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Most of us have, to some degree, experienced an antagonistic situation in which we feel our answer was harshly criticized or in which we are charged with unfair criticism of an answer.

In my experience, these situations rapidly escalate, and despite knowing that I shouldn't, I've been drawn into destructive exchanges in these situations. In these instances, I've been slightly disappointed by my own behaviour and come away irritated.

I wondered whether there was a code of conduct or a policy in these situations? If not, I propose the following:

If you feel someone's comment on your answer was inappropriate:

  • If the comment is bigoted, slanderous, or otherwise gratuitously offensive, report it and don't further engage with that user.
  • Re-read the comment - was it so bad? Did the commenter address a problem with your answer? If so, ignoring the provocative nature of the comment, politely respond.
  • If the user persists in making comments that you feel are offensive or provocative, stop interacting.
  • You might feel irritated that unfounded objections in a comment are there for all to see, but a competent physicist will see beyond those comments.

If someone's feels your comment on an answer was inappropriate:

  • Re-read your comment. Was it unnecessarily rude or provocative? If so, amend or delete the comment.
  • If you feel the comment was reasonable, don't escalate or write further comments. You've raised your objection to the answer - your warning will be seen. There is no merit in a further series of destructive comments.
  • If the offender user persists in contacting you, ignore them and/or report the behaviour to a moderator.

If nothing else, this can be my personal code of conduct. If I followed it in the past, I think it would have avoided unpleasant situations. This isn't the final word on this topic; I'm sure there may be many helpful alterations and additions to my rules.

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    $\begingroup$ Related: The overarching SE "be nice" policy. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Mar 18 '15 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ From that policy: Don't merely ignore comments if you feel they are actually offensive (and not just "combative" or provocative), flag them. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Mar 18 '15 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ Since we've all been "that guy" at some point, it worth noting that if your comment has triggered a reaction, you might consider apologizing, deleting the offending remark and re-stating the objections in a more diplomatic tone. As usual, the text-channel we use here is not always good at communicating nuance. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 18 '15 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ If I can incorporate my experience from a commercial, rather than physics based background, in many cases, I have discovered that the more the other person "shouts" at you, the more you learn that they really do have a valid point. This is not to excuse bad behaviour on or off line, just a reflection of the fact that, for many personalities, their passion to make their point forcefully outweighs their reluctance to offend. Perhaps the comment box could steal the old Gmail idea of giving you a puzzle to solve, to cool down before posting :) $\endgroup$ – user74893 Mar 29 '15 at 17:30
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There is a policy (of sorts), namely the one from the help center. (See also this.) For convenience, I'll repeat (quote) the main points from those pages:

  • Rudeness and belittling language are not okay.
  • Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions.
  • Don't be a jerk.

I don't think there's really a need to make an additional policy on this. But guidance on specific ways to avoid breaking the policy (or the spirit of the policy) probably couldn't hurt.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, thanks, that summarizes my feelings $\endgroup$ – innisfree Mar 22 '15 at 19:05

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