- For the essay, see Dispute resolution (essay). For the proposed committee, see Dispute resolution committee.
In general, try to avoid heated arguments by remaining civil and seriously considering other editors' points of view. If a dispute develops, try privately talking to those involved, or spend some time away from the project to regain perspective. More specifically, see the steps below in the order they are listed.
The best way to resolve a dispute is to avoid it in the first place. Be respectful to others and seriously consider their points of view.
- You should not simply revert an edit made in good faith. If someone makes an edit you consider biased or inaccurate, improve the edit or revert it manually with a polite edit summary explaining why you're 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, which is likely to aggravate other users. Discuss disputed changes on the talk page or privately. If you encounter rude or inappropriate behavior, resist the temptation to respond unkindly, and avoid personal attacks.
The first step in resolving almost any conflict is to discuss the issue. Either contact the other party on that user's talk page, or use a neutral and relevant discussion page. When the dispute involves content, never allow the dispute to take over the content. Keep calm, avoid personal attacks, seriously consider the other person's perspective, 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, you must make a serious attempt at discussion and compromise. Failure to do so 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.
Try agreeing with the other user that until the dispute is resolved, neither will do anything to escalate it. For example, you might agree not to edit a controversial page or use administrator access, depending on the dispute. This allows others to consider the issue fairly without the confusion of ongoing escalation, and helps keep discussion calm.
If discussion fails or becomes heated, try disengaging further for a while. Participate constructively elsewhere, bring in an outside user, or both. Avoid going back to area of dispute; respond to questions about it on your user talk page and direct the questioner to take their issues to a relevant talk page to keep all relevant discussion in one place. This is particularly helpful when disputing with new users, as it gives them a chance to familiarize themselves with the project's policy and culture.
Take a long-term view. In due course the problem may simply disappear, either because the other user moved on or more users became involved.
Invite neutral users
It might help to ask neutral users to join the discussion. Many disputes that cannot be resolved through direct discussion may be resolved with input from uninvolved users. Depending on the dispute, you need to expose the issue to a larger audience. Consider posting to a local community discussion page or on Requests for comments, or discuss on IRC with other users.
If consensus is difficult to gauge from discussion alone, consider conducting a survey of opinion in order 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 w:Wikipedia:Discuss, don't vote for reasons why discussion is necessary and superior to voting.
In some cases, the above steps will fail even if everyone involved seriously tries to reach an agreement. You can try one or several of the following steps, depending on the nature of the dispute and the preferences of people involved. Note that later steps of the dispute resolution process will be easier if you follow as many of these steps as feasible.
Request that a respected neutral user mediate the dispute. Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral person helps guide discussion towards an agreement that can be acceptable to everyone. When requesting 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. Mediator will work to allow everyone express their points of view, listen each other and you can arrive to a satisfactory agreement to everyone. Mediation is a confidential and collaborative process of resolutions of conflicts.
As a last resort, having taken all other reasonable steps to resolve the dispute, you can submit the dispute for arbitration. Unlike mediation, in which the third party only helps the disputing users reach an agreement, an arbitration committee will impose a binding solution that all users must obey. Solutions may involve removal of access, blocking users, or forcing users to avoid editing the area of dispute. Such a decision will be enforced as necessary. If this doesn't work switch off the computer and take a bottle beer to drink down your frust.