Conflict Resolution

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Facilitator: Roshanara Rahman

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Conflict Resolution
Author: Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf


Conflicts within an online community often follow a typical cycle:

  • Private e-mailing: Two people exchange words publicly or privately, resulting in a back-and-forth over private e-mail;
  • Mediators step in: A few people try and mediate the conflict by suggestion methods of resolution. Both sides are too emotional to listen, though;
  • Threats: From "I'll leave if..." to "You'll be forced to leave if you don't..."
  • The hardline: Someone finally says "Either you ____ or you leave!"
  • The White Flag Confession: One or more people in the conflict admit one of the following:
    • They may have been too harsh;
    • They have stress in their life that caused this problem;
    • They did something that inadvertantly led to this conflict, even though they didn't mean to;
  • Calls for more rules: People suggest rules which will avoid this future situation.

Methods of Conflict Resolution


Defend each other

If you are personally attacked, don't defend yourself. That may be surprising - but defending yourself is not your job, it is the job of the other members in the online community. Reasons:

  • it is much more credible to the reader;
  • it's too hard to stay emotionally balanced when you defend against personal attacks, it is much easier even not to defend at all;
  • the experience of being defended is incredible, enjoy it to defend and be defended creates strong emotional bonds among members -- it builds trust;

Remember, most of the time personal attacks need not be defended at all, because the attacker only hurts his own reputation and credibility. However, Model Desired Behavior: if someone else is attacked, defend them.

While conflicts are typically seen as negative, they hold big chances to grow as a community, to build trust among the members, to grow in valuable experience. Observe and learn for the next conflicts.

Of course, this only works when things happen in the open.

Reply to the whole post

Don't break up arguments and respond to them line-by-line. This can be seen as overly aggressive and can cause discussions to get caught up in semantics. Respond to the unified idea that the person is trying to convey. This will force you to understand their side better, and it will keep things cooler.


Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf
Founder of UFOP: StarBase 118
3 Dec 2004

Department of Veterans Affairs