Wikipedia:Don't take the bait

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fish take the bait by instinct; you don't have to.
Know a trap when you see one.

Disruptive, agenda-driven, or disturbed editors may egg you on in the subtlest of ways, may come at you as a victim, as someone who cares or someone who's hurt. They may mix in inaccurate information or misquote you to compel you to respond. They may manipulate the civility policy as a weapon. They may even cite this essay.

In content disputes, a common baiting strategy involves badgering the opposition—while carefully remaining superficially civil—until someone lashes out. They then complain to an administrator. Time-pressed administrators may look only at specific edits without delving into the background that led up to the incident, resulting in a warning or block for the targeted editor. Most discouraging of all, this tactic is nearly risk-free. There rarely are negative consequences for those who use it, in part because a pattern of ongoing provocation can't easily be explained following the usual "diffs please" request. Sometimes these are after one particular individual and sometimes they're just after anyone who will take the bait.

Don't take the bait. You are under no obligation to react to goading. Avoid the temptation to get in the last word. It is polite to reply to the first inquiry or two, but you are free to end the discussion at any point in which you feel further exchanges serve no useful purpose. Don't tell the provocateur that they aren't welcome, as this can be used against you. Let them have the last word. Let them jump and shout. They may get louder and louder, but the silent treatment always works in the end. Don't take the bait. Just swim away.

You have a right to remain silent. The same general principles apply if an editor is simply wasting your time. Perhaps they are feigning misunderstanding to drag you into a repetitive talk page morass. For heaven's sake don't accuse them of doing that. Just don't respond. You have an absolute right to walk away from any discussion if you feel it is becoming circular or repetitive, or not respond to any comment directed at you.

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