I teach very casual seminars, care deeply about other people and often go out of my way to show this, smiling, making eye contact, knowing all of my student's names, offering individual supportive comments on their work, and spending time with students in office just chatting over coffee, sometimes with some pretty heavy situations.
And in real life, I am very good-willed and good-natured too. It's not that I so much mind if students find me intimidating, but without knowing why they say this, it is strange and gives me a sense of total cognitive dissonance, especially since the other thing students commonly say is that I am "approachable." I am not a very traditional academic as I spend much of my time traveling, at academic conferences, and doing service-based work. Perhaps there is some social code that I don't understand since it is new?
I retired mainly to pursue my academic research since it is in a subfield of applied ethics.
I teach about one class a semester now, and more and more, the students say I am "intimidating." This makes no sense to me.
I think I will mention where I am in my career a bit less to avoid intimidating them.