This was primarily spurred by yesterdays question of:

How can I get my sister to stop asking me to help her smoke?

I think the title (and problem statement) is problematic here, for two reasons:

  • It is asking about a way to compel an action from someone. Not to talk to them about it, not to convince and persuade someone to do something, it's merely a "How can I get X to do Y (for me)" question, at least on the surface

  • It tacitly encourages non interpersonal answers. I think if the title were different, it'd do so much less. The conundrum of course is editing the question now would possibly invalidate a bunch of answers, but for the future, I think we could benefit from rewriting titles.


How can I get my sister to stop asking me to help her smoke?

to for instance

How can I make my sister understand I won't help her smoke, and have her stop asking me?

(courtesy of Tinkeringbell in chat)

or to

How can I convey to my sister that I won't help her smoke in a respectful way so she stops asking me?

I think the latter two would definitely make it less likely that people will be inclined to write non IPS answers that we then have to delete.

So do you think we should be changing "How can I get X to do Y?" questions to a more IPS focused framing when we see them to alleviate people feeling encouraged to provide answers not focusing on interpersonal skills?


2 Answers 2


I think this will often depend on what the body of the question says. If the body of the question supports such a change to the title, I don't see any problem with editing the title to match; presumably most answerers will have at least acknowledged the body question in their answer, and the OP's more nuanced question in the body is presumably what the OP actually wants answered.

On the other hand, if the body question matches the title then the question is probably flawed in other ways, and it is going to need more back-and-forth with the OP to get a workable question. If it is flawed enough to make it close-able, then put it on hold ASAP and work with the OP to edit both the title and body of the question. If the "help me get X to do Y" question is on-topic (even if somewhat inflammatory) and the OP doesn't want to change it, then we shouldn't change the title to something that isn't what the OP really wants.

One alternative approach for titles that can sometimes work is to just describe the situation, without an actual question. This works well when the inciting situation or incident is clearly described and easily boiled down to a single statement. For the example question this would be something like

My hospitalized sister keeps asking me to bring her cigarettes, even though I have told her I'm not comfortable helping her to smoke.

The benefit of this approach is that it shouldn't invalidate any existing answers, and doesn't make any assumptions about what the OP wants to have happen, so this kind of title can survive multiple edits of the body of the question. The drawback is that some of the situations on IPS are pretty complex, and hard to reduce in this way.


I think this is again, crashing into the demarcation lines between what is, and what is not on topic.

IF the question can be saved by editing, then edit it, if not, close it. But as this particular question stands, it would be better closed, cleaned up, and then reopened when edited.

Any question that isn't asking about the interpersonal skills to do something, but is rather looking for valildation or ranting is not on topic.

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