8 Traits Of An Abrasive Personality

From time to time, we all encounter people who seem to have a knack for rubbing others up the wrong way.

These abrasive personalities communicate in a very direct, confrontational way that is guaranteed to set the nerves of more sensitive folk a-jangling.

Causing conflict and hurt seems to be their main agenda. They appear to lack the internal filter that moderates most other people’s words and actions.

What’s more, they don’t suffer much remorse for the pain or distress they cause.

From the outside, they are perceived as deliberately hurtful, intimidating, or rude, but it’s worth noting that there are two distinct types of abrasive personality:

One is fully self-aware of their abrasive nature and even takes pride in it.

The other type lacks self-awareness, so is blissfully ignorant of their abrasiveness and its effects.

But both types are unable to play the game of social interaction according to accepted rules.

The delicate, mostly subliminal, art of interpreting facial expressions and body language of the people they encounter is something they’ve never mastered. Tact and diplomacy just don’t feature in their vocabulary.

Their arrogant, sarcastic, and argumentative approach to pretty much everything has the effect of sucking energy out of others, draining them of the power to stand up against the intimidating and aggressive onslaught.

In their presence, peace and tranquillity rapidly turn to stress and aggravation.

Accepting responsibility for the havoc that they wreak in interpersonal relationships along the way is just never going to happen.

Being forewarned is forearmed, as they say, so if you have encountered this type of behavior among your co-workers, superiors, or even your friendship group, it might help to have a summary of the character traits to look out for.

Here are some of the classic indicators of an abrasive personality:

1. They lack empathy.

Typically lacking the ability to understand the emotions and feelings experienced by others, an abrasive person struggles to exhibit kindness, empathy, or understanding.

They have no patience for those who are weak enough to need these things, so don’t want to ‘waste’ their time showing them.

They have an uncanny knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, perhaps even making a joke when the matter at hand is far from light-hearted.

Another common tactic is to abruptly change the subject rather than continue down a path where they might be expected to show empathy, which they would see as weakness. The last thing an abrasive personality will provide is a shoulder to lean on or a sympathetic listening ear.

2. They make others feel awkward or inept.

The normal way that social interaction works is that the exchange is a two-way street with both parties making an effort to engage the interest of the other.

The verbal exchange is backed up by positive body language and facial expressions, intended to put others at ease.

When an abrasive personality is involved – one who prefers to be at the center of attention and has little interest in the awkwardness of others – that pattern fails.

The way they dominate the conversation is all about boosting their self-confidence, because, deep down, their fundamental nature is insecure and vulnerable.

Boasting or poking fun or not letting people speak by constantly interrupting are all typical behaviors, intended to undermine and belittle others while elevating themselves.

In reality, they may not directly intend to cause hurt and distress, but that is the inevitable result of boosting their own low self-esteem at the expense of others.

3. They are loud-mouthed and opinionated.

Once the abrasive person has warmed to their subject, they tend to put themselves center stage, airing their strong opinions assertively.

They are combative, and the degree of conviction behind their confident delivery often sees those with differing views give up in the face of such a brash and opinionated perspective.

Rather than enjoying a robust exchange, others participating in the conversation tend to become gradually more uncomfortable and will seek to bring the awkward situation to an end.

While others can clearly see this brash behavior for what it is, the abrasive person is oblivious to the discomfort they cause.

They have, after all, just said what they think without the intention of upset. It’s just that they are unable to gauge the response of others and lack self-control when expressing themselves.

4. They are intolerant of failure.

Overall, this personality type tends to be hard-working and committed to excel in any role or cause they take on.

But their ambition turns to frustration or even anger when they’re unable to achieve their self-imposed aims.

This failure may even be due to their own shortcomings, but they are masters of the blame game, neatly shifting the responsibility to others.

They feel the same way about the failure of other people and are quick to judge those they deem to be below them in life or society.

5. They are intolerant of ‘gray’ areas.

For the person with an abrasive character, black is black and white is white and they can’t deal with ambiguity. They don’t sit on the fence and will, without hesitation, choose a side and stick with it.

Having reached their chosen point of view, they will then defend it fiercely, with dogged determination.

The problem with this monochrome view of the world, where compromise is impossible, is that they see people whose views differ from theirs as the opposition. Life can therefore be a constant and irresolvable battle.

6. They are bossy and impatient.

The high expectations which are the norm for the abrasive type make them massively intolerant of any failure.

Accordingly, they lack patience with those who are less able than themselves and don’t hold back on letting their irritation show.

They have a tendency to be pushy as they go all out for success, leaving casualties trailing in their wake without a second thought.

Although their persistent effort to succeed can achieve the rewards they seek, this is inevitably at the expense of others. But to the abrasive person, this is merely collateral damage and of no concern whatever.

Anyone perceived as standing between them and their goal will be pushed to one side with whatever force is needed for them to achieve their desired result.

7. They are very direct.

No one could accuse an abrasive person of dodging the issue at hand. They state their views on any given topic directly and honestly.

Although this could be seen as a positive trait, the way that the abrasive type expresses their opinion tends to be confrontational and aggressive rather than constructive and helpful.

Because they lack tact, empathy, and any ability to understand alternative perspectives, they fail to notice that the honest and direct approach that they favor actually causes hurt to others.

Should they be called out on this, they will respond with denial or by attacking anyone who attempts to confront them. 

8. They have a domineering manner.

The abrasive personality type is a larger-than-life character (though not in a good way).

They hold the floor to the exclusion of others with a confidence that would be admirable if they possessed the necessary empathy and understanding to be likeable and engaging.  

But here’s the thing… although they may appear to be commanding and in control, in reality they may be masking their own perceived vulnerability, notwithstanding their obvious intelligence and abilities.

Overcompensating for this concern, they project this supremely confident yet spiky persona, intolerant of pretty much everything and everyone and lacking any interest in or empathy for the people they encounter day to day.

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About Author

Working as a freelance copywriter, Juliana is following a path well-trodden by her family, who seem to have 'wordsmithing' in their DNA. She'll turn her quill to anything from lifestyle and wellness articles to blog posts and SEO articles. All this is underpinned by a lifetime of travel, cultural exchange and her love of the richly expressive medium of the English language.