How do I convince someone else to change their behavior? This sort of question was and is a recurring problem on the Workplace. But we have defined this sort of question off topic.

People are very different from one to another, a tactic with one person or one instance may not work on another person or in another instance. The only control we have is over our own behavior. We can not control how other people act or do things. We can influence that to an extent but the dynamic is too conditional and too dynamic for us to be able to address.

I think we should declare "How do I convince someone else to change their behavior?" as specifically off topic. Please note this question is very different from "How can I communicate to someone that their behavior distresses me?" We can effectively tell them how to communicate it, but that does not guarantee getting the person to change their behavior.

Is there an alternative to declaring the question off topic that will allow us to effectively police these types of questions and allow for constructive assistance rather than a shopping list of tactics to try that may or may not be the right answer with no objective way to tell if the problem was the implementation of the answer or the answer was just ineffective overall?

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    Related... possibly a dupe: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1395/…
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 21:18
  • @Catija - Definately related, but the answer to that question really is dont. Unless you are saying that the answer to this question is dont, then I dont think they are duplicates. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 21:43
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    Huh? The answer to that question is - answer the question saying "don't do that" with an explanation of why... I don't see why we would close these questions. Can you please provide more details/explanations to explain your concerns? I'm not a user on the Workplace so I have no idea what their reasoning is or why they made the decision to ban these questions or why. I also don't understand your title... what are you actually asking here?
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 22:00
  • @Catija my point is that is not the answer for this question. And I agree I dont think we need to close those questions. I think these questions should be put on hold until they can be fixed to not ask for the impossible. If not so be it but this discussion was bound to happen eventually. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 2:14
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    Putting a question "on hold" is the same thing as closing questions. When I say they should not be closed, I mean they should not be put "on hold". I'm pretty sure that most of the users I've interacted with are the same.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 2:19
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    There is virtually no functional difference between "on hold" and "closed". If a question is on hold, an edit can put it in the reopen queue. The words change from "on hold" to "closed" after five days. But that's it; when you vote to close a question, you're voting to put it on hold. It's the same thing.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 2:31
  • That is not how the functionality was sold... but ohh well. I dont really care either way. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 2:38
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    @Catija Personally, I don't feel this question is a dupe of my question - mainly because I think the answer to the pregnancy question is "Don't because..." but the answer to the mother question is "Do X". I don't think the mother question is off-topic here. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 11:02
  • @Catija - On the other hand if this answer is the correct answer then I would agree that the question could be a dupe. But if the right answer to that question is dont, then I do not think it is. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 14:40
  • That was an extreme example. There were other things wrong with that question.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:51
  • @Catija - I agree but Shog9's answer seems very approriate here. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:53
  • To improve this meta question, you need specific examples of main questions that you think match this "how to convince another person to change their behavior?" format and should be considered off topic. Personally, I don't see your point. Yes, every person is different, but that's why we ask OP's to be specific. If the OP cannot narrow the question sufficiently, then I think it's more likely to be closed as being too broad than off topic. But my answer comes from a lack of clarity of what you're really asking; provide examples in the OP. Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 21:53

2 Answers 2


I think there's an important distinction between Workplace.se and here that is relevant.

There are a lot of constraints that are relevant to a professional environment, and the whole concept of "professionalism". Relative position in a company hierarchy will also be a major factor.

Due to this, I understand why this would be problematic.

However, getting people to change their behavior, even if it is just to get them to leave you alone, is going to cover a much larger section of interpersonal relationship problems people will be interested in.

Setting a rule that these types of questions have to be rephrased to something like "how do I communicate to my mother that her constantly asking me to do the things she likes distresses me" feels arbitrary, and missing the true objective.

Effective communication is only part of interpersonal relationships. Forcing all questions regarding conflict to be framed relative to communication seems overly restrictive for a problem that we haven't encountered yet.

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    I am not suggesting that it needs to be framed relative to communication, that was just an example. But the objective of the question needs to be able to be evaluated objectively if it is correct or not. How do i get some other specific person to change does not meet that criteria. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 20:13
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    @Chad I believe the objective measure of evaluation can be desired behavior (e.g. stopping unwanted behavior, agreeing to a compromise, etc.).
    – Beofett
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 21:25
  • @Beofett - According to this answer on another question the problem may be that you have too much of a backstory, when you just needed to say you would like to be able to get your mother to quit trying to sell you on MLM scams Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 14:42
  • @Chad you seem to be the only one who feels there is a problem in the first place. And MLM scams actually have nothing to do with my question.
    – Beofett
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:24
  • Thats what the get your friends to sign up for our service and we give you a discout is... Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:30
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    @Chad no, that's not actually what a MLM is, but the fact that you keep pointing to one out of 3 examples, saying "here's the problem", and ignoring that the other 2 examples don't match the pattern suggests to me that you're either not reading the question, or just hunting for things to object to. Given that the consensus seems to be that everyone except you sees no problem, I think I'm done discussing this.
    – Beofett
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 16:24
  • I am saying your mother is likely doing that a lot because a lot of these things are mlm scams. They sell the services/product as something they can get for free and maybe even make money off of if they get their friends to sign up after they buy something. And they can make money of of people their friends recruit too. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 18:18
  • @Chad My last response on the topic, since this isn't relevant to this meta discussion: my mother gets a discount for referring people. She does not make sales commission for selling the service herself, nor does she have the ability to recruit other people to sell the service, which would in turn give them commission, with my mother receiving a share. That's what a MLM is. Not a referral bonus. More relevant, though, is that a single example out of three provided having some minor component of financial incentive is not, by any definition of the term, "a lot".
    – Beofett
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 18:43

I understood the question more as "How do I deal with her behaviour?" as in "What options do I have?" - and it's very well possible to give a (non-negative) answer to that; e.g. advising how to react and how to set boundaries by controlling one's own behaviour (as e.g. Erik did).

"You can't control someone else's behaviour" doesn't mean "You can't react to anything someone else does if they're uncooperative". It just means you have to change your own behaviour to effect a change in theirs (or to mitigate the effects).

So imo the question is answerable and I don't quite understand why it should be off topic.

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    Fully agree. Clearly the correct answer is some version of "you can't change her behavior, you can only change yours, here are some ideas about what you can do", but I don't think that invalidates the question.
    – BradC
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 13:55
  • What options do I have is a Shopping list question... and should be closed as too broad... The op in this case is quite clear they do not want to know just how to communicate they want to know how to change the behavior. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 14:35
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    @Chad Funnily enough, I think that stopping to communicate (with words, ie talking to mom) is the correct answer. OP can communicate his attitude just fine by stopping to engage. And that's got a good chance of changing her behaviour. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:17
  • The OP doesnt want to communicate with her... check all his comments. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 19:07

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