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Dear Abby, I have a problem. I would like to flag or vote to close questions on IPS.se that are off topic because they ask for advice on what to do instead of how to do it. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to do it.

Can we please add a stack specific off topic close reason for "dear Abby" questions?

  • 5
    One of the problems we seem to face is that our community likes to answer these questions. A lot of answers, even highly voted ones, don't even seem to make an attempt to relate back to interpersonal communication techniques or skill. I'm guilty of this, too, but I've been trying to get better lately. This problem is going to need to be solved by the community just as much as the system. – Clay07g May 14 '18 at 15:03
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This is now live with the close reason as suggested

(last box on the answer)

Let's take some inspiration by the options users have posted before:

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because unfortunately, this question appears to be asking “What should I do?”, which the community has determined to not be a good fit for Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange. We can’t decide for you what to do; after you determine what you want to do, we can help you with your goal, but we can’t make these decisions for you. Sorry.

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it appears to be asking "What should I do?" This type of question has been determined to be off-topic for IPS. If you make a decision as to what you want to do and make your question about that we could help you with the skills needed to achieve your goal.

Welcome to Interpersonal Skills! I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because you seem to be asking us to make a decision for you. Please decide what you want to do, and if you want to tell this, we can probably help you with how to have a 'good' bad-news conversation or something.

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because you're basically asking us to decide on how you should approach your cashier and what you should say. Even if you'd decide what you want to do, this will be a tough question to get into good IPS shape, because pointing the rudeness out or not will be closely related to phrasing requests. But we can try, so: What's your goal?

There are others but there are a few things that they largely have in common:

So, to use these three points:

Questions asking "What should I do?" are off topic. - Questions on this site should ask for help achieving a specific goal. This question is asking for personal advice on "what to do" without defining a goal, this is too subjective. To fix this, [edit] your question to explain what you hope to achieve in this situation and how you would like to interact with the others involved.

Sadly, this is too long, but this fits:

Asking "What should I do?" is off topic. - Questions should ask for help achieving a specific goal. Your question is asking for personal advice on "what to do" without defining a goal; this is too subjective. [Edit] your question to explain what you hope to achieve and how you would like to interact with the others involved.

These close reasons have to be really, really short... shorter than you'd think; only 400 characters.

  • I don't like the ' achieving a specific goal' here, because of the amount of times this is interpreted as 'I want X to happen' instead of focusing on Interpersonal Skills, on behaviour that the person itself is struggling with/wishing to improve/see explained. We're making something off-topic because it's not about that... shouldn't we then make it clearer what a good question is about? – Tinkeringbell May 14 '18 at 15:48
  • As far as I'm aware, we have no rule that "focusing on a specific Interpersonal Skill" is required. – Catija May 14 '18 at 16:37
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    Not necessarily focusing on a specific Interpersonal Skill, that's a battle that will have to wait until later. But questions on this site should be about Interpersonal Skills? 'Goals' often fail to address that. – Tinkeringbell May 14 '18 at 16:40
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    That's fine, though... if the "goals" end up not being IPS, we just leave the question closed. The rest of the close reason specifically says "and how you would like to interact with the others involved". – Catija May 14 '18 at 16:41
  • Any chance of switching the two around so that the 'interact' part becomes more visible? – Tinkeringbell May 14 '18 at 16:47
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    This going live seems to have removed the option for "blatantly off-topic"? Was that supposed to happen? – Em C May 23 '18 at 13:48
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    @EmC It's how the system is designed, yes. We discussed it and would rather encourage users to write custom reasons rather than using an unhelpful default reason. – Catija May 23 '18 at 13:53
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I propose the following close reason:

  • Questions seeking advice on what to do instead of how to do it are off-topic. It's just not what this Stack is about. Additionally, they're a bad fit for a Q&A site because it's difficult to determine the correct answer, and strangers on the Internet may not be the best source of advice anyway.

    For more information, see meta.

Markdown (391 characters, single line breaks inserted for readability):

Questions seeking advice on _what to do_ instead of _how to do it_ are off-topic. 
It's just not what this Stack is about. Additionally, they're a bad fit for a Q&A 
site because it's difficult to determine the _correct_ answer, and strangers on 
the Internet may not be the best source of advice anyway.

For more information, [see meta](https://interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1310).

I've inserted a link to the most relevant meta discussion I could find on the subject. Perhaps we should create one specifically for this reason, tag it with , and use that.

-1

I'm starting with this comment made by Robert Cartaino in a previous discussion:

@Tinkeringbell If this is going to happen, it will take a bit of study for me to write it up. It's a delicate balance between brevity and making a clear, strong point. The idea is to (1) start with an affirmative statement about what the site is about so it becomes all but self-evident when the close description (2) describes where their problem statement went wrong in the context of that site. Optionally, (3) it should give them to an action item. link

  1. "What to do" isn't an Interpersonal Skill - Interpersonal Skills are goal-directed behaviors, including communication and relationship-building competencies, employed in interpersonal interaction episodes characterized by complex perceptual and cognitive processes, dynamic verbal and nonverbal interaction exchanges, diverse roles, motivations and expectancies. 1
  2. Unfortunately, questions asking 'What should I do now' are out of scope for this site, see meta.
  3. If you can show a clear focus on what Interpersonal Skill you'd like to improve or see explained, please edit and flag it for reopening afterwards.

Since the first part with the definition of what Interpersonal Skills are doesn't match the criteria for brevity exactly and might be too complicated a sentence for some people, I'm proposing a version with a slightly trimmed down version of the definition of Interpersonal Skills:

**"What to do" isn't an Interpersonal Skill** - Interpersonal Skills are behaviours focused on achieving a certain goal, used in interpersonal interaction. Unfortunately, questions asking 'What to do' are out of scope for this site, see [meta][2]. If you can show a clear focus on what Interpersonal Skill you'd like to improve or see explained, please edit and flag it for reopening afterwards.

1 The definition for Interpersonal Skills I used comes from the International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology 2006 , chapter 3.

  • The system seems to automatically add a note directing OP to edit - "If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.", so that part could be left out. – Em C May 14 '18 at 13:43
  • @EmC you're right :) But I prefer to keep in the reference to editing/flagging, like in the example Robert gave that's still up: lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/14641/…. I did remove the magic link though – Tinkeringbell May 14 '18 at 13:46
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    The bold section seems too broad for the rest of the close reason and it's too similar to the generic off topic close reason. I really don't like the word "episodes" here... and it all reads... a bit to technically for me. People shouldn't be left thinking "Wha?" when they read a close reason, particularly not this close reason, which is largely geared at "PLEASE HELP" questions. Also, the source you link to doesn't actually populate for me. – Catija May 14 '18 at 14:41
  • So, the bold part should be more specifically geared at 'What to do isn't an Interpersonal Skill'? I guess the episodes part can also go from the definition, 'employed in interpersonal interaction'. I'll try to dumb the definition down... – Tinkeringbell May 14 '18 at 14:45
  • The link is to a google book, maybe it's not available across the ocean? I'll see what I can do about it. – Tinkeringbell May 14 '18 at 14:48
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    I'd make it more of a statement "Questions asking "What should I do?" are off topic." I recommend looking through the versions of this that have been used by people manually typing it in. Some of the ones I've seen seem to be a good starting place. interpersonal.stackexchange.com/tools/question-close-stats – Catija May 14 '18 at 14:53
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    @Catija the problem I have with those is with the 'questions require a specific goal' part, and the amazing amount of times that seems to be interpreted as 'I want X to happen'... I'd love to make an off-topic close reason for 'what should I do' relate more to the fact that it isn't about Interpersonal Skills than that it is lacking a goal – Tinkeringbell May 14 '18 at 15:43
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    I don't quite agree with the trimming down of the definition of interpersonal skills. Goal-directed does not translate into achieving a certain goal. More often than not in interaction multiple goals are involved, at least one for each party, and it takes interpersonal skills to reconcile them (i.e. it takes two to tango). For example, in a negotiation, each party wants the best deal, and interpersonal skills are used to achieve not the best deal for each, but a win-win situation that is a satisfactory outcome for both. – GretchenV May 17 '18 at 20:42

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