How can I respond to my non-Christian co-worker?

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How can I respond to my non-Christian co-worker?

Sep 02, 2004 |J. Budziszewski
Question

I always pray for opportunities to share the truth, and I'm used to talking to people with many different worldviews. My co-worker, though, is a problem. He knows that I'm "one of those Christians," because I've put up a big black poster that says in radiant lettering "In the beginning, GOD." So he begins every conversation by poking his head in my office and aggressively saying something ridiculous that is supposed to be a profound statement about existence. The latest is "Nothing exists outside of language!", which would be impossible to know unless you did know something outside of language. I think he's been reading the deconstructionist [philosopher], Jacques Derrida.

In our latest dialogue, he refused to acknowledge such a thing as truth or even to speak the word "true." His substitute is "valid." I've asked him to give me a reason why I should believe anything he says if there isn't any truth; no result. I've asked why I should even acknowledge his world view; no result. I've tried to show him that he continues to invoke absolutes despite not believing in absolutes; no result.

How can I respond? Maybe a scenario or two would help. I'm not asking how to respond to his actual claims, but how to respond to his character or attitude. That's the real problem, I think.

Answer

Be more aggressive! Your co-worker is baiting you, and you've taken the bait every time. He doesn't really mean any of these foolish things he says; getting your reaction is just a game. Though it may be fun for him, it wastes your time. So lay out some bait for him for a change! He pretends to be bold and daring, so dare him to stop dodging the really important subjects. You asked for a few scenarios; maybe these three will help you get the idea.

Scenario #1

Him: "Nothing is real but language."

You: "If that's true, then there's nothing to talk about."

Him: "We could talk about talk, couldn't we?"

You: "We could, but why don't we take a chance and talk about something that really matters to you for a change?"

Scenario #2

Him: "Nothing is real but language."

You: "That's 42 days in a row you've started the conversation with something you don't really believe."

Him: "No kidding?"

You: "Uh huh. What's really eating you? These other 42 issues are just smokescreens."

Scenario #3

Him: "Nothing is real but language."

You: "Nothing we say about that subject would make any difference to your life or mine."

Him: "So?"

You: "So why don't you tell me something that would? "

Remember: Don't take his bait; make him take yours. If he refuses to have a serious conversation with you, don't give in to another phony conversation; instead change the subject to football, or what he had for dinner last night.

Grace and peace,
PROFESSOR THEOPHILUS

Here's how my reader responded:

Thanks for your advice about how to engage the bigoted postmodern co-worker who badgers me with his daily epiphanies. Here's an update. I asked him if he even believes in rational dialogue; he answered no; I then said that we have nothing further to talk about. Even though I've done this several times, he doesn't get it! He won't leave my office, and he insists on asserting himself. He craves attention. Should I try not to be bothered, and let it go?

I answered:

Yes! Try not to be bothered, and let it go. Before, he controlled the field of battle; now, you do. It's not just a clever game for him any more, because he desperately wants to talk, but the only way he can get what he wants is to agree to your terms. He has to give up his right to be unreasonable. Who knows — maybe he'll give in!

Remember, though, you can't let him play Bait and Switch. If he agrees to be reasonable, you should agree to talk; but if he then returns to his old irrational ways, you have to cut off the conversation. Since he's acting like a child, you have to treat him like one.

Grace and peace,
PROFESSOR THEOPHILUS

Copyright 2004 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.

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