I've run across this in the past, and found 2 examples again today.

First example: How do I help my itchy Bichon Frise? Comment: "OP, please calm down, take a breath and read what you wrote."

Second example: Cat's behaviour when dying In answer: "Relax" (I edited it out, see revision history).

In online communication, telling people to relax is not a good thing, and it's something we should discourage our frequent answerers from doing.

First, the questioner may not be excited, just bad at writing. I think we see a lot of this, people write a single paragraph with disjointed thoughts, no capitalization or punctuation. I've spoken with people who write like this, and it generally doesn't indicate excitement but generally either an unfamiliarity with complex writing tasks, or a lack of concern with online standards of discourse.

If it's a situation where you've talked with a person through written media often and the format/disjointedness is unusual, then you may have cause to believe that the person is excited/upset. We just don't have that context in many of the questions we get here.

Secondly, even if the person is excited/upset, an imperative command is not going to reduce their anxiety. I found a good explanation of this problem:

That’s because you are dismissing the gravity of what they are experiencing. You are condescending them by telling them how they should feel. Attempting to alter their experience in a moment is suggesting that they are not to be trusted with their emotions. Ugh. Unhelpful and frankly, annoying.

So stop doing it.

Finally, this is often a gendered problem. I'm not going to get more into that here, but it's another reason to knock it off.


I believe we should stop telling folks how to manage their feelings and just answer their questions about their pets.

  • Concur, but not up to writing that as an answer at the moment. Jun 15 '16 at 10:17
  • Totally love this question. I have expanded a bit upon it in my answer, I hope you don't mind.
    – user6796
    Jun 4 '17 at 17:02

I believe we should stop telling folks how to manage their feelings and just answer their questions about their pets.

Tolerance is key

The site is built upon the Be Nice policy.

Unless it is supportive, there is no reason to be telling people to calm down. Pets are an emotional area for pet owners. People can be as attached to their pets as they are to relatives, children. When someone is distressed we need to be mindful of how they are feeling and adjust our tone accordingly to soothe that person.

Not everybody possesses this skill. So the key would be, if you are not so good at being empathetic, or just having a bad day and feel intolerant, don't comment. There's plenty of posts where the OP is not emotional.

Where do we draw the line with emotional users?

Now there's blurred lines of giving factual information and emotional support on this site. Personally (and this is purely my opinion - it is not a community consensus), I believe in offering people some emotional support.

My limits are:
1. can I offer this person some support within the comments? yes, I offer support.
2. if it would require to go to a chat room - redirect the person to a place to get more intensive emotional support.

This line of emotional support needs to be made with each individual participant of the site. No one should feel forced to comfort someone, as that's not the nature of these sites and feeling this pressure could alienate many users.

The simple thing, it's an option for users to do this. If you feel unable to help and know there's users around with a history of helping with difficult situations, ping them in chat or under the post. You're not alone, we're a community.

Supporting the impossible situation

Gender issues aside. Many people here male and female get distressed about their pets. The gender issue is an issue for some Stack Exchange sites, I haven't noticed it being an issue here, as we have a nice balance (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong - I've been away for a while). Some people may be prone to react more to being told to calm down, either way it's not helpful and doesn't encourage people to want to use the site.

A simple example of someone in distress is shown in the comments to this question and answer. Now I am probably more open in some ways than most people would want to be. But in this post, I've had to give bad news - an animal will die without treatment and the OP has no way to get the animal treated. How do we deal with such a tragic situation?

What is the signs that a lonely kitty is abandoned by the mother

We're a global community

This brings me to my next point. We're a global community and must be mindful that not all cultures have the same attitudes towards animal welfare. They have different styles of relating and writing. For some people English is a second language and they may be using a translator to write. So with all these variables, how a post may be written and how a person is actually feeling, may not be consistently interpreted over the internet without clarification. For example: Many people will use excessive punctuation, which can be a cultural thing.

Also not everyone has the financial means to get veterinary care. It's most important not to berate people for this, but to be supportive, without denying the facts. Now this is the most difficult task of this site (for me) and not one that everyone will be able to excel at, but practice makes purrfect.

Enlist help

Don't forget, other users are a ping away, if you're in doubt and want a second opinion of how to handle a situation.

TLDR Don't be telling people how to manage their emotions, just be supportive.

  • @Christy B. thought you might be interested in this. I'm open to feedback.
    – user6796
    Jun 4 '17 at 17:01
  • 1
    This is a good topic to bring up... It's hard not to be emotional about a pet. I feel like "us" as pet people get worried over things that may be of concern to one person but not to someone else. It can be a toughy- but I agree that if it's encouraging like "try not to beat yourself up over this too much" sounds much more supportive than "chill out", "relax", or "calm down". Wording is key I guess.
    – Christy B.
    Jun 5 '17 at 2:13
  • 1
    I wish there was a way to encourage users to use the chat, especially for conversation that NEEDS more emotion, or simply for open discussion and debate that could lead someone to help they may not have found in an answer.... Anytime I've gone to it, there was no activity. :(
    – Christy B.
    Jun 5 '17 at 2:33
  • @ChristyB. I check the chat regularly. The best thing to do is ping people, that way we can at least start a conversation, even if we're not in the room at the same time. I'm hoping we can get people in there also, get a bit of interest.
    – user6796
    Jun 5 '17 at 5:38
  • I agree with the majority of this answer, but I want to point out that sometimes people think someone is being emotional online, but they aren't. I don't think it's up to the members of this site to guess at people's emotional state and respond according to that guess, but just respond to the question asked. If they say they're upset, then suggest chat or other supportive options.
    – Zaralynda
    Jul 13 '17 at 14:41

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