I am a member of a Discord server that was created as a place for a community to move to after the place where the community formed was shut down. (For some context, see here, although not exactly necessary for the question.) There are actually two servers, one with a slightly bigger population (intentionally kept separate from the second). We'll call the bigger one "Nostalgia", and the smaller "Rainbow". The average age of the users in the servers is between 15 and 23.

I am technically a moderator of the Nostalgia server - the only one aside from the creator of the server. I am a regular member of the Rainbow server (and so's the creator of the Nostalgia one).

Recently, there was just a situation in the Nostalgia server where two users were arguing over a topic. One was of the opinion that going to high school graduation was worthless; the other felt it was important. At this point, I wasn't online.

Now, neither of these two users are in the Rainbow server. While they're arguing in Nostalgia, a discussion starts up in Rainbow about how, essentially, they find one of the users arguing to be... annoying. There are calls for the creator of the server, who's hanging around, to ban them. She doesn't know what to do; she doesn't really want to step in and be "the mod", and especially doesn't want to ban anyone, but feels like she has to do something, as the complaints continue in the Rainbow server.

So, so as to do something, she posts a message in the Nostalgia server, with an "@everyone", giving a reminder to be polite, and not be mean, and that she doesn't want to ban anyone.

Now, in reaction to this, one of the users who is arguing posts a defensive "nobody's being mean here" message, and then continues the conversation that started this whole thing.

At this point, I come online.

What can I do to deescalate, from this point forwards?

This would ideally involve stopping the conversation as soon as possible, getting the smaller server to stop calling for one user's removal, and not to make any enemies. I'm friends with all of the users involved, although more so with one of the users arguing than the other.

Note: I have a self-answer with what I did, that I feel worked, but I'd be interested to hear other online deescalation tactics that may help in future, similar situations.

1 Answer 1


Note: All information contained within this answer is based on what I actually did in the situation described in the question, and based on lessons learned personally while moderating chat.SE, among other places.

First, change the topic.

In an online chatroom, if something is going on that'd best not be going on, the first way to address it is to change the topic. Hopefully, this solves the immediate problem of an argument making people uncomfortable by ending the argument. In this case, I went for the very direct "Okay, topic change!" and then asked people to send links to their favorite songs. (Bonus: I found some new songs I liked.)

Talk to the people involved in the argument.

Especially if they don't take the hint to change the topic, talk directly to the people involved. Discord has direct messages - so you can message the user in private. In this case, the argument continued a bit after I requested a topic change, so I direct messaged one of the users, who I'm more friendly with, asking her to drop the topic. So that ends the direct argument.

Both of the above steps will deescalate the situation by ending the argument that is causing people to be bothered, which both ends the argument, calming the users directly involved, as well as not aggravating the people not involved but bothered by the argument in any case.

Afterwards, messaging the other user involved in the argument and telling them what had made other users in the server uncomfortable is a great to way to make sure that this doesn't happen again. (This is what I did, and he said he'd make sure to improve in the future.)

Talk to the users who were calling for bans, and tell them not to do that.

After the incident is over, you can go talk to the people who were calling for action and, first, reassure them that the issue has been taken care of, and won't happen again - explain that the arguing users have been talked to, and that the likelihood of this repeating is pretty low. Then, it's possible to ask them not to call for a user to be banned like that. If there's a problem, they should either reach out to one of the moderators of the server, or even directly speak up and mention that the argument is making them uncomfortable and ask for it to stop. Just complaining in private isn't going to help.

Talk to other moderators about not escalating situations.

To prevent such a situation from happening again in the future, talking to the other moderators about not repeating the situation by explaining that a message such as "remember to be nice", especially when only two users are talking, is only going to make people defensive and tensions rise. Explain to them that there are better ways to deal with the situation, such as what was outlined in this answer.

Basically: First stop the immediate problem by politely ending the argument and placating the users calling for bans, and then deal with making sure it doesn't happen again by talking to the people directly involved in the argument, the people calling for bans, and the moderator who unwittingly escalated the situation.

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