I was at a party when a woman found out I ride a motorcycle and said “I find you so intimidating.”
Intellectually I know that has more to do with her than me, but I truly care about people’s feelings and didn’t know what to say that could have helped her feel better about her strengths. Do you have any ideas?
I am often in awe of women who do things that are outside my comfort zone. Friends have completed ascents of mountains that I have no intention of climbing, or slithered through narrow slot canyons that would cause me extreme discomfort. We all have someone whose limits are beyond ours, and we can admire that person, be inspired by them, and yes, even intimidated by them.
When confronted by ‘I find you intimidating,’ there’s often a natural urge to say ‘yes, but you do cool things too,’ but that can come across as condescending, and that is clearly not your intent. Instead, connect with her person to person, and express genuine interest in who she is and what she cares about.
You can naturally steer the conversation to her strengths by asking questions about her interests, discovering how she got into whatever it is she is passionate about, and delving into some aspects of the skills required to pursue her activities. Find out what she’s learned along the way, and what mistakes she’s made as well. In essence, level the playing field by showing as much curiosity about her life as she is about yours.
In the rare case she has no interests and continues to turn the tables back to you and how intimidating you are, the best solution may be a polite, ‘well, I do love what I do’ and a quick move on to another guest at the party.
Being a role model for competency and comfort in your own skin while also seeking to bring out the same in the other woman is an admirable quality. Sharing your experiences without embarrassment, discussing the skills you have learned along the way, and being open about mistakes made can make you approachable and less intimidating. After that, it’s up to her.