Friday, October 28, 2016

Dealing with an abrasive personality

In my career, as a human being, I have had to deal with abrasive, arrogant and aggressive people in both my professional and my personal life. At no time was it easy, but I have to say that as I get older I get more capable of dealing with these people, of whom there really are far too many.

Really parents, what did you not notice about your overpoweringly rude and abrasive child that you let them grow into such unpleasant thorns in the side of humanity? You surely didn't do them any favors either.

I was the child of an aggressive father. I was the personal assistant to an extremely arrogant and abrasive man and in almost every job I have ever worked in, and many of my personal relationships, I have had to deal with people with varying levels of one or all of these extremely unpleasant traits. (read my book)

Some of the articles I have read, suggest that the abrasive or arrogant person is someone who feels inadequate and therefore compensates by being aggressive. Some suggest arrogance comes with confidence. My experience has been that it is purely a personality trait, whether is is a result of environment, childhood experience or just plain being over indulged is irrelevant. It usually accompanies a total lack of empathy.  That is the arrogant / abrasive person is incapable of putting themselves in another's shoes.  They have no way of understanding how others feel. Generally they all share the belief that they know everything about everything. And there's the rub, you can't change some of those traits - certainly you cannot teach someone with no empathy to feel another's pain, they are missing the essential gene. There is also a strong element of plain bad manners. And sadly their behavior was not corrected when it could and should have been.

Typically when we think of abrasive personalities we are talking about arrogant or aggressive people who seem to have no filter on either what they say or how they say it. In some cases the abrasive person might be a no-nonsense straight-shooter who is perceived as abrasive but who may be advantageous in an overly passive work environment.


On the other hand they may be control freaks with over inflated opinions of themselves and their abilities. In which case they are generally very arrogant and self-centered. Frequently they are also domineering and bullying, sometimes domineering to peers and subordinates, and fawning to superiors.

However, when an abrasive, arrogant individual is added to a group of self driven, active and experienced people, that is when the entire structure of the team is undermined. If that person is a key member of the team, the manager - assuming he/she knows of the behavior - may work with the employee to change it, but that is rarely successful and generally the final result is the loss of most, or all, of the rest of the team.


And yet, so many managers put far more value on the arrogant, abrasive personality than the more ignorant one. Ignorance is not necessarily an indication of lack of intelligence, and arrogance is not necessarily a sign of intelligence. It is all about confidence. Personally I will put my money on the ignorant, intelligent, willing to listen and learn person, than the arrogant, abrasive, overly confident know it all - the latter will learn so little and offend so many. Disruption in the workplace is invasive, just as bullying in the playground is.

But the title of this train of thought is directed at 'dealing' with that obnoxious person.. so how do you do it? That really depends on whether you are dealing with them in the workplace, socially or in the home. The easiest to solve is socially - just don't socialize with them. In the home in my opinion,, and experience, the best way to deal with them is to react as though their behavior is completely normal and acceptable. Do not react at all, unless of course you are the parent and you are dealing with your own child - definitely you want to correct this behavior.

I have used this tactic in the workplace also, where I have not had the authority to do anything about the situation. Some completely withdraw and do nothing, which is probably exactly what an arrogant person is trying to achieve, how else can you shine if your talents are limited? By shoving the competition into the shadows of course. Others fight back and get nowhere. Given the choice (and the authority) I would let that individual go, you cannot build a team around a bully. The alternative is to go yourself.

The older I get, the more I prefer to just remove myself from the environment completely, life is way to short to put up with assholes.

Some interesting reading:

Is it bullying or abrasive behavior?
The secret to being confident without being arrogant
7 Ways to tell the difference between being arrogant and being confident
Confidence -vs- arrogance
10 ways to tell if you are confident or arrogant
The abrasive personality