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Just refuse to take the bait

Fri., Nov. 16, 2007

Dear Carolyn: My co-worker seems to have made it her mission to convert me. She treats every conversation as if it’s a chance to make points about her religious beliefs. I can’t even congratulate her for getting shoes on sale without her saying something like, “The Lord favors his own!”

She works in the next cube, so I can hear her on the phone with her church friends, all pumped up about how “people are going to try to shut you up, but you’ve got to speak up for Jesus!”

I just keep repeating, well, you know I’m not a believer. But, my inclination to be respectful of others’ views seems to put me at a disadvantage with someone who doesn’t respect mine. – K.

Your vocal nonbelief doesn’t deter her fervor, it fuels it, which you must know – and also probably ignore in hopes of making your point.

But you can’t make a point she refuses to take, especially not by undermining your own beliefs: You are expressing your religious views when you apparently believe it’s inappropriate to do so at work.

While you can’t make her stop broadcasting her convictions, you can certainly live yours, by declining to engage on faith. When the Lord tells her what to put in her report or on her feet, limit your responses to the contents of said report or shoebox. There’s no tug-of-war if you drop your end of the rope.

Carolyn: I have a wonderful partner, and I love his parents. However, from the first time I met “the parents,” I knew he grew up in a different household from mine. My experiences have been with tolerant, noncontrolling parents, family and friends. He grew up in a different environment, with what he calls a passive-aggressive, controlling mother and an aggressive father (a former high-school coach – understandable there). During our visits, his mother has a way of throwing what I call a “roadside bomb” in my direction. I can’t find a way to stop her baiting me into an argument. In my playbook, it could be a discussion, but apparently they can’t deal with anything other than a dilemma.. I love my partner, but don’t know if I can take the bait anymore. – Duck and Cover

A discussion is a chance for people to ask and tell about views in order to understand and enlighten each other. A refusal to discuss, therefore, is a refusal to entertain differing views.

It’s saying you won’t tolerate not having your views heard. That’s what you’re doing, every time you try to defuse or deflect every bomb. Take yourself out of it. Let them be who they are. Tough, but, you’re just visiting; let the duds go by.


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