Moderate yourself before moderating others

Since I was elected a moderator at the Artificial Intelligence Stack Exchange site, which happened almost 2 years ago, I learned a lot about moderation 1, which made me a better person, because now I am calmer and know better how to interact with people 2.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned, which should be generally applicable to social interactions. Some of them overlap.

  1. Try to respect others, their ideas and opinions.
    • People have different opinions. Your opinion is not necessarily “better” than someone else’s one.
    • Some people are more sensitive than others. A word that doesn’t offend you may offend others (and vice-versa).
    • Listen to others or be more open-minded. Their ideas may seem “wrong”, but they may turn out to be useful/interesting.
  2. If you want to send a message too quickly, it’s probably a good idea to slow down or don’t send that message at all.
    • Sometimes, you’re in a hurry or busy; so, because of this, you may end up communicating with people in a inpolite, harsh, aggressive, or rude way. To you, it may not seem you’re being or were impolite/harsh/aggressive/rude, but it may seem to others.
    • Read your comment/message multiple times before sending it. Make sure it’s as polite as possible.
  3. If you can avoid a problem, avoid it.
    • For example, if a user (or, in general, a person) is trying to provoke you, you can
      1. (temporarily) ignore the user (which does not mean that you’re really disrespecting them, but it’s just a technique to cool down the conversation/debate), and
      2. answer the user later, when things have cooled down.
  4. If you’re unsure about how to act in situation, you could ask for help to people that are more experienced than you.
    • Don’t do something that could harm you or others. In particular, don’t take an irreversabile action if you’re not really sure about its consequences and if that’s the “right” thing to do (given your context).
  5. Try not to bring your personal problems/issues to the game.
    • If you had a bad day, this is not the problem of another person. We should really try to separate our personal life (or other problems) from the specific problem that you’re dealing with now.
    • If you’re really too stressed out, it may be a good idea to just solve this problem later (if you can do that).

There are other things that I’ve learned that are more specific to my role as a moderator (if you are interested, you can take a look at this), but these are probably the most important ones that come to my mind right now, which, if I had followed, I could have avoided some issues, and that can be applicable not only if you dream of becoming a moderator of a site, debate, etc., but also in our social lifes, while we interact with other people, both on the web (e.g. social media) or physically.

In a way, being a moderator helped me to moderate myself too. So, the title of this post does not really describe what I’ve gone through (it should have been “I learned to moderate myself while trying to moderator others”). However, it may be a good idea to first try to moderate yourself before getting into moderating others (hence the title of this post), which might remind you of the so-called Golden Rule, which states (in one of its most common forms)

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

However, this “rule” may be misleading, because, as I said above, a word that seems inoffensive to you might have a different/unwanted effect on another person.

  1. For completeness, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, moderation is defined as “the quality of doing something within reasonable limits”. 

  2. In other words, you could say that I think that my social intelligence and/or emotional intelligence has increased.