Helping you become all that you are capable of becoming!




Chapter 2 Eliminating Intimidation

Tools for Handling Control Issues

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

What is intimidation?

Intimidation is:

  • Threatening to use power or control to get others to do what you want them to do.
  • Using coercion or force to get what you want from others.
  • Making others feel like you are more powerful or forceful than what you really are.
  • Wearing a mask of being untouchable so that people keep an emotional distance from you and yet do for you what you desire.
  • Using verbal and nonverbal cues to let others know you are not going to reward any unfaithfulness to what you desire them to do for you.
  • Using verbally, physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive behaviors to get people to stay in line.
  • Using physical size, stature, and strength to get others to respect and obey you.
  • Using punishments such as firing, poor evaluations, divorce, spanking, physical fights to get people to do what you want.
  • Using quick temper, anger, or rage to get people to do what you want.
  • Holding your knowledge, level of education, number of degrees over the heads of others to get them to listen to and obey you.
  • Convincing others that you are the only one with enough experience, wisdom, intellect, and insight to give direction or to have the correct answers to life's problems.
  • Acting in such a way that no one would dare question or stand up to you over any of your decisions, opinions, or directives.
  • Using your money, wealth, or status to put others into their place so that your power over them is secured and not questioned.
  • Keeping others loyal to you by threats of pulling back your support, love, caring, interest, or approval of them.
  • Using dictatorial, gestapo, or autocratic behaviors to get people to do what you want.
  • Unintentional verbal or nonverbal cues which put people on guard when they are with you.

What are the negative effects of intimidation?

If you continue to use intimidation to control others, then you will:

  • Find people developing emotional barriers in their relationships with you so that they are no longer vulnerable to being hurt by your control.
  • Be at risk of being accused as emotionally, verbally, physically, or sexually abusive in your dealings with others.
  • Find that the costs of getting your way all of the time are greater than you expected when you find yourself lonely and disconnected from others.
  • Believe that the only goal in life is succeeding in getting your way at any cost and become totally consumed in the pursuit of acquiring power, control, position, and status.
  • Run the risk of becoming a pathetic, lonely, isolated person with few close relationships and many enemies out to get their revenge against you.
  • Experience a great deal of passive aggressiveness thrown your way by the people you are trying to control.
  • Risk becoming more absolute and rigid in your exercise of power and control and become more defensive about any personal criticism of your actions or beliefs.
  • Begin to prefer rejecting people before they reject you and find yourself becoming increasingly socially isolated and alienated from others.
  • Not be accepted, approved of or sought after by others who will never get a chance to see the real you whom you've locked behind your intimidating mask.
  • Feel like you're really a teddy bear underneath it all and bemoan that people never take the time to get to know this side of you. You might even lie and say you don't care if they never get to know that side of you, even though emotionally you know differently.
  • Run the risk of becoming more depressed as you become more isolated and find that your anger and rage flare-ups increase.
  • Experience even lower self-esteem due to the lack of acceptance by others.

How is intimidation a control issue?

Intimidation is a control issue because it:

  • Places the locus of control not on the person who is doing what you want them to do but on you the intimidator.
  • Is an attempt to get others to do what you want them to do.
  • Involves use of control strategies such as threats, pressure, power, force, or coercion.
  • Gets others to do what you want not because they freely want to do it but because of your control over them.
  • Uses the power of the fear of your rejection, disapproval, and anger to get others to comply with your requests.
  • Robs free choice and free will from those people whom you have intimidated.
  • Makes others victims of your power and control needs.
  • Does not always occur intentionally and can occur when a person gives you power and control to get what you want because they feel intimidated by your size, behavior, demeanor, anger, intellect, verbal skills, etc.
  • Is a shifting of the power over oneself to being under the power of another, be it done intentionally or not.
  • Weakens the will to survive in those who feel beaten down, abused and oppressed by the intimidator.


What irrational and unhealthy thinking leads to the use of intimidation with others?

  • I will use whatever it takes to get them to obey me.
  • No one will ever get away with showing a lack of respect for my position of authority, leadership, and dominance.
  • People should always do what I tell them no matter what.
  • I would feel out of control and weak if people didn't always do what I wanted them to do.
  • They owe me respect, obedience, and compliance with all of my requests because I am in charge of them.
  • What I say goes around here. No if's, and's, or but's. You hear that!
  • I know more than they do so they should listen to me and do what I tell them to do.
  • They owe it to me. After all, look at all I have done for them.
  • If they dare question or buck me on this, they will have to leave here.
  • No one has a right around here to ignore me or my requests since I earn the money which they need.
  • Just step out of line once and I'll knock your head off.
  • People only respond to threats, coercion, and power plays around here.
  • I get more out of people when I get angry at them.
  • As long as I am the strongest or most intelligent or the wealthiest around here, they will do what I tell them to do.
  • It takes too much time to get consensus or compromise, so as long as they do what I want we'll all be happy around here.
  • They are sick people and I am the only healthy one around here, so they should follow my advice and direction.
  • They are non-informed, intellectually inferior, and poorly educated, so they should listen to me.
  • The only way to get things done is to ride them hard and long.
  • You don't get anywhere by listening to other's opinions about what needs to be done since they will disagree with what you want done and you'll have to force them to do what you want done anyway.
  • There is no reason why I need to give them the freedom to do what they want to do. After all, what have they done for me?
What can you do to eliminate intimidating others?
If you desire to eliminate intimidating others, try the following steps: 


Step 1: If you are unclear if you are intimidating to others, then you first need to ask the people in your life if they find you intimidating.


Step 2: Once you are clear that you are intimidating either by feedback from the people in your life or by your experience of people reacting to you as if they were intimidated, then you need to identify what about you is intimidating. To do this, make an inventory of your behaviors, attitudes, nonverbal cues, appearance to others, educational level, wealth, position of leadership, sexual attitudes, which are or may be intimidating to the people in your life.
Step 3: After you have identified your intimidating personal characteristics, then determine if you are intentionally or non-intentionally intimidating to the people listed in Step 1. It is important to be realistic with yourself that you can be intimidating to others even if you don't intend to be.


Step 4: Next, assess the negative impact and negative consequences of your intentional or non-intentional intimidation on the people identified in Step 1.


Step 5: After assessing the impact of your intimidating characteristics, you next need to assess what if any irrational, unhealthy, and non-reality-based thinking and beliefs contribute to your intimidating others.


Step 6: Now identify healthy, rational, and reality-based thinking which will contribute to the cessation of your need to intimidate the people listed in Step 1.


Step 7: Next, identify new behaviors you can use with the people listed in Step 1 so as to reduce the intimidation they experience from you.


Step 8:   Next, identify what you could do to lessen the non-intentional intimidation factors you have on others such as: your educational level, intellect, wealth, career status, physical size, physical attractiveness, your emotional wellness, religious beliefs, gender and status in the community.


Step 9: Now you are ready to inform each person in your life whom you no longer want to intimidate that you want the real or appearance of your control, power, dominance, and coercion over them to cease. You can ask them to continue to give you feedback and call you on it when you are intimidating them.


Step 10: Begin to initiate the non-intimidating behaviors and strategies which you identified in Steps 7 and 8.


Step 11: Monitor the response you are receiving from the people in your life and continuously solicit feedback from them if they find you intimidating.


Step 12: If people in your life still find you intimidating, then return to Step 1 and begin again.

What are the steps to eliminate intimidating others?


Step 1:   In order to cease being intimidating to others, you first need to assess what you do, how you behave, who you are, and what about


Intimidating Factors Inventory

Rate the following 100 factors as to how true they are for you. Write down the rating which correctly identifies you for each of the following intimidating factors.

1 = Never intimidating

2 = Rarely intimidating

3 = Frequently intimidating

4 = Almost always intimidating

5 = Always intimidating


  1. My loud gruff voice
  2. My body size
  3. My height
  4. My sexual identity
  5. My physical strength
  6. My skin color
  7. My highest educational achievement
  8. The title of my profession or career
  9. The title on my job
  10. My salary
  11. My financial worth
  12. Where I live
  13. Status of community in which I live
  14. Size of my house
  15. The car I drive
  16. My IQ
  17. The knowledge, skills, and abilities I possess
  18. My level of caring for others
  19. My openness and honesty
  20. My ability to self-disclose my weaknesses and failing
  21. My high self-esteem
  22. My age
  23. My life experience
  24. The people I know
  25. The group I hang around with
  26. My religious beliefs and convictions
  27. My social connections
  28. The clothes I wear
  29. The clubs I belong to
  30. My political beliefs and persuasions
  31. When I am angry
  32. When I am assertive
  33. When I am aggressive
  34. When I am threatening others
  35. When I am yelling, ranting, and raving
  36. When I am emotionally abusive
  37. When I am physically abusive
  38. When I am sexually abusive
  39. When I am verbally abusive
  40. When I am lecturing others
  41. When I start breaking things
  42. When I am warning others of dire consequences
  43. When I pull rank on others
  44. When I belittle others
  45. When I threaten to cut off financial support
  46. When I threaten to cut off emotional support
  47. When I threaten to cut off physical affection
  48. When I threaten to cut off communication
  49. When I threaten to reveal the negative truth about others
  50. When I threaten to kill self or others if they don't do what I want
  51. When I am sarcastic
  52. When I am cynical
  53. When I gossip about people
  54. When I share secrets others have told me
  55. When I get animated, enthusiastic and energized
  56. When I want to attain a goal very badly
  57. When I become adamant about a point
  58. When I act competitive
  59. When I raise my voice
  60. When I have a temper tantrum
  61. When I act better than thou
  62. When I threaten to reject people
  63. When I threaten to take away my approval of people
  64. When I can't comprehended how people feel the way they do
  65. When I am unforgiving of another
  66. When I bring up the hurtful past
  67. When I seek out help for myself
  68. When I admit our relationship has problems and work on it
  69. When I begin to change old sick behaviors to healthier behaviors
  70. When I ask others to help me be less intimidating to them

  71. When I am happy
  72. When I am having fun
  73. When I allow my inner child to have fun
  74. When I am enjoying life
  75. When I act unpredictably
  76. Because I was an alcoholic
  77. Because I am chronically ill
  78. Because I am insecure
  79. Because I am shy and stay to myself
  80. Because I was a drug addict
  81. Because I am terminally ill
  82. Because I have cancer or AIDS
  83. Because I am physically disabled
  84. Because I am mentally disabled
  85. Because I am emotionally disabled
  86. Because I am learning disabled
  87. Because I am obese
  88. Because I am physically disfigured
  89. Because I am divorced
  90. Because I am from a dysfunctional family
  91. When I am physically sick
  92. When I am exhausted
  93. When I feel weak
  94. When I complain too much
  95. When I want revenge over a real or perceived wrong
  96. When I am cause oriented
  97. When I always try to have the correct answer
  98. When I am overly solicitous
  99. When I am overly sympathetic
  100. When I am giving advice

Step 2: Once you have evaluated your intimidating factors, seek input from others in your life about whether you intimidate them and how you do it. Use the Intimidating Factor Inventory to assist them to identify how you intimidate them.

Identify the people by the following categories:

  • Spouse(s) (current and former)
  • Children (natural and step)
  • Parents (natural and step)
  • In-laws (current and former)
  • Brothers and sisters (natural and step)
  • Other extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins)
  • Friends (girlfriends and boyfriends)
  • School mates
  • Co-workers on job
  • Supervisors or bosses or employers
  • Supervisees or employees
  • Clients or customers
  • Neighbors
  • Acquaintances


Step 3: Once you have conducted the poll of the people in your life, then you can determine the following questions. Answer these in your journal.

  1. Which category of people do you intimidate the most?
  2. Which people do you intentionally intimidate?
  3. What factors do you use when you set out to intimidate?
  4. Which people do you unintentionally intimidate?
  5. What factors cause others to be intimidated by you when you in reality don't set out to intimidate?
  6. What irrational, unhealthy, and non-reality-based thinking and beliefs are reasons why you intentionally set out to intimidate people?
  7. How does the intimidation people experience from you influence the relationships you have with these people?
  8. Is the nature of the problems any different if the intimidation is intentional or not?
  9. What new, healthier, more rational, more reality-based thinking and beliefs do you need in order to stop intentionally intimidating others?
  10. What new behaviors could you develop to cease intimidating people either intentionally or not?


Step 4: Now that you have looked at plans to eliminate your intimidation of others, you need to involve the people you currently intimidate in a plan of action to call you on it if they feel intimidated in the future by some factor they perceive in you.


Step 5: Initiate your new thinking and behaving to be less intimidating to others be it intentional or unintentional.


Step 6: If you get feedback or realize on your own that you still are intimidating others, then return to Step 1 and begin over again.

What are the steps to eliminate allowing others to intimidate you?


Step 1: You need to first recognize if you are being or have been intimidated. In your journal, list examples from your past and present of the following.

  • When were you intimidated?
  • Who are the people who have in the past did or currently do intimidate you?
  • Review the Intimidating Factors Inventory in this chapter and, for each person who is an intimidator, identify the factors involved which were or are intimidating.
  • For each person's intimidating factors, you need to identify if they were intentional or non-intentional.
  • For each person, identify how your being intimidated had or has affected your relationship with the person.
  • For each person identify the irrational, unhealthy, and non-reality-based thinking of yours which has contributed to your allowing this person's factors to intimidate you.


Step 2: Once you have determined the extent to which your irrational, unhealthy, and non-reality-based thinking has contributed to your allowing each of the people in Step 1 to intimidate you, then in your journal do the following.

  • Identify new, healthy, rational, and realistic beliefs and thinking to handle and respond to the intimidating factors of the person.
  • Identify new, healthy, assertive, rational, and realistic behaviors you can now display with this person so as to reflect that you are not as intimidated as you once were.
  • Identify contingency responses in case the person responds negatively to your assertive, non-intimidated behaviors.
  • Identify the negative or positive consequences of your new behaviors of assertion and non-intimidation with each person.
  • Make a commitment with yourself to accept whatever the consequence might be for freeing yourself up from the intentional or non-intentional intimidation of this person.


Step 3: Now you are ready to act in a new, less intimidated way with each person. As you proceed, use positive self-talk of I am, I can, and I will to strengthen your desire to no longer be intimidated. Some examples are:

  • I am a good person and deserve better.
  • Every person is a human being and I will not need to put people in a superhuman position over me.
  • I am deserving of the power over my own life.
  • I will take back the power over my life from people who intimidate me.
  • No one can or will intimidate me.


Step 4: Monitor your progress at being assertive and non-intimidated with people. If you fall back into the old way of responding, return to Step 1 and begin again.