Try to avoid arguments. When this is not possible, try talking privately to those involved, or take a deep breath and sleep on it.
The best way to resolve a dispute is to avoid it in the first place.
Be respectful to others and their points of view. This means primarily: Do not simply revert changes in a dispute. When someone makes an edit you consider biased or inaccurate, improve the edit, rather than reverting it. Provide a good edit summary when making significant changes that other users might object to. The revision you would prefer will not be established by reverting, and repeated reverting is forbidden; discuss disputed changes on the talk page. If you encounter rude or inappropriate behavior, resist the temptation to respond unkindly, and do not make personal attacks.
Writing according to the "perfect article guidelines" and following the NPOV policy can help you write "defensively", and limit your own bias in your writing. For some guidelines, see Wikipedia:Wikiquette.
First step: Talk to the other parties involved
The first resort in resolving almost any conflict is to discuss the issue on a talk page. Either contact the other party on that user's talk page, or use the talk page associated with the article in question. Never carry on a dispute on the article page itself. When discussing an issue, stay cool and do not mount personal attacks. Take the other person's perspective into account and try to reach a compromise. Assume that the other person is acting in good faith unless you have clear evidence to the contrary.
Both at this stage and throughout the dispute resolution process, talking to other parties is not simply a formality to be satisfied before moving on to the next forum. Failure to pursue discussion in good faith shows that you are trying to escalate the dispute instead of resolving it. This will make people less sympathetic to your position and may prevent you from effectively using later stages in dispute resolution. In contrast, sustained discussion and serious negotiation between the parties, even if not immediately successful, shows that you are interested in finding a solution that fits within Wikipedia policies.
Second step: Disengage for a while
A simple solution to a dispute is to stop having it — by leaving the article and/or bringing in an outside editor. This is particularly helpful when disputing with new users as it gives them a chance to familiarize themselves with Wikipedia's policy and culture. Focus your contributions on another article where you can make constructive progress. Avoid going back to the page of dispute. Respond to questions about it on your user talk page and direct the questioner to take their issues to the article talk page to keep all relevant discussion in one place.
Take a long term view. In due course you will probably be able to return and carry on editing it, when the previous problems no longer exist and the editor you were in dispute with might themselves move on. In the meantime the disputed article will evolve, other editors may become interested and they will have different perspectives if the issue comes up again.
Further dispute resolution
If talking to the other parties involved and taking a break fails, you should try one of the following methods to resolve the dispute. Which ones you choose and in what order will depend on the nature of the dispute, and the preferences of people involved.
Discuss with third parties
Wikipedia works by building consensus. To develop a consensus on a disputed topic, you may need to expose the issue to a larger audience. Options for doing this include:
- Wikipedia:Requests for comment, the main avenue for general disputes
- Wikipedia:Third opinion, for disputes involving only two editors
- Asking at subject-specific Wikipedia:WikiProjects or policy pages relevant to the issue.
- Wikipedia:Wikiquette alerts, for problems with uncivil editors
If you have not agreed to a truce before this point, you should do so now. Continuing to escalate the conflict with competing edits is likely to aggravate the dispute. This is also important if you intend to solicit outside opinions because it allows others to consider the issue fairly without the confusion of ongoing edits. If an edit war persists and parties refuse to stop, you may request that the page be protected to allow the process to move forward.
If things are getting a bit tricky, it might be useful to ask some cool heads to look in and help out. Sometimes editors who provide third opinions or respond to requests for comments may be willing to help mediate a dispute, if it is requested. The Mediation Cabal can also assist in settling disputes without turning to formal mediation.
Conduct a survey
If consensus is difficult to gauge from discussion alone, consider conducting a survey of opinion to clarify the issues in the discussion. Note that a survey cannot generate consensus, but is helpful for understanding it. Similarly, if you believe that users are ignoring a consensus, a survey cannot force those users to accept your proposed consensus -- although a survey might assist users in understanding the balance of opinions and reasons for those opinions on a given dispute, it can also easily degenerate into an argument over whether a particular survey is fairly constructed or representative. See Wikipedia:Polling is not a substitute for discussion for reasons why discussion is necessary and superior to voting.
Request mediation of the dispute. Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral person works with the parties to a dispute. The mediator helps guide the parties into reaching an agreement that can be acceptable to everyone. When requesting formal mediation, be prepared to show that you tried to resolve the dispute using the steps listed above, and that all parties to the dispute are in agreement to mediate. Mediation cannot take place if all parties are not willing to take part.
Last resort: Arbitration
If you have taken all other reasonable steps to resolve the dispute, and the dispute is not over the content of the article, request Arbitration. Be prepared to show that you tried to resolve the dispute by other means. Arbitration differs from Mediation in that the Arbitration Committee will consider the case and issue a decision, instead of merely assisting the parties in reaching an agreement. If the issue is decided by Arbitration, you will be expected to abide by the result. If the case involves serious user misconduct, Arbitration may result in a number of serious consequences up to totally banning someone from editing, as laid out in the Arbitration policy.
Editor assistance helps editors find someone experienced to provide you one-on-one advice and feedback. While not a required part of dispute resolution, it is designed to help you understand how to clearly and civilly express your views and work toward consensus. You may request an assistant's help at any time, whether you're involved in dispute resolution or not. Assistants can also help you find the best way to resolve your dispute or issue.
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