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Taking into consideration the notes left in answers below, the help page has been updated. Feel free to leave any commentary on the text.


This site really needs content for the help center's "On Topic" page and since it didn't seem to be happening, I did it myself but it needs your voice. We won't be able to make everyone happy with all of the rules here because... well... what the rules should be is something we're probably not all going to agree with 100%.

Rules for discussion.

  1. If you think a section needs rewording, post an answer quoting it and how it should be edited/improved. If you have more illustrative links than what I've used (or links for things I haven't linked to meta) include them.
  2. If you think a section should be removed, post an answer quoting it and why it should be removed - quote any meta posts that refute it, etc.
  3. If you think a section is missing, post an answer and explain what's missing, why it should be included and cite a meta post that supports it.
  4. Vote on the answers to show agreement or disagreement. Feel free to comment on answers to support or disagree.

Most important rule - BE RESPECTFUL & CONSTRUCTIVE.

Bickering and derision will not be tolerated. We all want this site to grow and be helpful to everyone let's keep this discussion respectful and constructive.




What topics can I ask about here?

Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange is a question & answer site for people looking to better understand or improve their interpersonal skills.

Questions about the following subjects are on topic for this site:

  • using or understanding interpersonal interactions to resolve specific problems or prevent problems from occurring with a specific goal in mind. This includes interactions with
    • family - spouse/partner/date, parents, children, siblings, etc. (note that questions about interacting with your children may be better suited to Parenting)
    • work associates - boss, coworkers, staff, etc (note that questions specific to the workplace environment may be better suited to The Workplace)
    • school associates - professors/teachers, colleagues, students, roommates, etc (note that questions specific to the college-level academic world may be better suited to Academia)
    • everyone else - Friends/Acquaintances/Strangers
  • the written and unwritten - but well-established and expected - rules or conventions of behavior in a specific setting (also called etiquette).
  • understanding social norms as they relate to interpersonal interactions - why do we interact the way we do?
  • understanding theories and concepts commonly associated with interpersonal skills. - What is [theory/concept] or How do I use [theory/concept] to achieve [goal]?

Questions must be specific enough to be answered

Because interpersonal interactions are very complex, we require that questions be specific - and preferably that they relate to a situation you are actually in. We ask that you provide sufficient detail including the context of the situation and any cultural information of the people involved (to the degree you are comfortable providing it). As this is an international site, what is common in one culture may be rare or even completely inappropriate in others so knowing the relevant culture/s can vastly change the appropriate response to a question.

Questions failing to provide this detail, asking overly broad, general questions, or questions that are purely hypothetical, will likely be closed. Please endeavor to provide this initially or add it to your question if requested.

Questions should focus on the Interpersonal Interaction

Interactions between people happen in relation to just about any subject. On IPS, our focus is the interpersonal interaction, not the subject of the interaction. While the context is important to the situation, it is secondary to the interpersonal interaction. As such, questions (and answers and comments) should focus on the interpersonal concerns rather than the contextual ones.


What questions are off topic here?

While this site allows questions that meet the Good Subjective requirements, some questions are too subjective for us. This includes questions that:

  • lack a clear goal we can address. We can provide solutions to achieve goals but we can not tell you what your goal should be. Questions should state the preferred outcome of the situation clearly.
  • ask us to adjudicate “right” and “wrong” in a situation or whether something is rude/racist/sexist/[insert other discriminatory terms]. If you are having a dispute with your spouse or coworker, we are not going to settle the dispute for you or give you points to argue. Focus your question on resolving your issue, rather than whether there is an issue or not.

Other types of questions that are off topic include questions that:

  • ask us to rewrite text or otherwise tell you what to say. We are not an editing service. Questions should focus on how to generally write or decide what to say so that you can tailor them to your situation.
  • violate the Stack Exchange “Be Nice” rules by encouraging bigotry of any kind, harassment, or abuse of others. While not all interpersonal interactions meet these guidelines, our goals are to encourage respectful interpersonal skills.

This site is specifically not here to discuss issues and disputes between users on the Stack Exchange Network. This site is not the “court of public opinion” of Stack Exchange. Please refer all concerns related to Stack Exchange to

  • the child meta of the site you are using
  • Meta Stack Exchange
  • the staff directly using the Contact link at the bottom of any page.

If you’re still unsure whether your question fits on the site, please check Interpersonal Skills Meta to see if there are any discussions related to what you would like to ask. If there aren’t any, please go ahead and ask the question on the main site and the users will help guide you to improve it if it does not meet our standards. If it is closed, please ask for help improving it on meta. For more information, see our discussion here.

Alternately, if you have 20 reputation total on the Stack Exchange Network, feel free to visit our main chat room, The Awkward Silence, to get help deciding whether your question fits here.




Thank you for your attention.

  • 3
    Impressive, very nice! – A J Jan 19 '18 at 1:46
  • So this is quietly removing the need for this to "Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do", where as using specific may lead people to contrive hypothetical issues... – user1722 Jan 19 '18 at 11:08
  • 1
    @Snow I'm not quite sure where you're seeing that. It's not my intention. Part of the text reads "questions that are purely hypothetical, will likely be closed". If it's not clear, feel free to suggest a change. This page doesn't override the general guidelines for asking... it augments them. – Catija Jan 19 '18 at 12:47
  • Thanks for the clarification here. The actual problem is highlighted on the tour page, so maybe the text here needs to reflect that. I guess this kind of boils down to a base question. Is IPS here to help people, or creating a Q&A repository more important? Sure, there's some general questions, but people often have very specific issues of their own. – user1722 Jan 19 '18 at 13:29
  • This site has always required that questions be specific, @Snow. This isn't new. We aren't an agony aunt site... that's why we require a clear goal. But we also aren't only a general concepts site. We can be both helpful to specific users and a repository of Q&A. The type of questions require that specificity in order to provide useful solutions. We can't answer "how do I make my mom listen to me?" Without knowing more about the situation. If you have a suggestion to change this, write an answer. – Catija Jan 19 '18 at 13:35
  • Thanks Catija. I'll have a think about it. I'm feeling somewhat angsty right now, so I'll take a break and think about things a while. – user1722 Jan 19 '18 at 13:43
  • I like them :-) – Tinkeringbell Jan 23 '18 at 9:04
  • Really helpful and comprehensive description of what's on topic here and what's off topic: glad to see that the help page has been completed @Catija. This page will be very useful to link in a comment when a new member unknowingly asks an off topic question. – English Student Feb 10 '18 at 9:30
  • These look great! – 1006a Feb 14 '18 at 21:26
  • Don't you think it's far more important to ask the right question and to ask it at the right time? It's a popularity contest right? What's most important is that the folks with enough points, get to down vote questions. That's very important. It's why so many people come back to post question after question. – rbsdca Feb 20 '18 at 6:50
6

Clean up "Questions about the following subjects are on topic for this site:" section to make it shorter. Move the site recommendation redirects to another place on the page rather than here.

Questions about the following subjects are on topic for this site:

  • using or understanding interpersonal interactions to resolve specific problems or prevent problems from occurring with a specific goal in mind. This includes interactions with family, friends, work/school associates, acquaintances or strangers (or anyone else).
  • the written and unwritten - but well-established and expected - rules or conventions of behavior in a specific setting (also called etiquette).
  • understanding social norms as they relate to interpersonal interactions - why do we interact the way we do?
  • understanding theories and concepts commonly associated with interpersonal skills. - What is [theory/concept] or How do I use [theory/concept] to achieve [goal]?

If your question relates to others but doesn't focus on the interpersonal skills interaction, there may be other sites that better suit your needs:

  • questions about interacting with your children may be better suited to Parenting
  • questions specific to the workplace environment may be better suited to The Workplace
  • questions specific to the college-level academic world may be better suited to Academia

I'm not sure how to introduce this section but I think it makes more sense elsewhere in the page rather than up top.

  • If your question relates to others but doesn't focus on the interpersonal skills interaction > Maybe change it to 'if your issue isn't about getting advice on improving your interpersonal skills, but getting more general advice? Then you can add it to the 'questions should focus on interpersonal interaction paragraph' I guess... – Tinkeringbell Jan 23 '18 at 9:10
4

I think this section could be bulleted and include more guidance:

Questions must be specific enough to be answered

Because interpersonal interactions are very complex, we require that questions be specific - and preferably that they relate to a situation you are actually in. We ask that you provide sufficient detail including the context of the situation and any cultural information of the people involved (to the degree you are comfortable providing it). As this is an international site, what is common in one culture may be rare or even completely inappropriate in others so knowing the relevant culture/s can vastly change the appropriate response to a question.

Questions failing to provide this detail, asking overly broad, general questions, or questions that are purely hypothetical, will likely be closed. Please endeavor to provide this initially or add it to your question if requested.

Perhaps we could change the narrative part to something more like:

Because interpersonal interactions are very complex, we require that questions be specific - and preferably that they relate to a situation you are actually in. Please include the following information where possible, and to the degree that you are comfortable (anonymizing as necessary):

  • Cultural context. Culture may include your geographic location and/or the type of setting (e.g. a specific workplace or social group). See Should we tag our questions by (cultural) region? for more information.
  • Who is involved and their relationship to you.
  • What you've already tried, if anything, and what effect that approach had.
  • Your priorities for the outcome. In addition to resolving the immediate issue, this may include goals such as preserving or improving your relationship with the other person(s), having your feelings acknowledged, spending less time on the issue, etc. If any of your goals might conflict with one another, please rank them.

Questions failing to provide sufficient detail, asking overly broad, general questions, or questions that are purely hypothetical, will likely be closed. Please endeavor to provide this initially or add it to your question if requested.

If we could develop (or already have) appropriate Meta questions for the last three bullet points, it would be great to link to those. We might also want to have a single Meta that talks about what kind of detail should be included in questions, and link to that up front.

If I've missed any essential info, or anyone has suggestions for more succinct or felicitous wording, please feel free to edit (or just comment).

  • This is a section that I do think needs work and I like the bullets. My sleep/late night addled brain could only focus on cultural context as an example, but your other suggestions are also very important. – Catija Jan 24 '18 at 20:57
  • I'm glad you think it might be helpful! This is a huge undertaking, and the framework and content you've come up with are great. – 1006a Jan 24 '18 at 21:12
  • Thank you so much! I'm glad that we're coming together to make it useful. It's always great to see when people appreciate your work. – Catija Jan 24 '18 at 21:15
-1

Change the paragraph:

Questions failing to provide this detail, asking overly broad, general questions, or questions that are purely hypothetical, will likely be closed. Please endeavor to provide this initially or add it to your question if requested.

To something like:

Questions that don't provide sufficient detail or are overly broad are likely to be closed. Please endeavour to provide a necessary level of detail, distinction and specificity before posting or edit your question to better suit these requirements later.

Questions should be based on actual situations and actual problems you face. While hypothethicals might sound interesting, they're often times overblown or detached from what happens in reality. We prefer that the sum of our Q/A gets filled out as people experience problems, not because someone thought a made up situation might sound interesting. If your question is a purely hypothethical one, it is likely to be closed.

The reasoning for that is we want to dissuade people effectively from just making stuff up to see what sticks for clicks. We want to make it clear that we deal in actual problems and not the most outlandish / outrageous scenario anyone could think up. Part and parcel of that is explaining why we want this.

  • 1
    This suffers from the same concerns I have with apaul's suggestion - it makes something that's already too long, longer. We have a meta discussion about hypothetical questions. I don't think we need to explain the reasons, just link to the discussion. interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/33/36 if we need an update to the answer there, we can do that. – Catija Jan 23 '18 at 13:58
-4

ask us to adjudicate “right” and “wrong” in a situation or whether something is rude/racist/sexist/[insert other discriminatory terms]. If you are having a dispute with your spouse or coworker, we are not going to settle the dispute for you or give you points to argue. Focus your question on resolving your issue, rather than whether there is an issue or not.

This may need a little more clarity...
Perhaps:

ask us to adjudicate “right” and “wrong” in a situation or whether something is rude/racist/sexist/[insert other discriminatory terms]. If you are having a dispute with your spouse or coworker, we are not going to settle the dispute for you or give you points to argue. Focus your question on resolving your issue, rather than whether there is an issue or not. Note that this does not mean that questions that arise from issues of racism, sexism, etc are strictly off topic. It simply means don't ask:

  • "is it ______ when someone.... ?"

instead ask:

  • "how do I respond to and/or apologize for _____?"

Just anticipating that users may misinterpret that as saying all questions involving X are off topic, figured it may be worth spelling it out a little bit more.

It's not that X is off topic, but asking if X is X, is off topic.

We already have something of an issue with users voting to close questions that they find "controversial" we need to be careful not to give them a piece of the help center to use as a justification.

  • 4
    I'm more concerned that what I have is too long, not too short. The point of linking to meta is to give better clarity without making the help pages too long. I don't mind adding links to posts that discuss this but I disagree that adding all of this text is necessary. If rewriting is necessary to clarify without making the text longer, that's good, too. The text as written doesn't imply that these subjects are off topic and the link to Tinkeringbell's meta answer supports that these are on topic. – Catija Jan 19 '18 at 15:14
  • @Catija it could probably be edited for length, and content. Just thinking that we have users that would deliberately misinterpret that bit. – apaul Jan 19 '18 at 15:32

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