I don't have the rep to close questions or shut people down, but perhaps one day I will have.

Mari-Lou, bless her, just told me not to feed a troll. Now, I have encountered some of the wickedest trolls on the net, I know from trolls. And I don't think this one is a troll, just stupid. I see no malice there. Likewise with another questioner who keeps getting told the same thing and not believing it. I itch to ask him – if he, a Frenchman, knows English better than us, why is he here?

We try to be nice, but some people make it very difficult. "Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain", wrote Schiller.

Is there a standard for how many times you should tell a person the same thing before giving up on him?

  • 1
    People who are curious are not stupid, or rather 'stupid' might be accurate but is mean... oh, I see the comment thread, troll or not, the question was closed appropriately (writers would probably close too). As to number of times to 'correct' someone before giving up, there's no standard. Respond as much as you feel comfortable with.
    – Mitch
    May 1, 2015 at 17:05
  • @Mitch. Thanks! If it has been closed, that happened when I was watering my garden. For the best, I was going to advise him to enter for the Bulwer-Lytton, and then I should be in bad odour here. No, a lot of what people call "stupid" is actually nothing to do with IQ but qualities we might call "moral", such as not listening and INcuriosity. I'm going to write a book about this. (The issue generally, not SE.)
    – David Pugh
    May 1, 2015 at 17:31
  • [1/2] "Now, I have encountered some of the wickedest trolls on the net, I know from trolls. And I don't think this one is a troll, just stupid." Stupid people don't write like that. However, trolls do. The OP posted the same sentence(s) on 4 different sites, and (though I only looked at one), was clearly amusing himself (or, at least I hope he was.) He was trolling and you happened to take the bait. May 1, 2015 at 23:58
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    [2/2] Personally, I try to avoid extended discussions in comments like the plague, as it tends to bring out the worst in me, which is contagious. @rumtscho gives sound advice. You'll laugh about it in time. May 2, 2015 at 0:03
  • @medica. Oh. Posting to other sites didn't occur to m.e
    – David Pugh
    May 2, 2015 at 6:07
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    Definitely a troll and one worthy to be blacklisted. I looked at one of the websites where this idiot posted: thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=3294329
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 2, 2015 at 16:13
  • @Mari-Lou. OK, you've out-troll-ologised me. The species I knew from before was far more malicious, usually hysterical and obscene. Hm, he wants people to be annoyed.? That's trollish all right. And Jane Austen? He should be so lucky. Hope someone reads him Henry James in hell.
    – David Pugh
    May 2, 2015 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


There is no need for a community rule on that. Sure, you shouldn't hurt existing rules - so, if for example it started out as a lengthy comment discussion, you should move to chat instead. But else, it is your personal decision how long to talk to somebody.

If you are in the middle of the conversation and don't know which way to decide, you could take a minute to think:

  • What are you trying to achieve by talking to this person? Why are you talking to him at all?
  • Now that you are clear about your goal: Will it be achieved by repeating what you said?
  • if the answer is "yes", repeat it
  • if the answer is "only if he is receptive for listening", start helping him become more receptive. If it works, come back to your point, else give up.
  • if the answer is "no", ask yourself if there is something else you can say to achieve your goal
    • if there is something else, try that
    • if not, leave the discussion.

I don't believe that anybody can give you a guideline on the preferred length of a discussion before giving up, but maybe somebody will surprise me. Again, the above assumes the situation you described: not a troll, but somebody who does not hear what you are saying.

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