Social & Interpersonal Skills

How To Be Less Abrasive At Work

If you have an abrasive personality at work, it can hold you back. A big part of being successful is being able to work well with others.

When you unintentionally rub your co-workers the wrong way, you’ll find yourself left out of many of the bigger projects. Learning how to be less abrasive at work will benefit your career and make your relationships last longer.

Abrasive Behavior Meaning

Abrasive behavior refers to actions that are harsh, rude, or aggressive towards others. Some examples include:

  • Yelling, shouting, or using an angry tone when speaking to someone
  • Insulting, belittling, or humiliating others
  • Making threats or personal attacks
  • Intentionally damaging property or possessions
  • Criticizing others in a cruel or insensitive way
  • Spreading rumors or gossip about someone
  • Intimidating or bullying others through words or actions

The key characteristics of abrasive behavior are that it is hurtful, disrespectful, and causes emotional harm. While abrasiveness may be unintentional at times, it ultimately stems from a lack of concern for others’ feelings and a disregard for social norms of respect and consideration. The impacts of abrasive behavior can include damaged relationships, reduced morale, stress, and a toxic environment.

How Do You Know If You Have an Abrasive Personality?

Many people don’t even realize they have an abrasive personality. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if you are one of these individuals.

Are You Blunt?

Are you straightforward with others and tell them exactly what you think? While no one likes to be lied to, you need to be direct without upsetting others. You may think your honesty is a characteristic to be admired, but your co-workers may want you to choose kindness over being severely truthful.

Are You Domineering?

People with abrasive personalities like to be the center of attention. Do you come across as overbearing or bossy? Do you like the sound of your own voice?

Ask yourself if you interrupt others to give your opinion. Are you the loudest one in a group? If so, you’re making it look as though you think you have the ultimate authority and that you don’t care what others think.

Are You Always Right?

Those with an abrasive personality always think they are right. Everyone has a little of this in them, but ask yourself if you’re taking it to a higher level.

Do you listen to people with alternative views? If not, you could be coming across as narrow-minded rather than intelligent.

Are You a Good Listener?

It’s hard to be a good listener. It requires the ability to focus on the other person and try not to create your response while they’re still talking.

Those with an abrasive personality don’t listen. They don’t care about the other person’s opinions. They’d rather everyone be quiet.

Do You Rely on Bluntness for Protection?

Abrasive personalities use their bluntness as a form of protection. They may not even know they are doing it.

Do you find yourself feeling vulnerable or insecure? Your bluntness is the equivalent of throwing the first punch.

Do You Tolerate Weakness?

The traits you dislike the most are often a reflection of yourself. Do you see traits in others that remind you of your own failures? You may have failed at things you cannot change, which makes you intolerant of weakness in others.

Are You Empathetic?

People with abrasive personalities are so focused on forcing their opinions on others that they can’t empathize with them. Do you find yourself unable to relate to your co-workers and simply don’t care how they feel?

How Many Long-Term Friends Do You Have?

Most people have a long list of friends that they have gathered over time. They have schoolmates that they keep in touch with, neighbors they enjoy, and co-workers they’ve known for a long time. If your list of friends are all new acquaintances, you may be driving people away with an abrasive personality.

What Causes an Abrasive Personality?

An abrasive personality may be the result of how you learned to interact with others while growing up. You could have been around others with abrasive personalities during your formative years, or your family may have a history of emotional neglect or abuse.

People with abrasive personalities typically have low self-esteem and are insecure. They are so afraid of criticism that they strike out first before the other person has a chance to hurt them.

Their pushy, argumentative behavior has helped them get their way in the past so they use this now. Many people with abrasive personalities don’t realize how offensive they are. Others simply don’t care.

Someone with an abrasive personality can be a good worker, but they’re usually naturally ambitious. They’ve constantly pushed themselves to do better. Because they set impossible goals for themselves, they’re constantly frustrated.

These individuals get angry and upset easily. They make control a priority, which results in them becoming overly controlling. They never accept responsibility for the problems their behavior creates.

How to Fix My Abrasive Personality

If you realize you have an abrasive personality, you need to rethink how you behave. The following steps can help you change your abrasive behavior.

1. Acknowledge your abrasive personality.

Accept the idea that you have an abrasive personality. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for it. Instead, take a positive approach and work on improving your behavior.

2. Reflect on how you behave.

Recognize your personality traits that come across as boastful, aggressive, brash, or intimidating to others. Ask yourself how you can change those mannerisms. Simply recognizing that there’s a need to change is a huge first step.

3. Use self-help strategies.

Since abrasive personalities are a result of emotional abuse, stress, and negative experiences, reflect on emotional issues that you haven’t resolved yet. Look for ways to cope with your mental distress. Instead of reacting to stress and anxiety with aggression, try yoga or meditation.

4. Ask a therapist for help.

Abusive Personality Disorder (AbPD) is a fairly new personality disorder. They are still researching its causes, diagnosis, and treatment. AbPD comes in varying degrees and treatment needs to be customized to the symptoms.

Having an abrasive personality doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental disorder. Seeing a therapist can simply help you address your behavior and correct it. Therapy could help you reorient your feelings, thoughts, and values.

Is Being Abrasive a Bad Thing?

Being abrasive doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person, but it can make it difficult for others to enjoy working with you. When you’re abrasive, you’ll notice that others act like they’d rather be anywhere other than with you. Even if you are terrific at what you do, people will be uncomfortable with you.

There are two types of abrasive personalities.
• People who know they are abrasive and like it
• People who don’t realize they are abrasive

The first type is often self-centered or narcissistic. They put their ego before how their actions affect those around them. This doesn’t make them bad, just hard to tolerate.

The second type is confused by how others react to them. They mean well, but end up saying the wrong thing. This angers and hurts others.

How Do You Sound Assertive but Not Rude?

Many people are not aware of their behavior, thinking that they are being assertive instead of being abrasive. However, there is a big difference between these two behaviors.

Abrasive behavior attacks people and disregards their feelings, while assertive behavior addresses issues constructively and respects others’ perspectives. The key distinction is that assertiveness balances meeting one’s own needs with consideration for others.

To be less abrasive and sound more assertive, you need to learn how to stand up for yourself in a way that doesn’t make others feel bullied.

Read More: How to Be Assertive at Work as a Manager – 20 Examples to Master

Carefully Choose Your Words

Think about how others will interpret what you say. Write your words down and read them out loud beforehand.

Here is an example of abrasive vs. assertive communication between coworkers:

Abrasive: “Why didn’t you finish compiling those reports? I gave you plenty of time to complete them. You’re so lazy and incompetent. If you don’t get your act together, I’ll make sure our boss hears about this.”

Assertive: “I noticed the monthly sales reports haven’t been compiled yet. I know we’re both feeling stretched thin lately. Could we sit down together and come up with a plan to get them done by tomorrow? I’m happy to help out if there’s anything you need from me to complete them. Let me know how I can support you in meeting this deadline.”

Be a Good Listener

Communicating assertively without being rude requires both listening and speaking. By carefully listening to your co-workers, you’ll have a better understanding of the situation. When you speak with thoughtfulness, they’re more likely to respect your opinion.

Don’t Take Everything Personally

When being assertive, you can do everything right and still anger some people. Ignore comments that aren’t important.

Be Humble

You’ll reduce resistance to your assertiveness if you remember to be humble. Don’t brag about yourself.

Be Confident

People are more likely to follow someone who appears confident. To be assertive, you need to show confidence. Allow yourself to be proud of your accomplishments and let it show.

Take Care of Negativity Quickly

If a problem presents itself, address it immediately. It’s part of being assertive.

Handle these issues with respect and kindness. Others will appreciate it. They won’t like it if you avoid problems or handle them in a negative manner.

Deal with How You Feel Superior

All humans feel superior when being assertive. Just don’t be rude in the process.

Creating new behavior habits takes commitment. Create a plan for your new attitude. This makes it easier to succeed.

Read More: 15 Best Books on Assertiveness in the Workplace


Having an abrasive personality doesn’t have to be a bad thing. By realizing you have this type of personality and working on communicating better with others, your assertiveness can help you move forward with your career.

Once you learn how to be less abrasive at work you’ll find that your co-workers will be more accepting of you and your ideas. You won’t get that feeling that others don’t want to be working with you, and you’ll find that you can accomplish much more when being a team player.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

No Comments

    Leave a Reply