I’ve had several conflicts lately with a woman I have to deal with at work. I could explain each of the conflicts — and I could tell you why she’s the problem, not me. But what if I’m wrong?
Someone else I work with talked with the woman to see what was going on between us. It’s a business relationship we would all like to save if we can. He tried to explain what he saw happening.
“You intimidate people, David,” he told me. “For a lot of the people you deal with, it’s great, because you seem dominant and forceful. You get people to do what they’ve agreed to do when they would run over other people. But your personality is so strong that some people are just intimidated.”
If I hadn’t heard different versions of this discussion for my entire life, I would have been angry. Maybe insulted. Me? Intimidating? There’s no way. I’m super nice to everybody. In fact, I’m constantly afraid of letting other people down. How could anybody be intimidated of me?
But I’ve heard it since I was young. I remember hearing it in college. Two different newspaper publishers told me — when I was working as managing editor for each of them — that I was right in pretty much everything I said or did on my job. But they said I was so intense and intimidating that people were afraid to disappoint me.
After all these years — and all of my many attempts to be kinder and gentler — I’m still having that effect. And I’m baffled about why it happens.