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I've seen several posts from a specific user on the site that seem to be right on the border of being rude or offensive over the past couple of weeks. Some things seem slightly over the line, and other things seem like they're just edgy.

Occasionally, I flag, but I've been debating whether or not I should actually address this issue with the person on one of the posts.

On one hand, I really don't want to put that user's business out there and call them out, saying "here and in a couple of other posts I've seen, you've repeatedly said things that could be seen as rude or offensive, can you work on rephrasing these things?".

On the other hand, it's an issue that I feel needs to be addressed, because it is a problem that's re-occurring multiple times.

Recently, I came to the conclusion that this person may actually not be aware that this behavior can be taken as offensive: their demeanor on the site is otherwise helpful, and they do put good effort into answering others questions / comments.

With no way to directly message someone, and wanting to avoid just repeatedly flagging their posts as abusive or something along those lines, I feel like there aren't a lot of options here.

I want to let this user know that other people might be seeing what they're saying differently, and taking offense, so they can avoid possibly taking on several flags inadvertently in the future. At the same time, I feel like it would be inappropriate for me to directly say something - in a comment for example - because it might start another useless argument in the comments section of a post, and might not be taken genuinely.

What's the standard for dealing with this sort of thing, here?

Should I just flag an individual item for moderator attention, and leave a detailed comment? Is that something they'd be able to provide feedback on? I'm fairly confused about what the right course of action here would be.

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    These things tend to sort themselves out – Richard U Jun 27 '17 at 0:51
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    The site doesn't really offer a mechanism for individual members to talk to other individual members privately. The best you can do is leave a public comment. – Joe Strazzere Jun 27 '17 at 11:38
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    I'd also encourage you to look at how much reputation this user has. If they're a low rep new user, they're probably still figuring out the site and customs around here and may respond well to helpful hints. If this person has been around for a while, then they probably are known for their direct and sometimes blunt way of writing. There's plenty of users like that around, they know who they are, and they likely don't want to, or need to, change that. – David K Jun 27 '17 at 12:51
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    Also, keep in mind that what you perceive as rude may just be a language barrier. – David K Jun 27 '17 at 12:52
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    In addition to what David said about the language barrier, consider the possibility of culture difference. We are an international community. Some users come from a culture where direct communication is the social norm, which people from other cultures may perceive as blunt or even rude. Assume good intentions and give the other person the benefit of doubt where you can. – Masked Man Jun 27 '17 at 14:51
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    I'm guessing that the individual in question knows how their behavior is viewed by others and intends it that way. – Joe Strazzere Jun 28 '17 at 11:24
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    Probably just language barrier, I get that sometimes because my English isn't the best. – Kilisi Jun 30 '17 at 20:29
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    If it's @Kilisi we're talking about, it's not a language barrier, it's more of a cultural barrier. Not that I find Kilsi's posts offensive, I wasn't born in the US so many things that others might consider offensive, I find completely normal. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 4 '17 at 10:43
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    @StephanBranczyk It's not me, I'm not consistently rude ... I take turns being a cheerful fluffy politically correct bunny – Kilisi Jul 6 '17 at 4:20
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Flagging rude or non-constructive comments/posts is the best approach. When there's a pattern of flags, moderators can and do try to address the problem with the user. Don't worry about giving the user a bad rap sheet; think of it instead as providing data. Moderators love data; it means we aren't just relying on our own impressions of the subset of site content that we see. The community collectively sees more than the mod team can ever see ourselves, so if there's a problem out there, let us know.

If you want to leave more of an explanation instead of using the built-in flag reasons, go ahead and use a custom "moderator attention" flag. If you want moderators to be able to respond to your message, flag a post -- for comment flags our only options are to delete the comment or dismiss the flag (no other feedback is possible).

Please don't call out the user in a way that could escalate. If you think you can offer gentle, careful, non-confrontational guidance, you can try that, but remember that you're doing it in public. If the other user doesn't take it well, it's best to back off. If you both use chat, then that can be a good tool to use too, especially if you create your own room. While chat is public, a conversation in chat is less prominent than stuff happening on the main site, so it can feel less threatening.

I optimistically believe that most people who come across as rude or otherwise offensive don't mean to and aren't aware of the effect they're having. Thoughtfully and carefully letting them know is a gift (I hope someone would do it for me were I causing that kind of reaction). It's also a lot of work, so if you don't feel up to it, please feel free to kick it over to the mods to deal with.

See also: Etiquette for posting civil and informative comments.

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    This is a very good answer. I'd appreciate it if you'd check out a similar question in meta ELU, and any input is welcome. – NVZ Jun 27 '17 at 12:38
  • This is an extremely good answer, in particular the insight into the practical differences between comment flagging and post flagging from a moderator perspective. – Wildcard Jul 5 '17 at 5:52
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If you create a chat room and mention the user in question there, they will be notified and given a link to the room. This will technically be a public conversation, but in practice nobody will see your discussion unless they search for it.

It may be a good idea to discuss the situation with a mod first, or maybe even let the mods do the talking. Depending on the person you're dealing with, they may not want to listen to a simple user.

I also don't see the problem with calling someone on the comment they just wrote. Just don't imply a pattern of behavior (e.g. "Please stop posting rude comments!"), bad intentions (e.g. "Please stop harassing the OP!"), and try not to sound paternalizing (e.g. "Please calm down!") as this can easily escalate. I would just go with something like "Isn't that a bit rude?" or "That was harsh even by my standards!" and let the user think about it. In my experience, this is often enough.

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