Not So Timid

A management course taught one of my coworkers, a big bloke, to stand sideways in someone’s doorway to avoid making them feel trapped and intimidated. (The rule has an informal name based on an executive who is both big and prone to blocking doorways.) I have not paid much attention to my positioning in doorways but I suspect that I avoid blocking them instinctively. It may be something of a cliché, but I am the sort who prefers to sit with my back in a corner and where I can see the exits. I address each room as if I will have to fight my way out of it.

It would be dishonest to say that I do not wish to be intimidating. I do like to be intimidating, but only in certain circumstances. The problem is that I seem to be intimidating when I wish not to be, but not when I wish to be. My eldest referred to me as “Scary Dad” when I was merely being stern. Yet I have had crazy ladies step up on me. While I think of myself as a nice guy and like to be perceived as such by others, I also want people to avoid attacking me.

I recognize the contradiction of those positions. A couple decades of having no one respect my boundaries gave me the instinct to create those boundaries with menace. I did not learn to use my words to enforce my boundaries because my family of origin ignored both my words and my boundaries. Rather I learned that the only way to enforce a boundary was by releasing the beast within. This was quite surprising for others, most of whom both expected me to use my words and had no experience with that level of fury.

My goal is to never need to be actively intimidating. I work hard to not be intimidating, to be sensitive to those as might feel threatened by my size or demeanor. Through years of work, I am learning to use my words and modulate my responses. But, to be honest, if I had to choose between being intimidating but respected and not being intimidating but disrespected, I would choose the respect, even though it came with the intimidation. Apparently I have more work to do.


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