Communication 12: Very Intimidating People

Date: 8/7/2008

Most of us find ourselves in a position where we have to talk to someone who we find very intimidating. Let's call these people VIPs (Very Intimidating People). The conversation usually does not go smoothly. You will usually feel pretty stressed afterwards.  Sometimes we have an agenda to discuss and we feel too uncomfortable to bring it up.  One common example might be asking your boss for a raise in salary, or for time off, or some other benefit. 

What will make the biggest difference is being prepared.  More than anything else, this will help you to be relaxed and in control.  Now let us discuss how you can prepare yourself. 

The most effective thing to do is to write down any of the following ideas that you think will help you. Have the paper available in front of you if you are speaking to the VIP on the telephone (and they cannot see the paper).  If you are going to be speaking to the VIP in person, before your conversation refer to the paper often enough that you are very familiar with the ideas so that you can make use of them in your conversation.

First of all, write down how you are going to begin the conversation and how you are going to end the conversation.  In other words, plan exactly what you are going to say, word by word, for your opening and closing sentence.  These need not be elaborate.  In fact, they can be quite plain and simple;  the idea is just that you will feel more confident knowing how you are going to start and  finish. 

After you have written them down, memorize them.  In the conversation itself,  you may not actually say them word for word, but you will have that secure feeling of knowing what you are going to say.

An opening sentence might be:

-----"Good morning... do you have a few minutes sometime today that we could talk?"

A concluding sentence mightbe:

-----"Thank you for your time and have a nice weekend!"

The second step is to consider why you feel intimidated?  One reason is the way we view ourselves.  If you have a somewhat negative self-image then you are likely to feel intimidated by other people, particularly those people who you are subordinate to.  Ask yourself honestly how you view yourself.  Then write down a counter response and tell it to yourself beofre and during the conversation. An example might be:

---(negative self-image) "I am a nebuch."

Well, are you really a nebuch?  Have you accomplished anything worthwhile?  Do you have any talents? Have you ever been successful at something?  This is not meant to take the place of therapy, but rather just to get you through the conversation smoothly and productively-- but most negative self-images are gross distortions!  Remember this and psych yourself with a positive self-image.  You can create a totally different self-image or just negate the negative self-image as follows:

---"You are not a nebuch."  If you want, you can add, "You have accomplished____" Or, "You are good at___"