Do you know someone that just seems to irritate and wind you up for no reason? No matter what you do you can’t get on with them? Perhaps you wonder if it’s something you are doing that makes them act in this way?
Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s not you. The bad news is that they probably have an abrasive personality, and that is going to be difficult to manage.
What Is an Abrasive Personality?
Someone with an abrasive personality annoys or upsets people. These are the people that rub others up the wrong way and can be infuriating to be around.
Although the abrasive personality is not a diagnosed medical disorder, there are two known types:
- Without self-awareness (they don’t know they are being abrasive)
- With self-awareness (they do know, but they don’t care)
People with abrasive personalities tend to have a sharp tongue and don’t care who they offend. They are highly opinionated and usually only see things in black or white.
This type of person likes to think they are right all the time and feels they are superior to those around them. They’ll say things like ‘What you should have done…’ or ‘What I would have done…’
Abrasive personalities come across as blunt, ‘Say it how it is’ and ‘Say it to your face’ kind of people. There’s no filter on their thoughts. They prefer to dole out criticism, rather than accept some themselves.
8 Signs of an Abrasive Personality
1. They are blunt and overly direct
You’ll often witness this type of personality say that they prefer someone to tell them straight, or to their face. This is all well and good, after all, no one likes being talked about behind their back.
But there is a way of being direct without upsetting people. Most of us think about the consequences of what we say before we say it. We might consider that it is better to be kind than truthful.
I have a friend with an abrasive personality. On one occasion I was wearing a new coat and without prompting she told me that she didn’t like the colour, it didn’t suit me. I hadn’t asked her opinion. I told her I thought she was being a bit rude and she replied that she was just being honest.
This is typical of abrasive personalities. They think their honesty is a trait to be admired.
2. They are domineering with big egos
Someone with an abrasive personality tends to be bossy and overbearing. These people love the sound of their own voices. They want the spotlight to be on them.
They’ll be the loudest person in a discussion; the one that interrupts to put their point of view forward. They’ll shut down other opinions with sarcasm or disdain.
As far as they are concerned, they are top dog, they have the ultimate authority on the matter and they’re not bothered what you think.
3. They are always right
One aspect of the abrasive personality is that they always think they are right. Of course, we all like to think that, but these abrasive people push it to the next level.
They utilise black and white thinking when making decisions. In their mind, something is either right or wrong. There are no middle ground or grey areas.
We can’t all be right all of the time. However, try saying that to someone with an abrasive personality. Abrasive people tend to be narrow-minded in their thinking. What’s more, they won’t listen to alternative views once they have made their mind up.
4. They don’t listen
Talking about not listening, I know that being a good listener is hard sometimes. I have to stop myself and focus on the other person, and not think about formulating my response while they are still talking.
But abrasive types don’t listen, full stop. Your opinion is irrelevant to them. What they want is for you to stop talking so that they can take centre stage.
5. They use their bluntness as protection
I believe abrasive people, whether they know they are being abrasive or not, use their blunt nature as a form of protection. Deep down, these people are insecure and vulnerable. Striking out with brutal honesty is the equivalent of getting in the first punch.
6. They have no tolerance for weakness or failure
Perhaps because abrasive personalities do have a deep-seated sense of insecurity, they are particularly intolerant of weakness. If you abhor something so strongly, you don’t have it in your own life.
I think Carl Jung’s Shadow Self explains this sign of an abrasive personality very well. We hate the traits we see in others because it reminds us of our failures. These are failures we might not be able to change or accept.
I think it’s the same with abrasive people.
7. They can’t empathise
Because abrasive personalities are so focused on getting the spotlight or forcing their views on others, they lack empathy. This isn’t surprising when you think that they don’t care about people’s views or points of view. Why then should they care about how someone is feeling emotionally?
8. They don’t have many long-term friends
One interesting trait of abrasive personalities is that they lack long-term friendships. They might have friends, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that these are pretty recent acquisitions and the relationships are quite shallow.
Normally, people have a wide-ranging group of friends. People they went to school with or worked with, in the past. Or friends of friends that have stayed in touch. They might not have many friends (if they are introverts for example), but the ones they do have will be meaningful.
Because abrasive personalities wind people up and annoy those around them, you’ll find that typically, these people don’t stick around for long.
How to Deal with an Abrasive Person
The way you want to handle an abrasive person depends on the situation and their relationship to you. I have a friend whose mother is abrasive and he has decided to spend as little time with her as possible. She is in her late 70s now and won’t change her personality.
The problem is that abrasive people think they are right and don’t listen to opposing views. So you have your work cut out right from the start.
But there are a few things you can do:
Use facts and figures, not emotion
You have to try and help the abrasive person see a different reality. As they have a lack of empathy, use logic and the facts to show them.
For example, my friend’s abrasive mother was asked, in a matter-of-fact way, to speculate why no one visited her, sent her Mother’s Day cards, or invited her to their homes. This stage is the most difficult because it might reveal their insecurities.
Use their intolerance for weakness to challenge them
No one wants to admit to being a failure or having undesirable personality traits. But you can play up to the abrasive personality’s need for the spotlight.
Challenge them to change. Put their competitive nature to the test. Tell them you don’t think they are up to the task. Abrasive people have big egos, so if you stroke it properly, you can use their ego to your advantage.
Being around abrasive people is draining. So much so that some of us choose to cut off all contact with the abrasive personality. It’s up to you whether you want to help them change their ways, or go your own way.
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