I am asking about this question:

How to avoid wishing my coworker on her birthday?

In what way is this question "unclear"? It got multiple good, concrete answers. It has a crystal clear problem statement.

Yeah, the question is odd, and most people would probably challenge the premise of the question. But I fail to see how that makes the question unclear?

IPS is new and sometimes strange to me. I monitor IPS meta somewhat, but in this case I think I lack the proper understanding of what question should be on IPS or not.

  • 5
    I haven't had a chance to look at the question as of yet but I really strongly suggest you avoid justifying a question as being of sufficient quality merely because it attracts answers... It's very common to have good answers to poor questions. That doesn't save them from being closed.
    – Catija
    Oct 17, 2017 at 16:07
  • To me, it isn't clear what their goal is here. It's also not clear why they can't just say "Happy Birthday" regardless if they celebrate it or not. Does OP want to completely avoid the topic? Do they want to essentially wish happy birthday without saying those words? Do they think it will be bad if they just say nothing? There isn't much information here to work with. The question seems quite unclear to me; and I didn't even vote on it.
    – JMac
    Oct 17, 2017 at 17:19
  • I fail to see how it is unclear? Yes, the premise of the question is flawed, but that doesn#t make the question less clear. It clearly is an interpersonal issue, even if it stems from the own inability to accept some social norms. But it asks exactly one definite question, and that is how to avoid it. The answer is: if you want to be polite you do not completely avoid it. I agree that having good answers is not (necessarily) an indicator of a bad question. but given many other slightly ambiguos questions that are left open i wonder why this one was closed, and many others alike stay open.
    – Polygnome
    Oct 17, 2017 at 21:54
  • @Polygnome It's not clear at all if they want to be polite. Given what is mentioned in the question, the answer could be "burn the building down". They don't really elaborate on what they want to achieve or why it's so dreadful. The question is really broad/unclear to me.
    – JMac
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:03
  • @JMac Aren't all questions on IPS either "burn the building down" or be polite and do XYZ? I mean that is the basic premise of the site, right? if you want to be rude, you do not need to ask. this site literally is about how such situations can be approached sensibly /polite, isn't it?
    – Polygnome
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:06
  • @Polygnome Not necessarily. Some questions state that they don't really care about rudeness. It's really not clear to me if politeness is a factor here, or if they just want to get out of the situation somehow.
    – JMac
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:11
  • @JMac The Tour states that this page is about improving IPS skills. Just getting out of any situation without any regard to the consequences is not improving anything, anyone can be rude without any training whatsoever. So, yeah, at least the tour seems to agree that this site is not about burning bridges, but about preserving them? Maybe the scope if this site really needs clarification?
    – Polygnome
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:22
  • @Polygnome Always being polite isn't necessarily an IPS. Appropriate ways to deal with others is definitely an IPS. Generally to answer that though, we need some information for what they need to accomplish. It's not clear what the goal is in this case, beyond not acknowledging that birthday. They haven't really given a reason why just not saying anything isn't an option; so it's not clear what the specific problem here is.
    – JMac
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:33
  • @JMac "They haven't really given a reason why just not saying anything isn't an option" Ok, I agree that that part is only implied in the question ("I work in a small office with only five employees" => everyone knows what everyone does and notices how Op does not congratulate, OP obviously feels peer pressure), but then again, many question often just imply things in their context without outright stating it. But what they want to accomplish is pretty clear to me, have a way to deal with the social peer-pressure of their co-workers without giving up their belief.
    – Polygnome
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:40
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    @Polygnome And the questions that imply things without stating it get a bunch of comments saying they need more information until it gets added to the body of the question. This question could be reopened if additional information is provided IMO; but on SE, you aren't supposed to hold off on VTC's just because the question could be made acceptable. You let it close and then reopen if it does get fixed.
    – JMac
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:44
  • @JMac Yeah, but all in all all those issues seem to me rather insignificant. Sure, the question could be made a bit more clear by re-wording it, but everything needed is in there. I still think in this case the close voters were a bit overzealous. I mean I have been on SE sites were close votes were used zealously, but not to this extent. If all it takes for a question to be closed because one piece of context is not stated clearly enough, then almost every question here would be close-worthy.
    – Polygnome
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:51
  • @Polygnome I don't agree. In my opinion , we don't know if they want answers that or polite; or if they want to avoid acknowledging birthdays at all costs. The answers are obviously quite different. I don't see us really coming to an agreement on this though; just letting you see my side of it.
    – JMac
    Oct 17, 2017 at 22:58

2 Answers 2


I think that question was borderline. It really needs some more details to be a good question, but I think it's still clear enough as is. Without the additional information, like why the person doesn't celebrate birthdays, it could be considered unclear, because that detail can and probably will change the answer set considerably. That said, I think too-broad would have fit better than unclear.

I think this is an example of the way questions are being judged, at best, inconsistently on this site. While this question was closed, a very similar and much more problematic question was left open. I connected these two questions because the question you're asking about was "answered" by the author of this more troublesome question.

Then there was the OP's answer to their own question:


I am choosing to disappear on that day. Sorry! I do not have the courage to tell them to cancel the party. They are losers if they are planning to celebrate on the day when I do not even show up. They do not know that I knew they are going to throw a party beforehand. So clearly it is not my fault! Good luck, losers!


And the comments the OP left under a couple of the other answers:

No, I am choosing to disappear on that day. I do not have the courage to tell them about it. They are losers if they are planning to celebrate on the day where I do not show up. It is not my fault. Or is it? – VadaCurry 2 days ago

How to politely turn down my surprise birthday celebration at work?

I think it's worth thinking about being more consistent about what sorts of questions should be closed, and why we're closing them.

  • 1
    I disagree with your assessment that the other question is "much more problematic". The OPs behavior in comments was definitely problematic. The question itself has a clear goal "how do I politely tell the management to avoid party of any kind on my birthday?". That question was addressed in the answers. In the closed question, the goal isn't clear.
    – JMac
    Oct 17, 2017 at 20:28
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    @JMac how is avoiding wishing someone well different than avoiding a surprise party? The both seem to have clear goals, but neither seemed to explain why their goals were what they were.
    – apaul
    Oct 17, 2017 at 20:42
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    The question you linked makes it clear that they want a polite way to avoid any kind of b-day party for themselves. The question that this question discusses only asks "How do I avoid this?" I do agree that too-broad is far more appropriate. Either way, they haven't made it clear what they want as a result beyond "avoiding someone on their birthday". As worded, it's not even necessarily an interpersonal issue. One is asking "What should I tell someone to achieve my desired goal?" The other one is "How can I achieve this goal?"
    – JMac
    Oct 17, 2017 at 21:23
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    As we speak, I flagged the 'other' question for a suspicion of trolling. See also the deleted answer there, last words were 'goodbye losers'. Calling us losers for trying to help you and/or not getting what you want to hear? I'm having very strong suspicions that this isn't a genuine question...
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Oct 18, 2017 at 9:38

I answered that question as best I could, but sure did wish that OP had sketched out a little more detail on what his boundaries were.

Reason for this is that the mainstream culture values birthdays, and wanted to urge OP to go as far in that direction as he felt he honorably could. But there was not enough info for me to know if the problem was a party, saying the words "happy birthday", or exactly where. I mean, could he smile and say "big day, huh?"

I think OP was too shy about discussing his own beliefs, and that made it hard to gauge an approach which might satisfy them with least clanking against mainstream custom.

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