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Topic » Abrasive Personality

Abrasive Personality

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An abrasive personality is a type of harsh, blunt, and aggressive personality. People with abrasive personalities are mostly dubbed as unfriendly, egotistical, cold, and domineering.

What Is An Abrasive Personality?

An “abrasive personality” means a form of unsocial personality, bordering on aggression, authoritarian approaches, and insensitivity. The term is not a technical term like “narcissistic personality” or “agreeable personality”. Instead, it is a layman’s connotation to describe people who are loud, opinionated, overbearing, and unempathetic.

The relatively obscure and unexplored clinical counterpart of abrasive personality is termed “abrasive personality disorder” (AbPD). An early study 1 defines AbPD as a cognitive and behavioral disorder that makes people “obnoxious, overbearing, compulsive, manipulative, engaging in projection, and breaking rules”. Its sufferers are frequently dubbed as “sandpaper people”, “pathological complainers”, “naysayers”, “control freaks”, and “difficult people”.

People with abrasive personalities always tend to be brutally frank and disrespectful of the unspoken rules of social discourse. They also tend to be brilliant, analytical, and perfectionistic. They are people who experience stress, anxiety, and insecurity and they end up projecting this insecurity on others around them.

Authoritative and domineering, they tend to be “control freaks” who wish to control everyone around them. They are harsh, blunt, cold, and curt and appear to be excessively outspoken, opinionated, and bossy.

They tend to stir up awkward and uncomfortable situations and put people “on the spot” without any disregard for their actions and their consequences. They are frequently seen handing out unsolicited advice or criticism and annoyingly interfering in matters that do not concern themselves.

Harboring the belief that they are perfectionists and can do no wrong, abrasive people frequently weld a self-righteous, “holier-than-thou” approach in life. They are narrow-minded, inflexible, extremely volatile to criticism, and resistant to change and adjustment.

When it comes to their goals, they are pushy, impatient, and ruthlessly competitive—with no tolerance for failure and incompetence. However, despite lacking empathy for others, they have a strong and intense idea of self-identity, self-empathy, and emotional wellbeing.

Most of the time, they display borderline narcissistic traits and work to achieve self-centered objectives—using and discarding people on their way up the social and material ladder.

What Are The Signs Of Abrasive Personality ?

signs of an abrasive person.
Abrasive Personality

According to an older study 1, abrasive personality traits are somewhat similar to those in Axis II personality disorders 2 like borderline personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, etc.

A person with the characteristics of an abrasive personality is usually:

  • Brilliant, analytical, and perfectionistic
  • Commanding and authoritative
  • Aggressive
  • Cold, curt, and excessively honest
  • Matter-of-fact and self-righteous
  • Outspoken and opinionated
  • Adept at making people uncomfortable
  • Lacking in empathy
  • Narrow-minded and inflexible
  • Pushy and impatient
  • Intolerant of failure and incompetence
  • Ambitious
  • Highly competitive
  • Emotionally and materially self-centered
  • Habituated in projecting one’s insecurities on others

Read More About Aggression Here

What Are The Types Of Abrasive Personality?

According to research 3, there are two types of abrasive personality—including:

1. The unconscious abrasive personality

People with unconscious abrasive personality are not aware of their aggressive nature and commanding behavior. They tend to think that their harsh conduct and competitiveness are natural. Therefore, they seldom apologize for hurting others.

2. The self-conscious abrasive personality

People with this type of abrasive personality are aware of their personality traits and behavioral patterns. They derive pleasure in showing off their aggressive characteristics and hurting others.

What Are The Causes Of Abrasive Personality ?

Research 4 attributes the causes of abrasive personality to:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Emotional neglect
  • Parental abuse and neglect
  • Childhood trauma
  • Negative developmental experiences
  • Personality traits
  • Low self-esteem and insecurity
  • Excessive fear of failure
  • Psychosocial experiences like bullying, strict upbringing, etc.

Read More About Emotional Abuse Here

How To Change Your Abrasive Personality

If you have received feedback from other people that you have abrasive personality traits, reconsider your thoughts and conduct. The following ways can help you change your abrasive behavior:

1. Consider the feedback that you have received about your behavior

Acknowledge the fact that you may have an abrasive personality. Try not to react negatively or critically to the feedback about your abrasive behavior. Instead, keep an open mind and reflect on your behavior. Do not feel guilty, but empathize with yourself. Positively approach the feedback and try to work on improving yourself.

2. Reflect on your behavior

Think about your personality traits that might come across as brash, aggressive, boastful, or intimidating to some people. Reflect on how you can change your behavior and mannerisms. Remember, recognizing the need to change is an essential first step toward modifying your attitude.

3. Try self-help strategies

Studies 5 mostly attribute the causes of abrasive personality to stress, emotional abuse, and negative developmental experiences. Try reflecting on your unresolved emotional issues and look for strategies to address and cope with the mental distress. For example, if you think you are acting out aggressively because of stress and anxiety, try stress-management and mindfulness techniques like meditation, yoga, etc.

4. Consult a therapist

Abrasive personality disorder (AbPD) is a relatively new form of personality disorder and research is still underway to determine its causes, effective diagnosis, and successful treatment. Current clinical practice 6 states that abrasive personalities and their pathological forms can be of varying degrees and their ‘treatment’ is customized according to the symptoms observed.

However, it should be noted that having an abrasive personality does not mean that you have a mental disorder. Seeking professional help can go a long way in addressing, and even correcting, behavioral issues. Therefore, to manage your abrasive personality traits, consider talking to a therapist or a behavior coach. The therapy sessions may help you successfully reorient yourself 7 with your thoughts, feelings, and value systems.

Read More About Online Therapy Here

How To Deal With An Abrasive Person?

People with abrasive personalities seldom accept that they have a behavioral problem. Consequently, they would be quite opposed to reacting positively to feedback or caring that they need to change their conduct. They may even enhance their aggression towards you and make things difficult for you. However, experts 1have claimed that certain reverse psychology ‘tricks’ can help ‘convince’ abrasive people to reflect on their conduct.

The imperative need for self-recognition and self-transformation must come from the abrasive persons themselves. They must be the ones to say out loud that they need help, support, and care.

Then you can reflect it back to them using their own words so that they can hear it for themselves and convince themselves. If the abrasive person is convinced that they need to rectify their behavior, they will work on it.

We all may have encountered ‘sandpaper people’ with abrasive personalities, personally and professionally. Oftentimes, abrasive personality examples can be found within our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

We face extreme negativity and other difficult issues when we deal with such people. To create a successful working relationship, consider the following tips to deal with an abrasive person:

1. Dealing with an abrasive person in relationships

It can be very difficult to be in a relationship with an abrasive person. Consider the following tips to cope with a person with an abrasive personality in relationships:

  • Figure out the type of abrasive personality the concerned person has.
  • Have a direct conversation with the person, explaining kindly how his/her behavior affects you and the others around them.
  • Convince the person that he/she needs to change his/her behavior and attitude.
  • Avoid confrontation.
  • If he/she asks for feedback, help him/her formulate self-help strategies to cope with their behavioral inadequacies.
  • If they ask for professional help, help them through therapy and recovery.
  • Understand them and help them cultivate an empathetic value system.

However, if it gets too much for you, don’t continue condoling and trying to make him/her a better person. Their negativity can harm you mentally and physically and, in such cases, cut them off.

Make yourself understand that you have done your part but he/she is not willing to change for the better. Let them go and make peace with yourself that you have done your best to help them.

2. Dealing with an abrasive personality at work

As in personal relationships, it can be equally challenging to deal with people with abrasive personality at work. But you have to deal with them no matter what and the following measures can help you establish a better interpersonal and professional dynamic with them:

  • Act impeccably and maintain your own sense of decorum.
  • Be unflappable and try to navigate stressful situations with ease.
  • If the person is open to having a face-to-face conversation with him/her, explain how his/her behavior is affecting you—without going into a confrontation.
  • Observe office dynamics and move at your own pace.
  • Be guarded while communicating with the person, like maintaining an email trial or a communication file.
  • Don’t let their toxicity affect you. Instead, strive to keep the energy at work uplifting.
  • Restore yourself outside of work and reset new boundaries with the respective person.


Dealing with people with abrasive personalities is stressful. As long as you are interacting with them, chances are that you may end up getting into trouble or creating more issues for no fault of your own.

Therefore, it is important that you set boundaries and take care of your mental and physical health. Limit your interactions with abrasive people to the bare minimum. Understand that there are some things that you can’t control or take responsibility for. In such cases, it’s best to let things go and move on.

Abrasive Personality At A Glance

  1. An abrasive personality is a type of harsh, blunt, and aggressive personality.
  2. People with such personalities tend to be unfriendly and difficult to interact with.
  3. It is of two types: unconscious and self-conscious abrasive personalities.
  4. The causal factors for such a personality include emotional neglect, negative life experiences, stressful situations, personality traits, etc.
  5. Abrasive personalities can be rectified with therapy and behavior coaching.
👇 References:
  1. Litvak, S.B. Abrasive personality disorder: Definition and diagnosis. J Contemp Psychother 24, 7–14 (1994). [][][]
  2. Widiger, T. A., & Frances, A. (1985). Axis II personality disorders: diagnostic and treatment issues. Hospital & community psychiatry, 36(6), 619–627. []
  3. Fariba, K. A., Gupta, V., & Kass, E. (2022). Personality Disorder. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. Available from: []
  4. Hicks, R., & McCracken, J. (2009). Coaching the abrasive personality. Physician executive, 35(5), 82–84. []
  5. Balsis, S., Eaton, N. R., Cooper, L. D., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2011). The Presentation of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in an Octogenarian: Converging Evidence from Multiple Sources. Clinical gerontologist, 34(1), 71–87. []
  6. Coolidge, F. , Valenzuela, I. , Segal, D. and Feliciano, L. (2018) An Empirical Investigation of a New Measure to Assess Abrasive Personality Disorder Traits. Psychology, 9, 114-123. doi: 10.4236/psych.2018.91008. []
  7. Kashdan, T. B., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical psychology review, 30(7), 865–878. []