Wikipedia:Accepting other users

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This essay is about working with other users, and methods to cope with the stress of handling difficult situations. It is important to try to accept other users and reduce tensions that cannot be avoided entirely. As with the years required to receive an advanced degree, it might take some users a few years to reach the same levels of civilized behavior. Try to be more patient, and perhaps consider how a person might act next year.

Pattern organized by fractals

Over 27 million served[change source]

In 2010, English Wikipedia had over 13 million registered users. At the same time, there were more than 145,000 users on Simple English Wikipedia (currently, that number is 1,096,519). It also hosts almost as many anonymous users who choose to change pages without logging in. People trying to write articles can face opposition, or get help, from many different people. Other websites, may have restricted the membership to people with the same opinions, or to those showing a serious interest. Wikipedia, however, has almost no restrictions for user access. In a sense, Wikipedia is a big social experiment (though not officially) which asks the question: "What if everyone had to work together, without shooting each other or putting people in prison?" For over 10 years, Wikipedia has presented an open environment where, every week, thousands of people try to work together to write and review articles. It is an environment that most people have probably never seen before, and they would never be expected, anywhere else, to work so closely with that many thousands of unscreened people.

Imagine eccentric personalities[change source]

Typically, people tend to assume that others think or feel the same way that they do. However, with Wikipedia, the exact opposite might be the case. In a tragedy, sadness is often be expected, but some might see destruction as a cause for extreme joy. Always expect the unexpected:

  • A person who seems well-educated might be a "nutty professor" instead, with no common sense.
  • A person, who is otherwise moderate in thinking, might have been watching slanted news reports for months (or years).
  • Someone, seemingly fluent in the English language, might rarely speak English at home.
  • A writer might be hearing impaired, with little experience of how words are pronounced by others.
  • People working on technical articles, such as science topics, might never have attended college.
  • A person who seems very nice at first, might turn vicious several days later.

An analogy that might be helpful, to consider, is the way pets behave when meeting others: a dog is very likely to growl and bark at someone they have never met, yet become extremely friendly and cooperative several months later. Same dog - totally different behavior.

Civilized behavior requires teaching[change source]

Abandoned children, raised in isolation, do not magically become "well-groomed" gentlemen of polite society. It is unreasonable to think that people raised in fascist countries, or with domineering parents, would instinctively react with polite consideration, and request, "Well, I'd like to know your opinion, so we can develop a common viewpoint". After working with thousands of Wikipedia users, I have never met someone with such a mellow mindset. Consider some related analogies:

  • Children must be repeatedly taught to say, "May I..." or "Thank you".
  • Animals must be toilet-trained for proper behavior in the household.
  • The upper class has a maxim: "A gentleman never loses his temper with the servants".
  • Also: "You can tell the size of the man by the size of the thing that makes him mad".

Be prepared to face people with radically different backgrounds and limited amounts of education. It is not always easy to get others to sort out the priorities. Few would be visionaries.

Avoid trouble if possible[change source]

The Great Wall kept many away.

Many times, when troubles arise, each person has a choice, as to whether they could just drop the matter, and simply move on to something else. The first option is to back away from the trouble (see essay: "WP:Avoiding difficult users" ). However, sometimes, there is a need to resolve a conflict and try to forge some type of compromise to reach a true consensus, despite the difficulties involved. There is a famous quote, "Hell is other people". Although many people are often very cooperative, there are limits, and when facing a massive confrontation, the situation can seem hopelessly deadlocked. It is important to find ways to accept the other users, and try to resolve the conflicts, to some extent. However, if several people are against you, it is best to move on to other articles. Wikipedia has almost no way to stop groups of people who are all POV-pushing some viewpoint. Even on the English Wikipedia, formal en:WP:Requests for arbitration can take months, and often, the subject of a controversy is not judged for real-world balance, but instead the people are topic-banned depending on who was tricked into becoming the most angry during debates.

Coping methods[change source]

There are many ways to alleviate the stress, caused when handling difficult situations. Some methods are:

  • Don't get ANGRY - When interacting with thousands of other users, the maxim isn't "Don't Panic" but rather beware becoming angry by so many problems in so many diverse areas.
  • Count from 1-10 articles - Don't just back away and relax by counting from 1-to-10; instead, try editing 10 (or 30) other articles (perhaps click "Random article"), before returning to an article where recent trouble has occurred.
  • Look for possible benefits - Rather than dwell on issues causing anger, imagine how much worse it could become if others were to get ever madder. Consider: What has the confrontation taught; what could be avoided elsewhere? Always look on the bright side of life: there are lessons to be learned, and on the other hand, the situation could have become much worse. Be thankful for the positive aspects of the situation.

Each person should seek what works best for them. And remember: some people can hold grudges for years, so beware making people even angrier.

Anger can poison daily events[change source]

If the frustrations and stress are not reduced, then anger can build to interfere with other events:

  • continued gunnysacking of resentment can create a hostile attitude;
  • unresolved anger could trigger outbursts over a co-worker's mistakes;
Earth from Apollo 17

On balance, it would be preferable to merely accept, at some level, the actions of other users, and let go of any resentments, anger, or stress. Be willing to let others have the months, or years, they need to grow and learn how to cooperate in more civilized ways.

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Related pages[change source]