How do I learn to pick my battles a little better?

Oh the sweet, terrible irony of having to argue about this one...

This question, my question, was closed as being too broad. A few users seemed to think that people were even hesitant to vote to close because I (a more experienced users) posted it.

I'm having trouble making sense of what was really wrong with asking about a specific issue without including what would seem to be distracting examples that demonstrate the issue. I guess it was obvious to me that had the question focused on any one argument the answers would also focus on that one argument. I wasn't asking about one specific argument and answers written that way wouldn't have been helpful.

I've certainly noticed a pattern of exactly this kind of derailment of topics here on meta. Many questions about scope or site etiquette quickly devolve into arguments about the pros and cons of a specific example post that was included, rather than addressing the actual issue being asked about...

I realize that we're uncomfortable with broader questions on Stack Exchange, most of us started out on more academic or technical sites where specificity is really very important. But I think we need to remember that IPS, by the nature of the subject matter, will be a little different.

So... Could we think about this question again, and possibly reopen it?

I finally realized that I was exhibiting the same behavior I was trying to learn to avoid. I've edited the original question to reflect that, I still think that slightly broader questions should have a place here, and that specific examples shouldn't always be strictly required, but this probably wasn't the best place to make that stand.

Sorry about that.

  • 3
    To me, it was completely clear, well worded and perfectly suited for IPS. So much that I understood it right away as a need for personal skill related to a wide subject. Why? Because picking a battle could be seen as "broad", but the subject stands by itself as one. Of course, I didn't VTC but would of course like to see it reopened as well...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 15:54
  • @OldPadawan if you have the time, please post an answer.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 15:55
  • 3
    Some users are hesitant to vote either way when they see the OP's reputation. I agree on that.
    – NVZ
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 16:51
  • Because your question was closed for being too broad maybe you might be interested in this meta question Is “too broad” being confused with “too verbose” or “too vague”?
    – user3114
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 19:45
  • 2
    Congratulations, the question has been reopened... (by your friends) :)
    – user3114
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 10:03

3 Answers 3


In your question, you start with the following premise:

So... As I'm sure many of you have noticed by now I have a nasty habit of locking onto an issue and not letting it go.

Let us agree that many users on IPS may think they know you, some may be familiar with your posts for a period longer than three months, and a few may consider you to be their friend. But the vast majority of visitors and users on IPS will not know who you are, which is different from recognising your avatar and/or remembering your several good answers.

Personally, I do not know you. I might have formed an impression of your personality traits but beyond this superficial impression, I consider you to be a stranger. (Gasp!) And you should assume the vast number of visitors will also think likewise. Thus your friendly and self-deprecating premise actually alienates vistitors and those very users who do not know you.

Toward the end of your relatively compact post you ask

My question is... How do I learn to pick my battles a little better? Should I learn to let things go?

Well... I'm not sure what battles you are referring to.

Despite the appetizing title, the question body is scrawny. In your shoes, I would expand on the two examples that you tagged almost as an afterthought, constrained reluctantly by the site's culture. But they are more interesting and easier to relate to than the skeletal post, which probably earned it the first two or three closing votes.

  • What you read as the premise was intended to be read as self-deprecating humor... More a light hearted way to address an issue that I'm sure a few users have noticed. Seemed better than just "I have a nasty habit of..." Really wasn't intended to be an assumption that people around here know me particularly well.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 21:26
  • 1
    @apaul34208 yeah, get it. I did acknowledge the humor element, but it seems you are asking your question to those users who know you fairly well. You're forcing me to dig through your posts to gain some insight into your character :P
    – user3114
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 21:33
  • That certainly wasn't my intention. Usually we try to give users the benefit of the doubt when they ask questions, if they ask about a problem it's reasonable to assume that they actually want to know about that problem.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 21:36
  • 6
    This is spot on and when asked for examples, the OP replied in a comment: "Ha. Have you looked at meta or chat lately? I thought it would be a given. I'm not saying that I shouldn't have fought those battles, just thinking that my approach could use some work.." Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 6:05
  • @AnneDaunted that too was meant to be self-deprecating humor.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 14:19
  • 3
    @apaul34208 What's wrong with giving a straight answer to a straight question? After all, the user was probably trying to help you, and help was what you wanted, too, no? Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 16:27
  • @AnneDaunted there's nothing wrong with giving a straight answer, I just have a habit of deflecting with humor. As mentioned in a few places so far I thought adding examples would derail the conversation, and thought of a humorous way to avoid them, so I took that route. In retrospect a straight answer probably would have been better.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 16:30
  • @apaul34208 Sometimes, an OP's goal is not clear (although it seemingly appears clear to a lot of people) and when the OP gives an example, other users can at least narrow it down. While there may be a lot of examples of you picking fights available, I myself have only encountered one so far. This was less than impressive, though, so if I interpret your question in that light, it looks as if you were looking for instructions on trolling. Now, don't get me wrong - I don't think you are/were and I don't want to attack you personally. I just want to provide you with an outsider's persepctive... Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 16:49
  • ... That's why you should avoid too much deflecting humour when asking a question and answering comments and rather focus on being clear about what your goal is. It may help, if you write a draft of your question first, let it settle and then rephrase it later again to edit out all the unnecessary information and humour, that makes it hard to decipher. Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 16:51
  • I don't think I've invalidated any answers, but I made a significant edit to the question cc @AnneDaunted
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 3:39
  • 1
    @apaul34208 this comment was originally very long, spread out over two boxes, in fact, I thought about making an edit to the answer. But it became long-winded and more about me than you. So, I'll be blunt and honest. The edit has done you no favors. You're asking users and visitors to click on links and read what happened to you and "get" what you are talking about. Really? Is your wanting to reopen a closed question the "battle"? The thing you knew you were right about, fought and won. That's it?
    – user3114
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 7:07
  • Hence why I didn't want to make the post about one specific argument... The question was about a pattern, not about one instance.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 14:31
  • @apaul34208 examples help users connect, and to empathize, in such a way they say to themselves: "Yeah, I've been down that road" or "My friend Pat is exactly the same". (In fact, some of the best questions are the ones that have an engaging story.) If the majority of users don't know you, and you offer a link to this meta thread, well... it's a bit weak.
    – user3114
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 23:32

TL/DR -- Question is appropriate, examples are worth the risk

Some thoughts:

First, I think apaul is on point with the notion that specific examples may distract. Here's another discussion of where the specific example may have distracted from the intent of the question (Was the question about offensive language in poetry handled appropriately?). That said, I do personally prefer the examples, hoping that readers will be able to help OP with what he wants without spending too much time telling him to want something else. If you trust the readers' judgement enough to want their advice, why don't you trust them to parse through examples?

Second, to my mind the question we're discussing doesn't seem too broad. It boils down to "I get way too invested in fights over tiny issues; should I / how can I dial this down" That's a pretty valid IP kind of issue. Examples -- maybe in footnotes? -- would have helped so we could analyze them for where things go south. [remove hypothetical example]

Lastly, do people actually care about other's rep score? I know I don't.


First of all, as the current guidelines for what questions are 'too broad' stand, IPS.SE members could not avoid close-voting your question. These are 3 comments which pointed out that you need to build your question around a specific example to avoid getting closed as 'too broad':

This is a good question @apaul34208 and I never close-vote myself but I am sad to say that if a new user had asked this Q, 5 users would have jumped on it with all their weight by now, and closed it as too broad. Either this site is developing double standards (because the champion close-voters live where it's around noon at present) or the Americans are just now waking up to coffee on the East Coast. You can avoid this situation by specifying one interpersonal interaction that represents your broader case. – English Student

This really is a good question but I agree with @EnglishStudent that an example of a specific interaction might prevent this question from being closed. I haven't voted yet. – Tycho's Nose

@apaul34208 I would recommend making this about one specific example, and including as much information as possible. Right now this is really broad. (Also, I'm not sure why this isn't closed yet, especially since similar questions by new community members have been closed). – Hamlet

The subsequent closure of your question for being too broad demonstrated that close-voting on IPS.SE is unbiased, logical and consistent.


You are absolutely right @apaul34208 that certain questions can be good questions for Interpersonal.SE without necessarily focusing on a particular instance of the stated interpersonal issue. At least 2 earlier questions including one of mine 'got by without being closed as too broad' despite being more general than specific, and I am sure there are others; these are just 2 random examples, whose merits should not be debated here:

Why do men shake hands with each other but hug women?

Why is a shy or reserved person often perceived as cold or arrogant?

I am generally of the opinion that we can be too narrow in our interpretation of what is 'too broad.' When the question is obviously pertinent as it stands, there is no real reason to insist that it should focus on a specific case.

Moreover your objection to setting out examples is well put and well-taken:

Many questions about scope or site etiquette quickly devolve into arguments about the pros and cons of a specific example post that was included, rather than addressing the actual issue being asked about...

So we need more discussion about how broad is really too broad on IPS.SE and I request you to put up a suitably worded meta question based on your this argument:

I realize that we're uncomfortable with broader questions on Stack Exchange, most of us started out on more academic or technical sites where specificity is really very important. But I think we need to remember that IPS, by the nature of the subject matter, will be a little different.

Since I have been well convinced by your argument against providing specific examples in your particular case, I have now voted to reopen your original question which I do consider pertinent and important for IPS.SE!

  • 8
    We, as a site, need you to stop telling us that you're against close voting. Close voting is a necessary and essential part of this site and your being against it is damaging to this site as part of an argument. If you want to post a meta about it as an issue, feel free to but you can not subvert the site by constantly posting that you're against close voting. That is not a valid argument for why a question should be open.
    – Catija
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 19:57
  • Point noted @Catija. Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 20:22
  • I don't think I've invalidated any answers, but I made a significant edit to the question.
    – apaul
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 3:40

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