10 signs someone is trying to intimidate you (and how to respond)

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Ever been in a situation where someone is trying to intimidate you? 

It could be a coworker, teacher, or even a family member. They may seem like the bigger person in the situation.

Here are 10 signs that someone is trying to intimidate you

1) They make jokes at the expense of your race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion

One of the signs that someone is trying to intimidate you is that they make jokes at the expense of your race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion.

For example, they might refer to you as a “stupid Mexican,” or make fun of your accent.

Or, you might be pressured to get sexual favors from someone else in the group in order to gain approval or acceptance.

It gets worse: 

If you try to stand up for yourself or tell someone about the harassment, you’ll be shunned and excluded from any social groups — and worse.

Defenders of this kind of harassment say it’s a form of “teasing.” But there’s nothing funny about it.

2) They use heavy-handed tactics to control like blackmail or bribery

Think about this for a moment:

Harassers will use heavy-handed tactics to control you. You might feel that you have no choice but to go along with them.

For example, they might threaten to tell other people private information about you, such as drug use or promiscuity. Or they may bribe you with money or expensive gifts in exchange for sexual favors.

All these tactics involve some kind of pressure or manipulation. But they’re not harmless “teasing. And they don’t lead to real friendship or intimacy.

3) They get overly familiar with you and even flirt with you

Have you ever wondered why a person who’s trying to intimidate you seems too familiar and affectionate with you? 

It could be something as simple as someone telling you that they’re always thinking about you or talking about you a lot.

Or, it might be someone following or stalking you. Or constantly calling you or texting your phone. Or obsessing over your emails and private texts. 

They might even make advances toward you in hopes of seducing you — the more pressure, the more desperate they are to fulfill their unfulfilled needs.

Here’s the bottom line:

Their excessive attention could be an attempt to keep you dependent on them or to make you feel totally insecure without them. Or they might just want to convince you that your life won’t be complete without them. They make it hard for you to live your own life independently of theirs.

4) They routinely negate or ignore agreements that you make with them

Why does someone who’s trying to intimidate you keep ignoring your agreements? 

One reason:

They don’t respect how you want to make your own decisions. They might even bully or threaten you into going along with their wishes.

This is especially bad if you’re younger than them. And it limits your ability to make your own decisions about activities, tasks, or classes.

If you try to stand up for yourself or tell someone about them, the harasser will probably make fun of you or try to shame you. They might even say that you’re not being real because they don’t agree with your feelings and emotions.

5) They isolate your friends from you 

Another sign that someone is trying to intimidate you is that they isolate your friends from you.

I know. It’s hard to believe. But it’s true.

The harasser will try to convince your friends that you need their help because you are incompetent and cannot make your own decisions. They will ask them to talk badly about you, distract you, or even lie for them when they do something wrong so that no one suspects the truth about them.

If your friends agree to this, the harasser will control what they say and do around you. 

According to one study, 76% of boys and 68% of girls said they had been pressured to exclude a friend from activities. And over one-half of girls said they had been verbally harassed because they have an opposite-sex friend.

In the end, they want you to feel alone and helpless so that you’ll do what they want. It’s all part of the plan to intimidate you — and take control over your life.

6) They try to guilt-trip you

Guilt-trip is a word you hear a lot nowadays. 

Why? Because people find it easier to use guilt-tripping than to explain why they’re doing something. It’s a way of getting what they really want, which is control over you.

Guilt-trip is when someone tries to make you feel guilty for what you’ve done or haven’t done. In other words, they try to make it seem like everything is your fault.

So how are they trying to intimidate you by using guilt trip?

They may make you feel like you’re a bad person or that your actions will harm the people around you, such as your family, friends, and teachers. They might even say that they care about you more than anyone else and that if you don’t do what they want, it will be your fault because you have disappointed them.

And once they’ve made you feel guilty, they will make you feel obligated to make it up to them by going along with whatever they want.

7) They make decisions for your life or career that are against what you want

This sign of intimidation is the most obvious one. 

That’s because it involves someone making decisions for you that are against what you want, such as your career. They might even go so far as to try to pressure you into doing illegal activities. 

They may even tell you what to wear, how to style your hair, and how long it should be. They might make fun of your clothes or mock you for what you did or didn’t do with your hair that day.

Sounds familiar, right?

That’s because we’re all subjected to this kind of intimidation at one time or another. Just think of how you might have been made to feel insecure if someone else tried to pressure you into doing something against your will.

But it’s still not OK. And if you’re being harassed by someone, your first step should be to tell someone about it — even if the harasser is a relative or a friend. 

It takes courage and a lot of guts.

8) They find hidden meanings in everything you say or do

Have you ever been accused of doing something or saying something that they think is directed towards them?

Or maybe they just have the feeling that you’re always secretly trying to hurt or insult them.

That’s intimidation. And it has no basis in real life.

The truth is that people do and say things without thinking about someone else. But when someone is trying to intimidate you, they will find hidden meanings in everything you say or do because they want to control every thought in your head and every action you take.

They want to be able to predict everything you’ll say and do.

That way, you can’t ever surprise them or make them feel insecure. And they don’t have to worry about losing their control over you. They just want to create a little private hell for you — where everyone is watching, judging, and criticizing all the things that you do or say.

9) They ridicule you in front of others to make themselves look superior to you 

I’ve been there:

You say something. They laugh at you.

You feel humiliated and embarrassed for doing something so stupid or for saying something so dumb. You want to crawl into the deepest hole on earth each time you think about it. And it’s hard to face them, especially if they’re related to you or your best friends.

Ridicule is a terrible form of intimidation. It hurts. It’s embarrassing. And it happens a lot more often than you realize.

Some people pride themselves on cutting someone down to size. When they have the chance to mock you, they take it — and even enjoy it sometimes. 

Ridicule is like a bad case of verbal diarrhea because they spew out harsh words at you without any thought or reason behind what they say — except that they want to make themselves look superior by putting you down in front of everyone else.

10) They create unnecessary drama and add extra stress to your life

Trust me, these people are out there.

They love to create problems where there aren’t any — just like the bullies who create problems on the bus and in the schoolyard.

That’s why they’ll start fights and disagreements between you and someone else, such as your friends, family, or teachers. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re right — they love to start arguments in order to make you look bad.

They will also do things to make you look bad, such as add extra stress to your life just so that they can be the ones in control over what you’ll do and how you’ll manage your time.

That’s intimidating. And it is expected of each person on this planet, even if they don’t realize it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong or that it won’t cause you a lot of pain and suffering.

6 ways to respond to intimidation

The question is: What can you do if you’re being intimidated? Or what can you do if someone is constantly getting on your nerves?

Here are 6 strategies that may help.

1) Don’t be afraid to defend yourself or have other people in your life do it for you

You have to stand up for yourself.

If you don’t, intimidation will hurt you more than it hurts the person who’s trying to be intimidating.

You have to know that it’s not your fault if someone is trying to intimidate you — they’re giving their power away, which means they’re doubting themselves and looking for ways to feel more confident and in control. 

It’s a serious problem that often starts early in life.

If you can’t stand up for yourself, don’t hesitate to have others in your life do it for you. You are strong enough to take on this problem by yourself, but it may be much better if a close friend or partner can help.

2) Keep a positive frame of mind and don’t let their bullying tactics make you feel depressed or hopeless

I know — I know — it’s not easy to do.

But you have to.

That’s because intimidation is a serious problem that creates depression and hopelessness in your life. If you let it get the best of you, they win, and they don’t even care that they’re the ones who hurt you the most. They’ll just keep on intimidating you until they find someone else to manipulate or control.

So don’t be depressed. Don’t feel hopeless. And don’t let them get the better of you. Remind yourself that you’re not a victim and that you’re going to beat this intimidation at some point.

3) Don’t be afraid to question their motives

Intimidators need to put everyone down. They need to feel superior to you. And they have no tolerance for anyone who doesn’t think the same way as them or follow their rules.

So if you can find a way to question their motives, it will be easier for you to see them for who they really are: 

Bullies with problems of their own that they’re trying to take out on your life. And maybe you can even find a way to turn the tables on them — to take control of your own life without letting them intimidate you or make you feel bad about yourself.

For example, if they criticize you for spending time with friends, you can ask them why they feel so threatened by this.

Or if they mock you for trying new things and meeting new people, you can ask them why they’re afraid of change and what it’s like to be so insecure about themselves that the only way for them to feel secure is to make other people feel bad about their own lives.

4) Know when it’s time to leave a relationship

Being intimidated is hard.

You need to have a strong support system in your life, but the most important thing is to know when it’s time to let go of a relationship.

You don’t want that person in your life any longer, and you don’t want them to hurt you or anyone else who cares about you.

If you can realize what’s happening, you’ll be able to stand up for yourself and turn down their intimidation tactics without feeling bad about yourself.

5) Stay focused on what is best for you

So, here’s the deal:

Those are the powers that intimidators have over you.

And the most important thing is to focus on what you can do for yourself so that you don’t let them get the best of you.

You have to see who they really are and realize that they’re going through a rough patch in their life — something that other people will be able to help them with.

They may not even realize the damage they’re doing to themselves and to a lot of other people, including people who love them. But if you can hold your ground and stop letting them get the best of you, it will be much better in the long run.

6) Learn how to be assertive rather than being passive or aggressive

Being aggressive and passive both actually play into the intimidator’s hands.

If you act passively or aggressively, they often see this as a sign of weakness in you — and they’ll use it against you. Being passive allows them to step up and take control while being aggressive means that they become more angry and aggressive in their behavior.

The best way to respond is to learn how to stand up for yourself in a calm manner.

Here are some tips to be assertive:

  • Recognize the problem. What is it that the intimidator is doing? Describe them. Say something like: “I don’t want you to do this because…” and then be as specific as possible about what it is that they’re doing.
  • State your feelings. Why does it matter to you? Be honest with yourself and others about how you feel, and express your feelings in strong yet non-aggressive ways.
  • Make sure they understand what’s going on.
  • If you feel like you can’t stand up for yourself, be clear about letting them know that it’s not okay for them to intimidate you or anyone else.
  • If you have to stand up for yourself, do it non-violently.

These tips will help you respond calmly and assertively so that the intimidator isn’t able to use your own passivity against you. You don’t have to let them get the best of you — especially when they’re going through their own emotional problems.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, this will help you feel a little more confident knowing that it’s not your fault when someone is trying to intimidate you. You’re not the problem here — they’re acting out their own anger and frustration in a way that hurts other people.

The most important thing is to be honest with yourself so that you know how to stand up for yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin.

Stay strong and keep fighting the good fight!