Don't be a dick. If people abided by this, we wouldn't need any policies about behaviour, as most of those rules are more or less special cases of this one.
Don't be a dick is the fundamental rule of all total social spaces. Every other policy for getting along is a special case of it. Although nobody is empowered to ban or block somebody for dickishness (as this itself would be an instance of such), it is still a bad idea to be a dick, so don't be one.
Being right about an issue does not mean you are not being a dick! Dicks can be right — but they're still dicks nonetheless; if there is 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 dickishness). One can be perfectly civil and follow every rule of etiquette and still be a dick. Avoiding dickishness is not a matter of obeying etiquette, but a broader and more important concern.
Coping with accusations of dickishness
If you have been labelled 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 it is true. If you suspect that you may have a problem with dickishness, the first step is to become aware of it. Ask yourself what behavior might be causing this perception, and if you cannot work it out, politely ask those that perceive it to explain or clarify. Once you have determined which behaviors are causing the problem, try changing them and your mode of presentation. In particular, identify the harsh words 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, rocnar ensues, the atmosphere changes, and the whole project suffers. Are you here to give, or to take?
If appropriate, publicly apologise 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 dickishness 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 usually a dickish move — especially if it's true. Doing so is more or less name calling and it will always reduce the chance that the other will listen to what you say.
Focus on behaviour, not on the individual. Be specific about what you want. Be specific about why you want it. Be specific about why 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. Try to understand before you try to be understood.
Above all, be genuine. Do not ask questions when you know the answer. Do not say you want one thing if you want another. Don't try to persuade people of things that aren't true. Never respond to dickishness in kind.
Meaning of dick
- The term "dick" in this essay is generally defined as "an abrasive and inconsiderate person of either sex".