They ask you questions. Eventually, the men who were initially challenged by your presence will accept your talent and engage in skill-sharing. They’ll come to you with questions or troubleshooting advice, and you can do the same in return. All change requires adjustment and that’s not a process to dismiss or presume yourself as being above of.

In short: accept the people around you and what they have to give, and you shouldn’t have an issue with intimidation. If you do, it’s on them to come to you and for you to meet them with grace.

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