Wikipedia:Accepting other users

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Accepting other users is an important part of editing Wikipedia. You need to work with other users, reduce tensions that cannot be avoided entirely, and cope with the stress of handling difficult situations. It might take some users some time to reach a level of civilized behavior: try to be patient with them.

Over 18 million served[edit]

By 2009, Wikipedia had over 10 million registered users (currently: 24,991,485), while also hosting almost as many IP-address users who choose to edit without a login. People trying to write articles can face opposition, or get help, from many different people. Typically, a website would have restricted the membership to like-minded people, to those showing a serious interest, but Wikipedia has almost no restrictions for user access. In a sense, Wikipedia is a grand social experiment that poses the question: "What if everyone had to co-exist, without shooting each other or putting people in jails?" For over 8 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 people.

Imagine eccentric personalities[edit]

Typically, people tend to assume that others think or feel the same way that they do. However, with Wikipedia, the exact opposite will sometimes 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 seemingly well-educated person might be a "nutty professor" instead, with no common sense.
  • Someone with a command of 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[edit]

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". Consider some related analogies:

  • Children must be repeatedly taught to say, "May I..." or "Thank you".
  • Dogs 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[edit]

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 of Sartre, "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.

Coping methods[edit]

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, beware becoming angry by so many problems in so many diverse areas. And always remember "don't panic".
  • Count from 1 to 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 even 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.

Anger can poison daily events[edit]

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

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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See also[edit]