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We've all met at least one person that we feel an urgent need to get away from every time we come into contact with them. Often, the feeling you have when you are with them is that you are being bombarded with porcupine quills from all directions.
You definitely feel like your thoughts go unheard and may even feel like you are somehow less than human. That's how the person seems to see you. You feel drained. In all likelihood, you have just dealt with a person with an abrasive personality.
What is an Abrasive Personality?
While the abrasive personality is not an actual psychological diagnosis, it does sometimes accompany recognized personality disorders such as narcissism. The person appears obnoxious, overbearing, and manipulative.
They are the control freaks who need to have everything their way because they believe they are superior in intelligence to everyone else. They are quick to criticize and may often make jokes at another's expense.
They hand out unsolicited advice and have no filters, and no empathy. The abrasive personality loves stirring up awkward situations. Most people see them as downright rude and mean.
Why People Avoid Those with Abrasive Personalities
These people often get hired for jobs that require a go-get-'em attitude. Their tendency toward perfection and a need to succeed can be beneficial to an organization.
They tend to be able to get to the heart of a problem quickly and are not afraid to bring up the elephant in the room. However, trouble soon arises.
Co-workers feel ignored and even bullied. The abrasive personality thinks they know more than everyone, including the boss.
Nobody wants to spend the day being bombarded with rude comments and they don't want to feel like they are being treated as less than they are.
It is energy-draining to be around these people and eventually the boss is put in the position of either replacing all the workers that are quitting… or replacing the person with the dominant personality.
What Causes an Abrasive Personality?
One of the reasons a person may be abrasive is that is how they learned to interact while being brought up. It is possible they were raised in such an environment. They may have a history of emotional abuse or neglect.
They normally have low self-esteem and are riddled with insecurity. Their fear of being criticized is met with an attitude of having to strike first.
Some people with these personality traits deal with other personality disorders. Others use this as a form of manipulation.
Being argumentative and pushy has gotten them what they wanted in the past and they resort to the same behavior now. It may seem strange to some people, but not everyone with an abrasive personality actually knows they are coming across as offensive. Others know, they just don't care.
13 Signs of an Abrasive Personality
Let's take a look at some of the major traits of a person with an abrasive personality and offer some examples of their damaging words and actions.
1. Dominating and Bossy
This individual believes they know better than everyone around them. They know the correct way to do everything and believe the world will fall apart if they don't take charge.
They are often the loudest people in the room and can be found interrupting everyone else who tries to give an opinion. They will also ridicule anyone who suggests there is a different way to do something.
Example: Your organization is giving a Christmas party. Before anyone has a chance to speak up, Joe starts barking orders and assigning tasks to each person.
Even though the group hasn't even discussed what they want in the way of decorations or food, Joe has it all planned out how he wants it and never considers that others don't consider that a perfect party.
They often come across as aggressive, verbally and even physically sometimes. Rarely are the words “please” and “thank you” heard. They demand what they want and will sometimes even simply take what they feel they need or want to accomplish their actions.
Example: Mary waltzes into the office and, without greeting anyone, stops by a coworker's desk and helps herself to a danish her coworker has on the desk. She then tells the coworker to bring her a cup of coffee and walks away.
The coworker is left not having had a chance to tell her to get it herself or protest the taking of her danish. Mary holds the same position she does and isn't a boss, nor does she even have seniority, she just treats everyone as though they are inferior.
3. Have No Tolerance for Weakness
This person hates anything they believe shows weakness, in both themselves and others. They consider emotions weak and they will ridicule anyone who shows emotions.
Keep in mind that the person with this personality is often very insecure and people tend to hate traits in others that they dislike in themselves. They may even use sarcasm or outright ridicule a person who shows any sign of what they consider as being weak.
Example: George's twenty-year marriage has just ended and he goes to his boss to ask for some personal time off to gather himself and see where he needs to go next. His boss replies: “No wonder she left. Who wants to be married to someone who can't take a little setback without falling apart?”
The abrasive personality sees money as power and will try to accumulate as much as possible. They will use the money to show control over people, often lending money out and then using that as leverage to get the other person to do things they want to be done.
They rarely give gifts without strings attached and will constantly remind people of what they have given. They consider people who don't have money as weak.
Example: Laura's parents have never hurt for money. She got accepted into her first choice of university in the Creative Writing program but her parents wanted her to attend a different school and study law.
One night her dad sat her down and said “You either attend Harvard and get into the law program or you are on your own paying for tuition. After all we have given you, the least you can do is follow the career choice that we feel is best for you.”
These people are perfectionists. Not only do they strive for what they consider perfection in themselves, but they also expect it in others and will be quick to point out any perceived imperfections.
Example: John had worked hard in school and tried to get the best grades he possibly could. He was a straight-A student throughout high school. As graduation was approaching, he found himself ranking second out of a class of 609 students and was very proud of this accomplishment.
He had achieved this while working part-time and excelling on the track team. Expecting his mother to be proud of him, he was disappointed when all she said was “That isn't top of the class. You should have put in a bit more effort. Are you going to be happy always being second-best?”
6. Blunt and Overly Direct
There is no candy-coating anything with these people. They don't believe in saving a person from being hurt and will even offer unsolicited advice.
They pride themselves in saying what they feel and don't understand why people can be hurt by their directness.
Example: Shaina showed up at her Barb's party in a brand new dress. She had spent more money than she thought she should but loved the dress and the way it made her feel. The minute Barb opened the door to let her in, Barb said “I hope you can return that dress.
The color is all wrong for your complexion and you look ill in it!” Shaina was so put off she turned and left. The next day, she got a call from Barb for being rude and leaving.”
7. Always Right
This person is never wrong. They know the best way. If you don't see things their way, you are in for an argument and are often accused of being against them. They see any disagreement as a personal attack. Once they have made up their minds on something, there is no chance of getting them to change their opinion.
Example: Here we can take a look at Donald Trump's idea that he won the last election. Despite many courts saying the election results were accurate and his family and staff members telling him he got fewer votes, he “knew” he had won and everyone was just trying to steal his win. Nobody has been able to convince him that his point of view is wrong.
8. Play to Win
The abrasive personality plays to win. They hate losing. They are also horrible winners who never let their opponent forget the time they beat the opponent at something.
Example: Sue was an excellent swimmer but horrible at tennis. After losing her tennis match, she not only threw her racket and stomped off the court, but she also refused to play against the same opponent again, saying the person cheated.
However, she was quick to point out how she could swim circles around that same person any day and had shown that by winning a race two months ago.
9. Do Not Listen
This person often interrupts when someone is trying to talk. They dismiss what the person is saying or will ignore the fact that others are talking completely.
They don't have an interest in someone else's viewpoint. Why should they when they are superior and always right?
Example: [said while a person is in mid-sentence]: I can't believe you would even consider that. It's obvious you don't know what you are talking about. Now, I say we need to approach this by….
10. Can't Empathize
When you don't care about what others think or feel, it is impossible to put yourself in their shoes. There is absolutely no empathy in these people.
They may express sympathy if it helps them get their way, but it is completely void of emotion. They will even change the subject to avoid having to empathize.
Example: “Sorry to hear you aren't feeling well. I need this done by tonight. Don't make me wait.”
11. See Only Black and White
Compromise is out of the question. By compromising, these people feel they have shown weakness. Everything is all or nothing.
You can accommodate their wishes 99 times, but they will dwell on the one time you can't do something.
Example: You are the one who has always worked overtime when someone was needed. Your boss asks you to stay tonight but you have other things already planned that are important and can't be changed. She comes off with “You never go the extra mile. Don't think you are ever going to get anywhere by slacking off like this.”
This is one trait that can really be helpful for a person who has an abrasive personality. Unfortunately, most carry it to the extreme.
They want to get ahead and prove how important they are, so badly that they don't care who they have to hurt to make it happen. They will lie and cheat to get their way.
Example: Think about the boss who has a worker or team of workers who comes up with an awesome advertising campaign. They have worked many late nights and come up with a plan that is not only loved by the client but is also going to bring a big cash bonus to the company.
When the presentation is made, the boss takes all the credit for the campaign, never mentioning the ones who actually did the work. In addition, he doesn't share the bonus with them.
13. Master of the Blame Game
If this person fails, it is never their fault. Someone sabotaged their work. They lost the race because they were crowded out by the other runners. The divorce was caused because their partner was unreasonable and difficult to get along with.
There is always an excuse waiting about why someone or something else is to blame and not their own actions.
Example: Steve is furious because Sandy got the promotion he wanted. Now, he's telling everyone that she got it for various reasons such as, she took credit for his work, she gave special favors to the boss, and even that the boss needed to hire a woman to avoid ridicule. It never occurs to him that his work may have been inferior or that people simply do not like him.
How to Deal with Someone with an Abrasive Personality
There are two major ways you can deal with a person who has an abrasive personality. First, make sure you approach them with facts and figures rather than emotions. Telling them they make you feel a certain way won't work because most truly don't care and they find emotions a sign of weakness.
The second way to deal with them is to use their intolerance for weakness against them. Tell them what they need to change and then tell them you don't think they can do so because they aren't strong enough to do the work it will take. They will most likely do their best to prove you wrong.
Final Thoughts on Abrasive Personality Traits
People with abrasive personalities are some of the most difficult to deal with. They very rarely have long-term friends because they end up chasing most people away.
If you recognize someone you love, or even yourself, in these traits… it is possible to change if there is a willingness to put in the work. Professional counseling may help, but a determination for self-growth and a true wish to connect with others will go a long way.
Remember, underneath this personality is a very insecure individual. If, however, you find the abrasive person in your life has no wish to change, it may be time to leave the situation in order to protect your own self-esteem.
Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.