BITE ME: the righteous

don't ask why. ask why not.

BITE ME: the righteous

Bite Me is a special 14-installment series based on an undercover stint at a supermarket to draw out lessons on how to better relate to challenging colleagues in the workplace and how to be a better colleague.

These “profiles” are based on real customers who wanted free samples of food.

It’s cheeky and deliciously honest.

To read the others:

The Humble
The A-Hole
The Slob
The Negative
he Snob
he Mute


The Righteous
it’s OK not to know

The Personality

The Righteous thinks he knows more than everyone else. This is how I spot him: I am demo-ing a flax seed spread with coconut oil in the health foods aisle. Most customers demonstrate some interest and awareness of how these ingredients are beneficial to our health. The Righteous is a bit different. He comes up to my table and immediately barrages me about these three studies he just read that proved that the flaxseed industry is trying to “put one over us,” and that the supermarket is nothing but a big corporate conspiracy designed to fool us into spending money on things that pretend to be healthy (I glance at his basket full of “organic this” and “100% natural that,” and wonder if he’s part of the alleged conspiracy). Before I can say a word, he proceeds to tell me how eating flaxseed is dangerous and that it is akin to killing animals for food (I checked the flaxseed for a heartbeat. Couldn’t find one). He tells me how I really should become a vegetable-free vegan because that is the ONLY way a person should eat. After all, two studies tell him so.

Aside from the fact that I now think he’s crazy, I think he is tiresome. He doesn’t seem at all interested in discussion or sharing knowledge, but simply getting on his soapbox and telling me what is right because he knows it’s right. Moreover, because he knows he’s right, everyone else should follow his lead because all other alternatives are just wrong.

I do my best to stand still, smile, and hope he quiets down soon so as: 1) not to scare other customers, and 2) not to scare me.

It’s Not Me, It’s You….

In the workplace, there is that one person who always thinks he’s right. No matter what. He also thinks the world is against him. All the time. This strange combination of confidence and paranoia doesn’t build trust among colleagues or supervisors.

One client with whom I worked looked at her office as a battlefield. Thought she was multitalented and confident, she admitted to treating the first three months at every job like a war she had to win by proving that she was capable and right. This mental attitude led to her defeat. Every. Single. Time.

Having confidence is one thing, but being so focused on proving you are right or that your way is the only way spells disaster.

  • Create dialogue. Rather than open-ended questions, ask the Righteous open-ended ones to create dialogue rather than engage in debate. This can encourage both you and him to be more open-minded.
  • Remove filters. Remove the filters in your head when listening to the Righteous. By suspending your own filters, you may hear things differently, encouraging more open communication.
  • Don’t try to win. When the Righteous speaks, it’s easy to want to prove him wrong. Rather than getting caught up in your own desire to beat him at his own game, remember the bigger picture of your relationship with him. Do you have to work closely with him? Is he your boss? Your supervisee? By keeping the nature of the relationship in mind, you can easier stop trying to win, and engage in conversation instead.

It’s Me…

Even if we are super passionate about a topic, being mindful of the fine line between getting others excited and pushing an agenda.

  • Be open-minded. Being open-minded does not mean giving up your identity or beliefs. It means that you are open to other opinions, other possibilities, and perhaps, even understanding the possibility that your answer may not be the right and only answer. Demonstrating a willingness to hear others is critical in professional growth.
  • Be willing to admit you don’t know. People often mistake admitting they don’t know something or that they’re wrong to mean that they are not suited for or deserving of the job. Admitting you don’t know something can speak volumes to your level of confidence – that you are so sure of your position and your abilities, you can seek help or admit error. People respond to honesty and humility.
  • Listen. So many people don’t know when to just stop to listen to others. Rather, many people just go on and on as if what they have to say is more important than others. To make it worse, they often speak as if their way is the only way or the highway. Pause, take a deep breath, and learn to listen. Actively listen to what others are saying and offering. Your answer may still ultimately be the most effective way to proceed, but no one likes a bully.