Let me start off by saying that I'm relatively new to the interpersonal stackexchange. But coming from other exchanges, the amount of 'on hold' markers as well as the extreme downvoting is simply shocking to me. On the current "newest questions" 7 out of 15 questions are put on hold, and the same amount have negative score. As an outsider to the community, this feels extremely uninviting and closed minded. Allow me to articulate why:

Consider the question How to ask a female date to split the bill during a date? that is currently on the front page. This has been given the tag "too broad" which is frankly incorrect. The question is very specific and can be translated to "Suppose one has very little financial means (minimum wage) how does one ask to split the bill of a date without causing offence?". By the way this question is framed, I would downvote the question (and in fact did) as it shows disrespect and includes too many obfuscating details. That said, it is far from too broad. As a new user this actively turns me away from using the exchange, since it seems like no question could be asked that is sufficiently on-topic.

Another type of question I'd like to highlight is Is it normal to love someone so much all you want to do is avoid them? Put on hold for being primarily opinion based. This is fair enough, but I feel that (be warned the controversy of this statement) the community is pretending to be something it's not by turning these sorts of questions away. In interpersonal skills there is very little repeatable research that has been done. This means that close to all of the answers and comments provided are by definition anecdotes and opinions. Explicitly, the turning away of such questions because it is overly opinion-based forgets the nature of interpersonal skills which are by definition the interactions between people and thus based on opinion.

Before moving on to a summary and conclusions, I'd like to highlight one more topic of interest: Sex. For this discussion, I'll be highlighting the following meta questions: "Let's talk about sex" - How do we deal with explicit language in questions about sex and where do we draw the line?, and How do we deal with potentially controversial (but not NSFW) content in questions?. The first of these raises an important question of where lies the line when discussing topics about sex. From this post (specifically the sanitation of Question 2) and Apaul's answer a trend to "clinical language" becomes apparent. Now here's the problem: The issue raised by apaul in his answer, pointing out the usage of terms like "sexual intercourse" as opposed to "sex" is one of professionalism. But the opposite is true; it speaks of an immaturity and unwillingness to discuss sex openly, respectfully and honestly. Allow me to articulate why: When you talk openly and honestly about sex (be that with friends, lovers, colleagues, fish, whatever) what is the language you find yourself using? It is not the sanitized language that is proposed here, but a respectful explicit language. This is better explained by example: the (very explicit and absolutely NSFW) sentence "What are your ideas about orally stimulating the frenulum during fellatio as precursor to sexual intercourse?" is not in fact more respectful or indeed more clinical or specific as the equivalent sentence "What do you think of using the tongue to stimulate the frenulum during a blow-job, as foreplay?". In the second question, Robert adresses this subject in his answer, noting that there's little sense in replacing any instance of "breast" with "secondary female mammary characteristic".

These 3 subjects highlight what seems to be an issue on the interpersonal stackexchange, which I think can be aptly - yet boldly - summarized as pretentious ignorance. Or what I like to call: Expert's syndrome. I feel like the Answerers are out of tune with the mental state of the Askers; assuming them to know and be aware of more than they necessarily are. The second topic I mentioned is a good example of this, where the question asked is confusing precisely because the asker is unaware of the question that should be asked. Currently the communities response to this is a removal of said question and a call for rephrasing. This presupposes however, that the asker knows their own question to the point where they can articulate it in a precise manner. When it comes to interpersonal skills and relations however, this is not a given. This second topic can be summarized by the (overly simplified) question: "How can I overcome reacting out of place to someone who flutters me?" which is both actionable and discussabel. Yet of the 77 views (as of the writing of this post) no one has attempted to dissect the post, instead asking the asker (who seems apparently confused and frustrated by themselves) to better articulate their question; once again presupposing that they have the oversight and experience (also called expertise) to actually do this.

All in all, this is an issue that - at the very least - scares me off from partaking in interpersonal skills. Which means that there are probably many more who feel the same way. This is a shame, because the concept is great, but the execution seems to be lacking in openness, and acceptance. Which coincidentally are some of the exact skills that we are trying to make the askers aware of.

There is no solid question here, instead it is a topic meant to start a conversation.


2 Answers 2


What you're seeing is our attempt to handle a recent problem with a troll. Believe it or not, the majority of those questions you're seeing were very likely asked by the same person. I'm not going to get into how we've figured that out, because we don't want to educate the troll in a way that will make their posts harder to identify and shut down.

I understand your concern though. If you see an individual post that seems to have been closed or heavily downvoted in error, feel free to bring it up on Meta or in chat.

If one of your posts gets shut down, try to listen to feedback in the comments section and edit it into shape. We're pretty good about reopening posts that have been fixed.

Please try to keep in mind that this site is still in beta, we're still hammering out site policies and norms. Unfortunately that means that many, if not most, questions will have issues to work out in their first version and will require some discussion and editing to bring them within scope, and focus them to a single question that can be addressed in the Stack Exchange format.


Trolling aside (as apaul said, probably accounts for a lot of the downvotes you noticed) - I've noticed it too that new users can get frustrated learning how to ask questions that are not "too broad" or "opinion-based". I think a large part of it is not understanding when and how we apply those, as they might be coming from a more technical SE or a discussion forum setting where the rules are a bit different.

Too Broad

The most frequent problems with "too broad" posts are:

  • Not including a specific goal
  • Not including a location / culture tag when it is relevant

The first point is one way we keep this site "good subjective".

A good example is The Workplace, another site which has potential for subjectivity. They have a custom close reason:

Questions require a goal that we can address. Rather than explaining the difficulties of your situation, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, see this meta post.

While we don't have a specific close reason for this (though I wouldn't be surprised if we add one eventually), we've been closing questions which are essentially, "Here's my situation, any suggestions?". We need the poster to identify what they want out of the situation, and then we can help them figure out how to get from Point A to Point B. Otherwise, you'd get answers going from Point A to Points B-Z: that's what makes it "too broad".

(TWP also has a good meta post on good vs. bad subjective, although it is of course geared towards their site.)

Location / culture tags are asked for because sometimes what would work in the US would not be well-received in, say, the EU or Middle East, so we want to make sure answers are appropriate for the setting. This could be labeled "too broad" as well because otherwise you'd end up with an answer for Location 1, Location 2, ...

Opinion Based

I encourage you to read this answer to another meta question: Is this site, essentially, a centre for primarily opinion-based questions? - I think it pretty much sums it up!


The second topic I mentioned is a good example of this, where the question asked is confusing precisely because the asker is unaware of the question that should be asked. Currently the communities response to this is a removal of said question and a call for rephrasing. This presupposes however, that the asker knows their own question to the point where they can articulate it in a precise manner.

Yes -- this is an unfortunate consequence of our rules to keep things from getting too opinion-based. I hope that by discussing with the asker, we can prompt them to further self-reflection, and then improve their question -- but ultimately it is still not our place to tell them what to do. The logic here is the same: "we can't tell you what to do, but we can tell you how."

It's kind of like how on StackOverflow you're typically required to include a MCVE. Yes, it requires the asker to have some level of knowledge and self-awareness, but it's necessary in order to be able to write effective, useful answers. Otherwise, it's all a shot in the dark whether or not the answer is really what the asker wanted.

Fortunately, I have seen a number of questions get reopened through this process! Usually the asker either picks an option ("Let's say I want to accomplish X, then"), or modifies their question to be about the approach (For example, instead of "I don't like what Y did, am I right / what can I do", it's "How do I start a conversation with Y about my concerns?", for example).

Hopefully, these new users are getting comments from the close voters on how to improve their posts - if you don't see this happening, feel free to ask in a comment, in chat, or on Meta to figure out what's up. Even within the established user base there are disagreements on what to close or delete! Since the site is in beta, we're still developing the rules and norms, and feedback like this is valuable in shaping the site culture.

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