Recently, we've seen some rather forceful assertions that words that some words are controversial. I don't want to rehash the arguments, as the specifics are not the point.

While I understand that we do have to watch our words and tone, and that "Well, I just post this way", is not a defense against rude behavior, I also feel that this has been pushed to unreasonable extremes, such as people attempting to use being offended as some sort of currency to force a change in standards here. The logical conclusion is that eventually, nobody will be able to say anything of substance.

How would you propose that we maintain the "be nice" policy without allowing it to be misused?

Or, perhaps a better question is, "Where is that point between being deliberately rude, or careless with your tone, and catering to people who are hyper-sensitive?

  • @Kaz feel free to edit for tone. I'm very symptomatic today. The point I'm trying to convey is that the "Be nice" policy has recently been pushed by people we know are trolls and who's accounts have been deactivated. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 17 '16 at 15:39
  • Okay, what do you think a useful outcome for this Meta question would be? What do you think has gone wrong/what solutions/policy do you want people to discuss? – Kaz Nov 17 '16 at 15:42
  • The impression I get is that your question might be something along the lines of "How many people need to find something offensive before it becomes a violation of "Be-Nice"? Or are there certain topics that are automatic violations regardless of actual offence caused, and topics which are always allowed no matter how many people disagree? – Kaz Nov 17 '16 at 15:43
  • @Kaz I changed it a bit. essentially, I want to address people pushing the "be nice" policy past simply the intent of the poster to the opinion of the viewer. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 17 '16 at 15:43
  • @Kaz a trend that I've seen elsewhere is this new kind of trolling where people pretend to be offended to get sites to change their policies. I'd rather not see that happen here. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 17 '16 at 15:45
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    Honest Question: Why not just follow the policy? – user30031 Nov 17 '16 at 15:50
  • @DoritoStyle because the policy seems to be unstable, which is offensive to people on the autism spectrum, because I say so. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 17 '16 at 16:13
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    The policy hasn't changed in a long time; how exactly is it unstable? – user30031 Nov 17 '16 at 16:38
  • Maybe related : meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/3884/… – Walfrat Nov 18 '16 at 8:40
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    This is far from an even-handed attempt at having this discussion. – user42272 Nov 18 '16 at 19:38
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    @MaskedMan in-depth discussion about the main site is exactly what chat is for; attacking is certainly not. If you feel like the Be Nice policy has been broken then please flag it. – user30031 Nov 18 '16 at 19:44
  • @Kaz I think I finally got it right. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 21 '16 at 13:33
  • @djechlin then you could have added a suggestion in the comment, you know, the whole reason that comments feature was set up? – Old_Lamplighter Nov 21 '16 at 21:35
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    @RichardU no, you've already made it clear you just dismiss what I say. That comment was aimed at anyone debating whether to take this question seriously. – user42272 Nov 22 '16 at 0:52
  • @djechlin I don't think you appreciate the irony of that statement. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 22 '16 at 13:17

We are always going to get drama queens who will 'become' offended at anything to keep themselves amused. We have to just assume they're for 'real' when we know damnwell they're not and not allow ourselves to get frustrated and become part of their petty amusement.

Basically, don't be offended at them being offended.

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    The fact that for some case it is drama-queens that want to get themselves amused I do agree, however I don't think it's always the case. Aniway +1 for the last sentence. – Walfrat Nov 18 '16 at 12:40
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    Also +1 for last sentence, as the most even-handed thing I've seen on the topic. – user42272 Nov 18 '16 at 19:32
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    +1 Don't feed the trolls. – Lumberjack Nov 18 '16 at 20:55
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    I don't think it's about being offended at them being offended, but the demands that I, or anyone else be pushed into using language prescribed by someone else, and accused of bias if I don't. more to the point, then getting dinged by mods if I don't. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 18 '16 at 20:56
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    Just use any language you want, don't worry about the mods. I don't think I've noticed you toning down your answers and comments anyway... just plead bad English, it works for me. – Kilisi Nov 18 '16 at 21:51
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    @RichardU when did you get "dinged by mods"? The person claiming that gendered language = bias is not a mod. And at least one mod said that no, we don't have a policy supporting edits to neuter posts. – Monica Cellio Nov 20 '16 at 3:19
  • @MonicaCellio I have not been dinged by the mods. Sorry, I should have been more clear. It is my fear that the people pushing their agendas may get it pushed into policy, and then the mods will have to enforce it. This has not happened, just my concern that it may. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 21 '16 at 13:24

Simple: The Be Nice policy clearly tells you to "assume good intentions". Claiming that somebody is "fake offended" could not be further from that guideline.


  • We've had multiple trolls getting the mods chasing their tails over pretend offenses. What would you call them? – Old_Lamplighter Nov 17 '16 at 16:22
  • I would just call them new users who need educating, which is exactly what the Be Nice policy says to do. – user30031 Nov 17 '16 at 16:34
  • You think they don't know what they're doing? – Old_Lamplighter Nov 17 '16 at 16:36
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    I think that has absolutely no bearing on the action you should take. A mod made it even clearer in the chat room, "leave moderation to the moderators", "If someone's being hostile or their tone is needlessly combative, just flag it and move on." chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/33564406#33564406 – user30031 Nov 17 '16 at 16:40
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    @RichardU it's not really clear to me you've assumed good intentions from how you describe the situation. – user42272 Nov 18 '16 at 19:30
  • @djechlin since that seems to be your default stance with me, I'll view your comment through that lens. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 21 '16 at 13:25
  • @RichardU If you think I've assumed bad intentions, please just point it out specifically or flag for mods. – user30031 Nov 22 '16 at 16:51

Just think about it on the workplace (the IRL one), how would you treat someone that seems to take offense way too easily ?

Well , you answered it yourself Richard U. : going to HR. So here it's going to mods, let's just hope they don't reward whining :)

However, for some case it can just be opinion-based, I will quote @KateGregory comment here :

Just "I said something about a person's beard." And every answer and comment was "you should be able to say anything you want as much as you want and nobody should ever object especially if it wasn't about them." That belief is wrong. Many things people say about appearance offend, and can offend third parties. This answer seeks to show that to those who don't know.

PS : I'm not calling back the meta post than her answer made. It's just that, it's not because something for you is of the least importance that it's true for everyone.


I personally generally avoid using the word "offensive" when discussing something that offends me. If it were is offensive then I ought to be able to describe what is actually wrong with what was said. Calling it "offensive" is a bit of a non-description.

If you find yourself on the other end of this you could try asking the other person why it's offensive. And if this disagreement does not become either generally interesting and cooperative, or flatly resolved within two comments or so, you say "agree to disagree", let them downvote if applicable, and move on.

In other words this problem can be mostly avoided by remembering this is, in fact, not a discussion board.

If you find yourself too easily sucked into arguments about how you should prefer "they" over "he", for instance, then don't make that someone else's problem. You're the one who is failing to manage being offended.


How about people with high rep, who become combative/insulting due to a comment left on one of their answers? I have found that a lot of people on the various exchanges, simply have issues with criticism on their answering styles, be it that they are overly aggressive, or are slightly insulting to the OP.....which I will usually point out in a comment, in the hopes that maybe the user will edit their answer to be less aggressive/insulting/whatever.

This usually happens, but I have run into several who seem to take offense to someone with lower rep even suggesting that they may have an issue with how they handle people, and it devolves into the "I am using my valuable time" or "I have been here longer" arguments. The usual forum dribble.

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    This is definitely an issue worth addressing – user30031 Nov 21 '16 at 14:07
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    I haven't shared your experience. I tend to come down on the other side. In my experience people are overly sensitive and go out of their way to take offense. In my opinion if people invested as much effort into assuming GOOD intentions in others as they presently invest into taking offense, there would be a lot less offended people around. – Lumberjack Nov 21 '16 at 15:45
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    If a statement can be construed two ways, why would anyone choose the offensive interpretation? Why not assume good intentions on the part of the other person? Isn't it the better choice for the sake of your own mental health? – Lumberjack Nov 21 '16 at 15:46

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