Incivility - Meta
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Incivility is behavior that creates an atmosphere of animosity and disrespect. Incivility is a source of conflict and a cause of wikistress.
The Wikipedia community has an informal hierarchy of core principles — the first being to strive for NPOV. The second simply demands reasonable degree of civility towards others. Even if "civility" is just an informal rule, it’s the only term that can apply, and it’s the only reasonable way to delimit acceptable conduct from the unacceptable. We can’t ask people to love, honor, obey, or even respect another, but we have every right to demand civility.
One essential definition of civility is to treat others as you like would have them treat you. However, in reality, it is not always enough just to treat people in the same way that you would have them treat you, because people may have different preferences for how they like to be treated. For this reason being civil relies on the use of empathy to realize that others may have different preferences of treatment than you do, and that a form of behavior that you might not personally find unpleasant could be experienced as unpleasant by others. Importantly, empathy includes the ability to realize that others may also have difficulties being sufficiently empathic, and that perceived lack of civility in others does not necessarily stem from bad faith, but could come from users having different norms of behavior or personality.
Incivility is a vicious cycle because people who experience uncivil behavior from others will usually retaliate, escalating and polarizing conflicts and threatening or impeding collaboration.
The problem
Wikimedia projects as a whole is not especially respectful of other contributors. This directly affects the quality of the community experience. By hurting the community, the quality of content is affected as well. This creates a cycle of incivility that reinforces itself, and in some cases conflicts between contributors over a single content (article, media, etc.) can expand to involve additional people and pages.
Petty examples that contribute to an uncivil environment
More serious examples include
Incivility happens for example when you are quietly creating a new page, and another user tells you, "If you’re going to write a pointless page, could you spell-check it?" Escalation occurs when you reply, "Mind your own business."
This style of interaction between Wikipedians drives away contributors, distracts others from more important matters, and weakens the entire community.
When and why does it happen?
Most of the time, insults are used in the heat of the moment during a longer conflict. They are essentially a way to end the discussion. Often the person who made the insult regrets having used such words afterwards. This in itself is a good reason to remove (or refactor) the offending words.
In other cases, the offender is doing it on purpose: either to distract the "opponent(s)" from the issue, or simply to drive them away from working on the article or even from the project, or to push them to commit an even greater breach in civility, which might result in ostracism or banning. In those cases, it is far less likely that the offender will have any regrets and apologize.
It should be noted that some editors deliberately push others to the point of breaching civility, without committing such a breach themselves.
Why is it bad?
General suggestions
Preventing incivility within Wikipedia
The "Civility Barnstar" is intended to reward users for civility. The aim is to award good civility, and not to just warn against bad civility
Reducing the impact
Removing uncivil comments
Management of incivility during the mediation process
Parties sometimes attempt to negotiate an agreement while one party is not ready to negotiate. For example, if the source of the conflict is a specific point in an article, dispute resolution may be impaired if discussion is still clouded by an uncivil exchange between both parties. It is best to clear up that issue as soon as possible, so disputants can regain their balance and clarity when editing.
Explain incivility
Some editors are badly shaken by uncivil words directed towards them, and can’t focus on the source of the conflict itself. It may help to point out to them why unpleasant words were used, and acknowledge that while incivility is wrong, the ideas behind the comment may be valid.
The offended person may realize that the words were not always meant literally, and could decide to forgive and forget them.
It can be helpful to point out at breaches of civility even when done on purpose to hurt, as it might help the disputant to refocus on the issue (controversial).
Rephrasing disputants’ comments
During the mediation process, a third neutral party is in contact with both disputants, ensuring communication between them.
The role of the mediator is to promote reasonable discussion between the two disputants. Therefore it is helpful to remove incivility voiced by User A, in rephrasing comments to User B.
For example, if User A and User B are flaming each other by e-mail through a mediator, it might be best if the intermediary turns "I refuse to allow Neo-Nazi apologetics to infest the Wikipedia" to "User A is concerned that you may be giving too much prominence to a certain view."
Rephrasing flames publicly exchanged before or during the mediation process
At the end of the mediation process, the mediator may suggest that the disputants agree to remove uncivil comments that have remained on user and article talk pages. The editors might agree to delete a page created specifically to abuse or flame the one another, and|or to remove all flaming content not relevant to the article discussion, and|or to refactor a discussion. This may allow disputants to forgive and forget offenses more quickly.
Similarly, the disputants might agree to apologize to each other.
Suggest apologizing
Mediation regularly involves disputes in which one party feels injured by the other. The apology is an act that is neither about problem-solving and negotiation, nor is it about arbitration. Rather, it is a form of ritual exchange between both parties, where words are said that allow reconciliation. In transformative mediation, the apology represents an opportunity for acknowledgement that may transform relations.
For some people, it may be crucial to receive an apology from those who have offended them. For this reason, a sincere apology is often the key to the resolution of a conflict: an apology is a symbol of forgiveness. An apology is very much recommended when one person’s perceived incivility has offended another.
If all else fails...
If an editor feels the need to be uncivil, he/she should do that elsewhere,[1] not on Wikimedia projects.
See also
Last edited on 22 January 2021, at 08:37
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