Why do people run on the pedestrian crossing? This was asked today, and I voted to close it as off-topic initially because, in my opinion, it doesn't involve any interpersonal skills.

Working from the premise that an interpersonal skill is the ability to communicate or interact well with other people, be that verbally or non-verbally (body-language), I can't see any reason why it should be on our site.

There are a few 'Why do people do X' questions on our site that are open.

I think all three questions are on-topic. Asking about 'Why do people do a certain interpersonal thingy' is opinion based, but I think it's no more opinion based than "How do I have a conversation about X" since both can be answered from experience (I flirt because X, I would handle such a conversation this way because Y').

We can't read the people's minds, but we can make an educated guess from our own experiences in these cases. Just like we can make educated guesses about what to say and what not (remember, we don't know the people interacting or their tempers/intonation) when having a conversation about a certain topic.

Besides that, all three questions are about a certain wide-spread behavior (I'm sure there are more people that shake hands, are hugged, flirt in customer situations/have been flirted with and got to hear 'I'm sure you'll love it'). So the questions aren't asking us to speculate on the behavior of a single person, but on information about a more-widespread interpersonal skills phenomenon.

Because of the above-mentioned questions, I was thinking that 'Why do people run' isn't asking about an interpersonal skill, and so it's off-topic.

That said, we have some questions about behaving in traffic here:

The fourth one is definitely about Interpersonal skills, I've got no doubts about that.

But what's bothering me are the first three. They are basically all asking 'What's the rude/polite thing to do in this situation', where the situation is either blocking the way yourself or being blocked by others.

For the fourth questions, when there was asked in the comments about 'how does this involve interpersonal skills':

Interpersonal skills are not limited to verbal exchanges - consider all of the questions and answers on the site about nonverbal actions. – HDE 226868♦ Sep 24 at 19:08

Why I'm taking this as an example: The OP of Why do people run on the pedestrian crossing? was wondering if it would be on-topic if it was changed to 'is it polite/rude to run/not run when crossing?'.

I'm struggling with the 'on-topicness' of all of the first three traffic example questions, and am thus also wondering if an edit from the OP of Why do people run on the pedestrian crossing? to 'Is it rude/polite to run or not, since I'm blocking the way when I don't' would make that question a better fit for our site.

So, my question: To what extent does a question have to be about interacting, be that verbal or non-verbal, to be on-topic for this site? Is an 'interaction' with the driver behind you in the form of driving faster/slower considered an 'interpersonal skill'? Is it an 'interaction' if a driver is waiting for you to cross? Is crossing at the right pace considered an interpersonal skill? Are these situations even 'interactions' at all, since 'to interact' means to communicate or be involved directly?

3 Answers 3


The traffic questions are basically about etiquette (type of interpersonal skill). The first one involves verbal communication while the first three involve non-verbal communication or less direct communication, like you very accurately pointed out.

However, because human interaction is taking place in all of them, (e.g drivers' interaction, for example "car behavior" is an extension of driver behavior and its consequences for more than one person involved), they are essentially all on topic even if it's a little tricky to identify in the beginning.

Interpersonal communication is the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages: it is face-to-face communication.

Interpersonal communication is not just about what is actually said - the language used - but how it is said and the non-verbal messages sent through tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and body language.

When two or more people are in the same place and are aware of each other's presence, then communication is taking place, no matter how subtle or unintentional.

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    "because human interaction is taking place in all of them, (...), they are essentially all on topic even if it's a little tricky to identify in the beginning." __ something for us all to keep in mind: Great answer @Tycho's Nose! Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 8:05

1) Is it rude to drive at the speed limit on dangerous roads when another driver wants to go faster?

This question puzzles me a bit as it asks if it is rude to adhere to traffic rules. In my opinion, this is going a bit too far. Does it really make sense to discuss "law & order" itself under the aspect of interpersonal skills? In my opinion, we shouldn't overstep this limit as the laws are usually there for a reason and the consequences of ignoring them can be very serious. Also, we shouldn't give legal advise - that's clearly off-topic.

(edit 1)
The problem I see here is that there are issues that trump IPS. We already (largely) accept that with regards to health, but I think that (local) laws should also fall under this rule. IPS are no reason to ignore the laws and so, unless you accept that it's a purely theoretical discussion with not application to reality ("Yes, ignoring the speed limit is the only polite thing to do. But, of course, don't do it!"), there is no way round them.
(/edit 1)

That doesn't mean that it couldn't indirectly play a role. There could be good IPS questions lurking somewhere, but it's tricky, e. g. something like "How do I tell someone I'm currently suing that I forgive them?" should possibly be better left to a lawyer.

2) The etiquette of holding foot traffic up to take a photo in public?

This question seems to have some issues (maybe a bit broad "I am currently located in Central Asia, but will be travelling through UK, Europe, then USA shortly then for work in Australia and following on for that touring through Asia" from a comment). But apart from that, I do think that it is on-topic. It concerns etiquette and non-verbal communication with a lot of people. It's a bit like those "holding doors open" questions en vogue right now.

3) As a runner, should I move onto the road to avoid a collision?

This question appears borderline to me. On the one hand, you could argue that it's about etiquette and also some kind of communication, like in question 2. Then, like question 1, it concerns traffic rules - something specifically about too narrow sidewalks that may affect whether you are allowed to move in both directions or, if both are walking in the same direction, the faster one is allowed to pass the slower one (perhaps has to start walking, too), at all. Again, this is tricky as moving onto the street can cause deadly accidents, so is it even sensible to discuss it from an IPS angle?


All of those questions are on topic. Why? Because at heart, they're all about avoiding conflict or avoiding giving offense. A huge number of the questions on this site are about this. Look at the top tags! conflict-aversion, etiquette, politeness are all in the top ten [1].

Interpersonal skills ... it's all about "how do we get along". I mean honestly, this SE could make good use of about half the posts I see on a host of other SE sites. I could name names, but, y'know, IP, right? ;D

[1] Okay, so is united-kingdom. And united-states. I'm still working on these ones, grand unified theory-wise.

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