Question:

My coworker 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!" If we're working on a project together, she'll say, "Oh, last night I was the thinking about our report, and the Lord told me we should - "

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.

Answer:

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 she says 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.

Q:

I have a wonderful partner; 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, non-controlling parents, family and friends. He grew up 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 know about parents' thinking their kids are perfect, and so blaming things on the partner. Still, 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 (on or off, yes or no).

I love my partner, but don't know if I can take the bait anymore.

A:

The first step in dropping your end of a struggle (see above) is wanting to. And that means releasing your grip on the convenient little roles you've assigned everyone - the son, the coach, the (female dog) and their victim.

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.

So what is a refusal to accept another's refusal to discuss? 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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