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I work at a gas station. This home schooled kid is a flat earther and talks non stop. He's generally a nice person, but his views are awful and polar to mine.

I try not talking, but he continues to talk to me.

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    Have you tried explaining to him that it is best to avoid controversial subjects on which one has strong opinions at work? – Patricia Shanahan Dec 16 '19 at 1:12
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    Effectively the problem isn't his views, but the fact that he won't shut up, correct? – Mast Dec 16 '19 at 9:18
  • Tell him that you think his theory is not going far enough: you actually believe in "hollow earth theory" (which is actually not completely trivial to disprove, as except for the singularities, it could in theory be mapped to our current universe; plus, it intended to fulfil a need to explain why one would not fall off the earth's surface). Tell him that he is too conservative with his views and should go all the way to wrap earth upon itself - flat earth is far too conventional. Put a knowing grin on your face and go about your work. Lay back and enjoy his struggles. – Captain Emacs Dec 16 '19 at 15:46
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    @PatriciaShanahan It's not a controversial subject. A Flat Earther is plain wrong in fact, and there is no controversy. Controversy requires there to be valid evidence for both sides, and there is none for a Flat Earth. It's a fun Socratic debating point on the nature of how we know stuff, but it isn't a "controversy". – Graham Dec 16 '19 at 16:04
  • I know Flat Earthers are wrong, but in this case the Flat Earther's objective is to argue about it, and as far as I can tell the OP's objective is to just get on with the job without wasting time and energy. Controversy just requires people willing to argue both sides, even if all the evidence is one one side. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 16 '19 at 16:31
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No one is going to read your mind, unless you speak about it.

Express your opinion about it, mention that you are not interested in either talking or listening about it. Be polite, but be straightforward. Mention that whatever be the case and irrespective of their opinion, you are not interested in a conversation about it. Also mention that you both are at work, and it will be for best interest for both of you if you can concentrate on work related matters.

Next time they approach you for a dialogue or monologue, mention the same and also the time after. Simply don't encourage them by listening to what they have to say, if possible engage in other activities and say, "as I mentioned earlier, can we not talk about this please?". Repeat couple of times and they should get the point.

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    Should also point out that falls under the more general rule of avoiding politics and religion in the workplace. If you don't hit those topics, it's much more likely you'll get along with your workmates. – Maybe_Factor Dec 16 '19 at 3:40
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    Will a "flat earther" ever get the point? Perhaps this one talks to keep from listening... – Solar Mike Dec 16 '19 at 4:08
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    @SolarMike maybe, maybe not. Only thing that OP can make it clear that they are not interested in that topic. Next time, if OP turns away and ignore, they can blame OP for being rude. – Sourav Ghosh Dec 16 '19 at 4:32
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    @SolarMike Flat Earthers already get the point, the point being that other people believe it is not flat. Getting them to listen is not the solution, only getting them to shut up is. – Mr Lister Dec 16 '19 at 10:28
  • @MrLister that sounds like the boy trying to block the hole in the dam with his finger... – Solar Mike Dec 16 '19 at 11:23
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To supplement the already good top answer: some general actionable advice for this and any other topic that comes up at work that you don't want to discuss.

When they start on the topic, cut in and stop it, but don't go all-guns-blazing straight away. Ramp up slowly. I suggest the following levels, with roughy 1-2 times per level before moving to the next.

  1. Polite question Could we not discuss this? Would you mind if we don't discuss this?
  2. Polite statement of feelings I'd (rather not / prefer not to) discuss this
  3. Indirect command Let's not discuss this
  4. Direct command Do not discuss this

Just to deal with the unlikely case that it continues beyond this, the next step is to escalate to management as harassment. There is zero chance that anyone reasonable would continue beyond this point, and if they choose to do that, they choose to face the consequences.

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  1. Make him a "sandwich".
  2. Explain to him that stating his beliefs derail your capacity to rely on him at work.

I feel you are a nice guy, and I respect you having your opinions.

But in this matter, I disagree so strongly that I doubt if I'll be able to rely on you acting sensible and to-scientifically-proven views. And we are handling shit that explodes here!

I appreciate your company, but talk to me about anything else, no more flat-earth thing, please.

3

Just a few ideas:

1) Maybe just humour him. I talked in detail to a flat earther once and his general point was that while there's supposedly scientific evidence for a round earth, none of this is things you can directly verify. For example, the blue marble photo could be faked. Even Eratosthenes' experiment can't be reproduced by an individual; it depends on knowledge of the distance and direction between Alexandria and Syene.

2) Fight fire with fire. I heard of an anti-vaxer who was won over by being persuaded that anti-vax was actually a Russian conspiracy. Potentially you could do something similar, I don't know, maybe flat earth is a rumour created by NASA because they found platinum reserves on the South pole.

3) Use body language. If you don't want to talk, avoid pointing your body towards him, tut and look distracted while he's talking, walk off without explanation, etc.

I don't think any of these are brilliant, but I hope they give you some ideas.

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A polar view is not bad, what is bad is dismissing ideas without proper Socratic argument. Since he is a nice person that means he would be open to open discussion, do NOT question him but do question the base of his and your own views.

This might be an opportunity for both of you to grow. Give him a good question to think about, and ask him to do the same. That would make him think before talking.

Somebody who was home schooled did not have anyone to talk to, he is a victim of his parents views, he did not chose to become what he is.

Regarding the flat earth or round earth, what difference makes to either of you? If earth was a rhombus balanced on a peanut would not help with either of you saving a dime.

I have worked with people who spend their time making fun of flat earthers, I couldn't care less about the shape of the earth but I was annoyed with them not having a clue about celestial mechanics and size of milky way and not having anything new to teach me.

The real question you needs to ask yourself is would you would have been any different if you had to live his life? and how the hell you can work together to be more than what you are individually?

Flat earth or spherical earth does not make an iota of difference in either of your lives, but being able to work cooperatively with those who you don't agree with will give you a real skill anywhere you work.

  • 1
    I really like the fact that you're trying to present an argument to help the OP and their coworker to both grow personally - and you make a good point about "why does it even matter?" but ultimately it sounds like your answer will lead to even further deep engagement between the two of them, when the OP seems to be looking for disengagement. Can you edit your answer to address that? It might help it get a more positive reception instead of downvotes. – dwizum Dec 16 '19 at 14:25
  • For evidence on your side: ships, planes, high-altitude balloons, satellites, spacecraft, lunar and solar eclipses, tides, observation of other planets and moons, just to think of a few off the top of my head. – Graham Dec 16 '19 at 16:13
  • @Graham : evidence for what? neither of them has a plane or a shipping company nor an interest in astronomy. how does that fact help them with their jobs in a gas station? – Arjang Dec 16 '19 at 19:12
  • @dwizum : sorry, the answer is not about getting points, workplace needs people that are capable of working together no matter if one wants to think if the moon is made of cheese unless they are not designing a lunar lander. – Arjang Dec 16 '19 at 19:17
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    I'm not really interested in points either. I was trying to help you understand that you don't seem to be actually answering the question, and the helpful things you have said are getting ignored because of that. I think you have an opportunity to add a valuable and unique answer if you consider editing to focus on helping the OP achieve their stated goals. – dwizum Dec 16 '19 at 19:19
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Tell him to present you a actually working model of a flat earth (all-in-one, like a globe does...) that can represent day/night cycle simultaniously with seasons and moon/sun eclipses with tides across the opposing sides on that same model without the sun jumping and beeng a spotlight! then you will listen to him and be sure to record it for the "Revolution"-History-Classes surely to be teached in the new world order! (I'm serious, still searching youtube for the evidence, because: where else??!!!)

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    This doesn't work because flat-earthers don't operate within science as we know it. He'll produce the model no problem, and it will be nonsensical to the average educated person, but they will absolutely think they "won" and are right. This only makes OP's problem worse. – Baron Dec 16 '19 at 12:44

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