Interpersonal skills has a dark side. Sometimes, it's about getting what you want, not making a better and healthier relationship. Various unsavory tools can and have been used since forever that favor your outcome over the quality and type of the relationship.
This post is an effort to find where the line is for questions and answers and whether questions should be required to scope their moral restrictions.
I've noticed a conflict in some of the questions and answers that I don't think a lot of other people have noticed, or at least, it's not be brought up before. Naturally, many want to give morally good advice, not just advice that helps accomplish what the question asks for. Often, the assumption is that the asker cares about the feelings of the other person and the relationship in general. But this leaves answers giving a range of morally different solutions.
Let me illustrate with some examples:
How to tell girlfriend I don't want to meet without hurting her feelings?
This is a classic morally obliged question. They have a clear goal (I don't want to see you right now), but doesn't want that to hurt the other's feelings. The fact that the major concern is hurting feelings makes this not a dark side question. This question is virtually identical. The answers reflect this moral constraint because the question clearly frames it.
Why do people flirt in customer service situations?
This question is clinically dark side. It asks, "Why does this questionable behavior happen?" The question doesn't understand why someone would do this in the first place, with the presumption that there's a moral issue with it. The answers are equally clinical and amoral. They are descriptive, not prescriptive (for the most part). This is a particularly scientific approach to the topic (and are frankly the most interesting kind of questions to me). What I'd like to see more is citations, but that's a different topic.
How to join in when people are gossiping?
This one is especially interesting. It's basically "How can I be bad? It's not natural for me." Advice there includes get drunk, change the topic, argue for the one being gossiped about, and talk about them instead (because people like talking about themselves). There's even a reasoned defense for the "goodness" and usefulness of gossip, then the juxtaposition with "small talk". I'd say that covers the range between morally good and morally questionable actions. But to be fair, the question asked "how to gossip", which none of the answers quite hit. Should that make them "not an answer", or perhaps the question should be more clear that avoiding the gossip altogether would be an option. What might be more interesting is a clinical, descriptive approach. For example, "how can gossip be used in your interpersonal skills to reach your desired goals?" That's certainly morally questionable, if someone were to implement the skills without regard for others, but very much the domain of this site.
How to communicate to my co-workers that they don't have to say "bless you" when I sneeze?
This particular person is annoyed at a peculiar social moré. You sneeze, expect a blessing. He want's it to stop and doesn't really put any moral restrictions on the situation. In fact, the first comment asks "Does being polite matter to you?" That really hits the point of this post. Again, the answers reflect the ambiguity in the question and give a range of solutions on the morality scale.
Politest way to stress I do not wish to eat something?
This question illustrates a difficult situation with the asker's in-laws and her dietary wishes. The in-laws don't want to accommodate the specific dietary wishes, and seemingly lied about the contents of a dinner as well, which led to an unhappy engagement in the washroom. Suggestions here reflect the ambiguity as well. She may take the moral route first, the one that tries to do what's healthy for the relationship (which she wants to keep), but may find she won't get what she wants. The in-laws may still refuse to accommodate her diet. At that point, she might consider a less moral route, because sometimes getting what you want and moving the relationship in a healthy direction are in conflict. She could, for example, toy with the in-laws' emotions, as one answer suggests.
How can we get a landscaper to stop blowing leaves into our yard?
This is a classic interpersonal conundrum. "My neighbor is doing something I don't like. How can I make it stop?" Unfortunately, some stories have led to criminal action. Something like threats (bodily, legal action, etc.) is a tool in the interpersonal arsenal, but naturally, we should draw the line at least just short of suggesting criminal action.
We can just concede that there's a moral issue here, but at the same time, perhaps we should allow outright amoral answers and questions. If we think of interpersonal skills as a science, we must concede that science is inherently amoral. The best answer might be morally repugnant, but it is still a legitimate study in interpersonal skills. Likewise, a question may outright request a morally repugnant standard on the answers (e.g. "I want them to feel bad?"), but it is still a study in interpersonal skills. Further, descriptive questions, rather than prescriptive questions, are amoral by nature. They simply describe interpersonal skills in action and their motivations behind their use.
Should questions specify any moral obligations on how they may respond or go about getting what you want? And if they don't are "Screw them" answers as valid as "Let's be friends" on the same post? If questions do specify moral restrictions, should answers that stretch outside of them be considered "not an answer" and possibly be deleted? Should dark questions even be allowed? Should there be limits on the shade that answers may portray?