Jump to content

User:Coppertwig/Techniques for handling emotions when editing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I use these techniques to reduce the extent to which emotions interfere with my editing, especially with my interactions with other editors. None of these techniques was invented by me. I don't necessarily use them perfectly or 100% of the time, but I find them useful and effective and recommend their use.

Take a deep breath


... or two or three ...

The 24-hour break


When angry or upset, wait 24 hours before replying.

When I start to reply to a message and feel some emotions rising, I ask myself, "Am I feeling angry or upset?" Part of my mind answers "Not much, and I know what I want to write. Waiting 24 hours won't change it." I calmly and firmly ask myself again, "Am I angry or upset?" "Yes," I admit. "OK, wait 24 hours before replying."

I find that practically always, my reply after waiting is different from what my original reply would have been. It may be quite similar to what I was going to write but in slightly more polite or diplomatic wording -- a difference which can be crucial in avoiding escalation of disputes. It may be quite different, or I may decide not to reply at all.

Another advantage of this method is that it allows the other person time to cool down, too. I still edit other parts of the wiki meanwhile. If time passes before I respond to one of your messages, it doesn't necessarily mean I was angry or upset, though. I could have been busy or forgetful, or I could have just needed time to think over what to say

The anger log


Learn how anger affects your judgement.

I used this technique once, over a period of several weeks years ago, and it has had a profound and lasting effect on how I interact with other people. I forget the precise details, but it goes approximately like this. Quotes here are illustrative, not exact quotes.

You make a chart, with columns for date-time, brief description of incident, intensity of anger, and two columns for "Do I believe my anger is justified?" (short-term and long-term).

Whenever you get angry, a little or a lot, within a few hours you make an entry in the chart. Intensity of anger can be recorded on a scale from 1 to 10. You ask yourself whether you believe your anger is/was justified, and mark down "yes" or "no" in the appropriate column. (Or perhaps it was a percentage for how sure you are that your anger is justified. I forget that detail.)

You revisit each incident approximately 1 to 3 days later -- a short enough time that you still remember the details of the incident, but long enough for your anger to have cooled down. Again, you ask yourself whether you believe your anger was justified. Often, one's opinion has changed, whether because a misunderstanding has been cleared up, or because one has calmed down and gained perspective and perhaps gotten input from other people. (Also, maybe it involved evaluating whether you think your anger had been more intense than warranted.)

After doing this for a few weeks and logging at least about 10 incidents, you then calculate a percentage to answer the question "When I feel angry and believe my anger is justified, what percentage of the time do I realize later that my anger was not actually justified?" This is the key part of the whole exercise. It can be quite an eye-opening experience.

When you just look at each incident one at a time, you think, "Oh, well, that was just a misunderstanding." or "I just over-reacted that time," etc. But when you calculate that percentage and look at the overall pattern and know that, when you're angry, a large percentage of the time you're going to realize a few days later that your anger was exaggerated or unjustified, it can really give you a different perspective.

After having gone through that, I find myself somewhat more able than before to tell myself, "I'm angry, therefore my judgement at the moment may not be very objective," and refrain from rash actions. I imagine it's like deciding not to drive because you know you've been drinking.

Cognitive therapy


Logical, balanced thoughts lead to appropriate levels of emotion.

These techniques help one to get control over runaway emotions. If an emotion is appropriate to a situation, these techniques should not be used and won't work anyway. But if an emotion is inappropriate or exaggerated, you can use these to reduce the intensity of emotion, think more logically and gain perspective. For example, David Burns' book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, or Dennis Greenberger's Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think [1].

Being diplomatic


Slight changes in wording can make a big difference to whether someone is offended by a message, or takes it in the spirit in which it's intended. The more heated a debate, the more worthwhile it is to carefully edit messages before posting, to make them the most diplomatic possible. It often helps to edit the comment after doing something else for a while.

Short messages can be better, because the longer a message, the higher the chance that there will be something somewhere in it that the other person will perceive as offensive; and in a heated debate, one little offensive thing somewhere in the message might unfortunately lead to the other person just focussing on that and ignoring the rest of the message.

I figure it's not productive to expect the other person to start being civil until one has eliminated all (of what might be perceived to be) incivility from one's own messages.

Practice on your family


These are just suggestions, and some people may already be doing these things.

Exercise 1: No insults


One can make an absolute, gut-level promise to oneself that no matter what happens, no matter how angry one feels, there are certain things one is not going to say to a family member. This could include adjectives like "stupid"; swear words; and "I hate you". It helps to remember that even when we're intensely angry, this is still a member of the family that one loves, and that one is going to continue living with for many years through many ups and downs.

Exercise 2: No yelling


This exercise may be easier after some experience with Exercise 1. One can make a commitment never to yell at family members. Perhaps one just raises one's voice slightly or puts a bit of emotional intensity in when saying things like "I'm angry at you", but one doesn't raise one's voice any more than that. One either accepts the way the familly member is behaving, or finds other, effective methods to influence the family member to behave differently. Instead of yelling, intensity of emotion can be conveyed with statements like "I'm angry." "This is really important to me." "I have very strong feelings about this." Books by Thomas Gordon about "Effectiveness Training" have excellent advice about how to communicate in emotionally charged situations.

Exercise 3: Edit Wikipedia


After excercises 1 and 2, this one in comparison is a piece of cake; however, it still takes some effort. One can use the preview button; email it to oneself for sober reconsideration the next day; email it to a friend saying "look what I almost posted", etc.

Good Health


Before editing, get a good sleep, some good, healthy vigorous exercise, and healthy food to give your brain the nutrients it needs to function optimally, and avoid alcohol and other drugs. Going for a walk is supposed to be good for mental as well as physical health, and gives you time to think things over. If you're tense or angry, it's a good time to work off that energy with exercise rather than expressing it online. Vigorous exercise, besides improving your health long-term, is also claimed to improve calmness and alertness over the following few hours. Of course, an exercise program needs to be selected which is appropriate to your current state of health.