Wikipedia:The Rules of Polite Discourse

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These Rules of Polite Discourse were developed as guidelines for fair fighting in person but most also apply to forum and Wikipedia discussions as well.

The Rules[edit]

  • Address issues promptly – If you let feelings fester, that is just what will happen: They will rot you from the inside out.
  • Express your feelings and thoughts – How can you expect the other person to understand if you don't express yourself completely?
  • Listen actively – Active listening involves eye contact, nods, and affirmations. Listen both for what is said and what is not said, for feelings expressed and feelings suppressed.
  • Don't get upset – Allowing yourself to become driven by emotion indicates that your reason has taken a back seat. If you notice yourself or the other person becoming agitated, call a "Time Out."
  • Validate the other person – Each person's feelings and concerns are important, however misguided they may seem. Realize that other people's perspectives ARE their reality, the way they honestly see the world.
  • Don't get defensive – If you notice yourself becoming defensive, say so or ask for a "Time Out." If you sense the other person becoming defensive, try to ease the tension and examine what could have triggered such a response.
  • Avoid "You ..." generalizations – Accusatory statements usually trigger defensive behavior and do not promote free expression. Try to use specific examples – "always" and "never" statements are weak, needing only one exception to be disproved.
  • Stay on topic – Do not allow other issues to enter into the discussion. Though important, these issues deserve to be addressed separately.
  • Check understanding – Try restating what you heard to see if that was the intended message. It takes two to communicate – the speaker AND the listener. Both parties share the responsibility for clear communication.
  • Don't be repetitive – If you repeat a statement to clarify a misunderstanding, be sure to emphasize the difference in meaning – otherwise you may seem to be merely grandstanding.
  • Always be respectful – Rudeness is never appropriate or acceptable. Remember that to earn respect you must first show respect for others.
  • Don't interrupt – No one likes to have a train of thought derailed by an impatient listener. What you have to say is very important, but listening to the other person is even more important. Frequent interruptions indicate a lack of concern for what the other person has to say.
  • Let the other person respond – If you launch into a tirade, listing a multitude of offenses, you are inviting an interruption. The other person surely has a response for each of your statements and, denied the opportunity to express these thoughts, will rapidly become impatient or agitated.
  • Suggest solutions – It is easy to complain about a problem. Actually suggesting solutions requires much more time, effort, and thought. The very act of developing a solution requires viewing the problem from a new perspective and, possibly, realizing how difficult it is to design and implement a workable solution.
  • Agree to disagree – Sometimes a solution cannot be found. In such cases, agree that you will not resolve the issue during this session and end the discussion on good terms.