7 Signs Someone Is Coming Off As Abrasive Without Realizing It
by Kristine Fellizar
BDG Media, Inc.

Being outspoken, opinionated, and honest aren't bad qualities. But sometimes honesty, like too much of it, can have a way of rubbing people the wrong way. For instance, the honest to a fault individual might unintentionally come off as abrasive to those who don't really know them. So what are the characteristics of an abrasive personality?

"Abrasive is a relative term," life and wellness coach, Melissa Lewis, tells Bustle. For instance, in some places abrasiveness may be considered common. "Even if the intention was not to be rude or hurtful, some people just have very direct and honest ways of communicating," she says. In other places, being too direct or too honest, may be completely off-putting. Where you're from and how you learned to deal with people is one way to determine whether a person may be seen as abrasive.

According to Lewis, abrasive personalities come from several sources. "Family is a major one," she says. "One's upbringing and home is where a person learns behavior patterns if it hasn't changed in other social settings like school, work or a relationship."

In some cases, abrasiveness may be a form of manipulation. "Some people are abrasive because they find that it gets them what they want and they don't care what other people think or feel." But that's not a typical case. This type of abrasiveness may indicate a bigger personality disorder.

So here are signs someone is an abrasive personality, according to experts.


They're Very Commanding

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Abrasive people are often the ones with a commanding and domineering presence, psychologist Dr. Mindy Beth Lipson tells Bustle. "They are often very skilled in commanding an audience and show little patience with others," Dr. Lipson says. Abrasive individuals can be very intelligent and analytical. Often times, Dr. Lipson says they don't want to appear vulnerable to others, so they overcompensate by saying things in a confident way. Unfortunately, that confidence can come off as commanding.

If someone feels like they're coming off as abrasive, Lewis says it's important for them to "be more self aware of their communication style." Asking a friend to help keep them in check can also be useful.


They're Very Direct And Sometimes Too Honest

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"When we think of abrasive personalities we usually think of people who are harsh or aggressive or confrontational," Dr. Lipson says. But not all direct people are abrasive. Some direct people are very healthy. It only becomes toxic if the person is narcissistic, passive-aggressive, aggressive or paranoid.

According to Dr. Lipson, being too honest can come off as having "very little tact when it comes to other's feelings or experiences." Being honest is a good thing. But if someone's too honest to the point that it's unintentionally making another person feel bad, it's obviously not.

Since some people don't know their actions come off as abrasive, Dr. Lipson says it's common for them to deny or turn it around on the people who call them out. However, recognizing that there is something that may need to be fixed is the first step in realizing how this behavior may be affecting others.


They're Seen As Outspoken Or Opinionted

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The best way to know if someone is an abrasive personality is to carefully watch the reactions of others in their presence. "If others look uncomfortable, uneasy or end the communication quickly, there's your sign," Lewis says. Conversations with abrasive personalities can feel very one-sided. That's because they have a ton of opinions and have no problem letting everyone know. To be perfectly clear, there's nothing wrong with being opinionated. In many cases, that's a fairly compelling personality trait.

However, Lewis says abrasive personalities can make an attempt to become more self-aware of their communication styles. "Abrasive people are not necessarily mean or 'bad,'" she says. "Usually they are unaware or just act differently than most people they associate with." It's always good to take a moment to check out of the conversation. An abrasive personality should really be mindful to take notice of the reactions of the person or people they're talking to.


They Have A Way Of Making People Feel Uncomfortable

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Dr. Lipson says abrasiveness may stem from low self-esteem in some cases. Sometimes when people feel insecure, they'll try to bring themselves up in a way that makes them seem more confident and more self-assured. When it comes to interacting with other people, sometimes the abrasive personality will talk over them or make a joke about the other person. Although the intention wasn't to hurt someone else, it may come off differently. It can have a way of making people feel really uncomfortable.

That's why Dr. Lipson says digging into the true reason behind why someone is abrasive is important. While therapy isn't entirely necessary, talking it over with a close friend or loved one can be useful. That conversation can unlock "insight about their deep interpersonal struggles," she says.


They're Not Very Empathetic

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Empathy is the ability to understand and get a feel for other people's emotions. As licensed therapist and professional counselor, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle, an abrasive personality may have trouble holding kind conversations with people due to a lack of empathy. It's unintentionally saying the wrong thing at the wrong time or making a joke to cheer someone up that doesn't go over correctly.

No one can fix an abrasive personality but the individual themselves. "Empathy is the key," McBain says. "Sometimes, abrasive people are just using communication to get a task accomplished in a direct manner. It takes time, energy and effort to have manners and patience." If the abrasive personality can get other people to understand how they are as well as understand how others work, there shouldn't be too much problems.


They See Things In Black And White

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Some abrasive personalities can come off as pushy because they probably learned it from childhood. “In early childhood trauma, people may conceptualize at a young age that you have two choices in life: to either be a victim or a perpetrator,” Dr. Lipson says. “These people never realize that life does not have to be a battlefield with a black or white, good or bad way of seeing things.” But life isn't like that. So it's the person with the abrasive personality's job to work on seeing people as doing the best they can. Having too high of expectations of others may not go over well, Dr. Lipson says.


They're Very Pushy And Impatient

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Abrasive personalities can come off as pushy and impatient even without intending to. They just have expectations that they want met. "Many times abrasive people can't see it in themselves because they get what they want and people will not typically call them out on their behavior," Lewis says. Although many people will let it slide, there has to be at least one person in the individual's life who won't be afraid to call them out in a loving way. Again, if that happens, it's important to listen and don't get defensive. If it's coming from a loved one, chances are, they're just trying to help.

The reality is, you can't really change or control how people react to you. As Lewis says, being abrasive doesn't necessarily mean that a person is "bad." It's not even about them changing or toning down their personality. It's just about being more mindful of how they act so others can feel more comfortable and at ease being around them. There's nothing wrong with that.