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Children, everybody, here's what to do during war:

In a time of destruction, create something.
A poem.
A parade.
A community.
A school.
A vow.
A moral principle.
One peaceful moment.

-- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Fifth Book of Peace, 2003.

What to do in a conflict when the heated discussion, the ForestFire, has started? When you are desperate because normal topics can hardly be found anymore in RecentChanges, because everyone is looking at and concentrating his forces on the one and overwhelming topic, the conflict? When you fear that readers and even contributors may turn away in disgust?

There is a simple strategy: if you see this, get out of this, do BusinessAsUsual!

Conflict is more likely to get resolved well and less likely to spin out of control, when it does not dominate the community's life. If the conflict is just one tributary in the big river of other contributions, any attention-getting dynamics in those taking part will be lessened. Even at worst, with no resolution, those participating are more likely to turn to other topics or communities.

Get clear how much of your time with the community you'll spend addressing the conflict directly (30%?). Go ahead and invest some time in the conflict, listening, and elaborating your understandings. Spend the bulk of your time on unrelated, even routine tasks. WelcomeNewcomers, do some reworking, join other discussions. Ask other members to keep the non-conflict-traffic up.

This will also help you keep a sense of proportion. Remember: If it ain't fun, it ain't worth doing. Going back to the things you enjoy about your community is important.

In MeatSpace, similar techniques are taught as management strategies. Limits can be set on the amount of time devoted to meetings to discuss a major problem or major strategy shift, such as a move to new facilities or the launch of a new product line. The number of people involved in the conversation can also be limited in business environments. The continuance of BusinessAsUsual is both a commercial necessity and a technique for keeping the conflict or change within bounds.

Beside the attention-getting dynamics, how else is this strategy especially valuable in conflicts with difficult persons?

Conflicts that appear to threaten the community' BusinessAsUsual are particularly difficult for those who value the community, and create a seemingly no-win situation. Without enough BusinessAsUsual, the community suffers. But if the conflict goes unattended, again the community suffers.

But what if you don't know where to start BusinessAsUsual? You might try using RandomPage to find pages that need tidying, editing, refactoring, or even deleting. You might also search the BackLinks for your home page to find messes of your own to clean up!

CategoryConflict CategoryManagement CategoryWikiConventions


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