M:Don't be a dick
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Implicitly or explicitly calling people dicks is a dick-move: don't use this essay as a justification to do so.
"Don't be a dick" is a fundamental rule of all social spaces. Every other policy for getting along with other humans is a special case of it. Although nobody is expected to ban or block somebody for dickery (as this itself would be an instance of such), it is still a bad idea to be a dick. So don't be one. If a significant number of reasonable people suggest, whether bluntly or politely, that you are being a dick, the odds are good that you are not entirely in the right.
Being right about an issue does not mean you're not being a dick! Dicks can be right — but they're still dicks. If there's something in what they say that is worth hearing, it goes unheard, because no one likes listening to dicks. It doesn't matter how right they are.
Being a dick isn't equivalent to being uncivil or impolite (though incivility and rudeness often accompany dickery). One may be perfectly civil and follow every rule of etiquette and still be a dick. Standard dick-moves, for example, include such things as willfully (but politely) drawing attention to genuine (but inconsequential) errors in spelling or grammar of an interlocutor's comments, disregarding the Chomskian distinction between language competence and language performance. So the use of a vulgar term here to convey the concept is intentional, and distinguishes this principle from issues of politeness and other protocols of interaction. Avoiding dickery is not simply a matter of observing the more obvious rules of etiquette, but is a broader and more important concern, generally involving the practice of maintaining a position of respect for the intrinsic qualities of another person during the course of interaction – or else gently cutting the interaction short. Truly being civil and polite means that you do show respect for others (such as in not pointing out needless grammar issues), even when right.
Respect others, even when you disagree. Sometimes the best weapon is to disarm your opponent by disarming yourself (via civil and constructive behaviour), transforming an opponent into a collaborator. Subduing one's opponent without fighting is not only the highest form of mastery, it is also a winning solution for all editors involved, as well as the encyclopedia. Benjamin Franklin wrote: He that has once done you a Kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.
Coping with accusations of dickery
If you've been labeled as a dick, especially if you have been told this by several people in a particular community, it might be wise to consider the possibility that the accusations hold at least some measure of truth. If you suspect that you may have a problem with dickery, the first step is to become aware of it. Ask yourself what behaviour might be causing this perception, and if you can't work it out, politely ask those that perceive it to explain or clarify. Once you have determined which behaviours are causing the problem, try changing them and your mode of presentation. In particular, identify the harsh manners in your communications and replace them with softer ones.
Honestly examine your motivations. Are you here to contribute and make the project good? Or is your goal really to find fault, get your views across, or be the one in control? Perhaps secretly inside you even enjoy the thrill of a little confrontation. This may not make you a bad person, but to everyone who is busily trying to build something great, you become an impediment. People get frustrated, rancour ensues, the atmosphere changes, and the whole project suffers. Are you here to give, or to take?
If appropriate, publicly apologize to anyone to whom you may have been a dick. It's okay; this won't make you seem weak. On the contrary, people will take notice of your willingness to renounce dickery and will almost always meet your efforts with increased respect.
How to deal with dicks without being a dick yourself
Telling someone "Don't be a dick" is generally a dick-move — especially if true. It upsets the other person and reduces the chance that they'll listen to what you say.
Focus on behaviour, not on individuals. Say what you want and why you want it. Say why you think the other person's behaviour is counter-productive. Assume good faith to the maximum extent possible. If you don't understand why someone is doing something, ask. Don't rush to complain until you are sure that good faith negotiations can't work. Understand before insisting on being understood.
Remember that your perception can be wrong. If the other person is writing in an unfamiliar language, or has a different cultural background, you may misunderstand their intentions.
Above all, be genuine. Don't ask questions when you know the answer. Don't say you want one thing if you want another. Don't try to persuade people of things that aren't true. Do not respond to dickery in kind.
- The term "dick" in this essay is generally defined as "an abrasive and inconsiderate person" of any gender. Therefore this is an essay about obnoxious behaviour.
- What Makes A Fuckhead? (David R. Kendrick) ("dick" in the context of this article having originally been a euphemism for "fuckhead").
- High-testosterone people reinforced by others' anger, new study finds (University of Michigan news service)
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