I can't seem to find a solid definition of an "Interpersonal Solution" anywhere on the site (if I'm wrong, please drop a comment!).

I've seen complaints that we delete everything except answers asking the user to be patient and have a conversation, but I've also seen controversial answers like this one that argue that putting up a sign is an interpersonal solution (read the comments).

I'm curious where we draw the line. What counts as an "Interpersonal Solution" that could be an answer here?

Going by the Wikipedia page, interpersonal communication is anything that facilitates the exchange of information between two people, which feels rather broad. Is this the stick we use to measure how on-topic answer are here? And in that case, is putting up a sign a valid interpersonal solution? Or to take it even further, would an answer suggesting to call HR be valid here (as HR's intervention would "facilitate an information exchange" to the other person)?

What do we consider "interpersonal solution" when judging whether an answer belongs on this site?

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    The reason I posted that link, by the way, was because the controversial answer you linked seemed to imply that we should allow other solutions, not just "talking" ones. To me, it seemed like that might allow answers like "Don't communicate with this person, just buy your own kitchen appliances". However fantastic a solution that may be, it falls out of the scope of interpersonal communication, let alone interpersonal skills.
    – Clay07g
    May 24, 2018 at 17:41
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    Also have to keep in mind that on this site we have a distinction between answering with an interpersonal skill and providing an interpersonal solution. We want answers to provide a skill - meaning the methodology and reasoning behind it need to be explained (saying "put up a sign" with no further context doesn't fit a skill, it's just a solution). This doesn't cover your question, per se, but is important to note, as I think it's the reason some people get up in arms.
    – Jess K.
    May 24, 2018 at 17:46
  • @JessK. good call. I'm really hoping to ask about what counts as an Interpersonal Solution. Had to drop the fun title, but I've edited the question. Thanks!
    – scohe001
    May 24, 2018 at 17:49
  • @JessK I'm not sure if skill vs solution is the easiest way to define that for answers. It seems like it's more that we want the explanation, so people can understand and learn from it. The answer doesn't really have to frame it as a skill, though.
    – Cascabel
    May 24, 2018 at 22:01

1 Answer 1


Since there are no definitions, I think examples are in order. I'm not going to write an essay explaining the difference, but this might help.

Here is a source on Conflict Resolution: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/conflict-resolution.html

So let's categorize some stuff:

Interpersonal Solution:

  • Avoidance
  • Compromise
  • Collaboration

A good interpersonal solution for conflict might be:

Work with the other person and come to a common understanding of your shared objectives

The specifics of which can vary.

But, more importantly, that solution does not give any advice on particular Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal Skills/Techniques:

Interpersonal Skills apply to many Interpersonal Solutions.

Different solutions involve different skills.

Takeaway: Many questions ask about finding the proper interpersonal solutions, and many answers simply suggest an interpersonal solution. Those are normally too broad or opinion-based. It's better that the question already have an area of focus for a solution, so that the answers can focus on the specific skills involved in whatever solution they choose to address.

Note: It's okay to include interpersonal solutions in answers, if they are supported by skills and techniques. Sometimes the solution decided in the question isn't perfect, and needs adjusting in order to maintain proper interpersonal skill. Ideally, though, the question needs some kind of direction as to what solution(s) are being considered and asked about.

Note 2: I do not mean to say the question always needs a single solution in mind. But rather, a direction for answers to focus on a specific area of solutions. A question with 3-5 different answers is generally fine. But generally they should all fall under similar directions for addressing the problem. We shouldn't be seeing two answers like "Tell him your sorry" and "Tell him he's wrong about [X]". The question should have already specified what the OP wants to convey, or at least how the OP feels, invalidating at least one of those answers.

Addressing Specific Examples:

Putting up a sign

While this is an interpersonal solution, it is off-topic on its own. There needs to be some explanation of the skills involved. What skills are being tested.

Maybe putting up a sign is polite? Okay, then if the answer explains why and how it furthers the goal, that's a good IPS answer!

Calling HR

Technically an interpersonal solution. But not really showcasing any skills, in particular.

If this answers the question alone, the question was probably too broad. Perhaps if the question asks how to talk to HR about [X], a proper answer could be formed around it.

Putting up a fence

Perhaps a good solution, but does not involve interpersonal skills and really isn't much of an interpersonal solution.

If this actually answers the question, the question was probably off topic or too broad for the website.

"How do I keep out the neighbor's dog?" is not an IPS question.

However, it has many IPS solutions. If the question was narrowed down to focus on one, it could make for an excellent question. But we can't just change questions. What if the OP really just wanted to put up a fence? The posters need to take this responsibility of knowing what they want to do.

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    I would be careful about focusing too much on solution vs skill. Interpersonal skills are in large part not much different from generalized, practiced interpersonal solutions. A well-explained interpersonal solution helps teach people skills. People come to us with a situation and a goal, but the goal doesn't necessarily make the interpersonal solution obvious, and helping connect those dots is part of our job. (All that said I'm not sure if we actually disagree that much overall; it seems like perhaps you're just categorizing things differently.)
    – Cascabel
    May 24, 2018 at 20:58
  • @Cascabel I don't think we are in disagreement, not fully. I am concerned, though, about questions that can have multiple different solutions. We can all come to an understanding of what interpersonal skills are involved in Avoidance and what are involved in Compromise. But choosing between them often comes down to opinion. Either way, though, solutions themselves can be good answers if they are well-explained (which I tried to convey in my answer, perhaps not well enough?)
    – Clay07g
    May 24, 2018 at 21:09
  • @Clay07g couldn't the same be said for other sites? We all come to an understanding of what programming skills are involved in Sorting and what are involved in Re-balancing a Tree. But choosing between them ((assuming C++) relying on STL functions, using boost, using recursion, etc...) often comes down to opinion.
    – scohe001
    May 24, 2018 at 21:22
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    I don't think it's really feasible, or desirable, to try to narrow down to where there's only one solution. StackExchange has long acknowledged this even on objective sites (it's fine if there's more than one way to solve a problem, all methods may be useful, especially to future readers), but especially on more subjective sites; the guiding philosophy here is Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.
    – Cascabel
    May 24, 2018 at 21:23
  • @scohe001 Exactly! I've seen questions on StackOverflow get roughly 8 downvotes within 5 minutes for asking "Here is my problem, which library should I use?".
    – Clay07g
    May 24, 2018 at 21:24
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    That's just an example of a very broad, probably under-defined question, though, and it definitely does not mean that all questions with multiple solutions are bad. That is, yes, of course it's possible to be too broad, but that doesn't mean that everything beyond "only one possible solution" is too broad.
    – Cascabel
    May 24, 2018 at 21:26
  • @Clay07g I think you misunderstand...I'm saying that a good question on SO can have answers with different implementations where some are cleaner given the situation, but the end choice comes down to opinion. I agree asking "which lib is best for this?" is bad and deserves the DV's, but asking "How can I do this this way?" and getting 3-4 different solutions is expected.
    – scohe001
    May 24, 2018 at 21:26
  • @Cascabel I think we're still in agreement. I don't mean to say that every question needs exactly a single solution. But maybe I tend to categorize more questions as "Bad Subjective" than you. My biggest annoyance is when a "maybe too broad" question gets multiple IPS solutions that are good, and the OP really just wants a non-IPS solution and accepts a bad answer.
    – Clay07g
    May 24, 2018 at 21:27
  • Well, I see how that's annoying, but it doesn't mean the question was necessarily bad. It mostly just means (assuming we got the question edited to a "good" place) we forced the OP into asking a question of more limited scope than they'd have liked, and a user here stepped outside that scope. We can only really address it by getting those edits done quickly and moderating the answers.
    – Cascabel
    May 24, 2018 at 21:31
  • @scohe001 I think I implied the wrong thing. I'm going to edit my answer. I really don't mean to say questions should evoke a single solution. 3-4 solutions is very narrow for IPS, in my opinion. I've seen relationship advice questions that could have at least 30+ solutions (Not all IPS, but the OP rarely specifies).
    – Clay07g
    May 24, 2018 at 21:34

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