Preface: I work at a hospital and am considering asking a question related to the environment. I understand the standards within very well, but I’d like to see the consensus on acceptable scope.


In certain environments there comes a set of rules and standards to guide people into how they communicate with others.

Examples of this might include:

  • Restaurants
  • Hospitals
  • Call centers
  • Schools

These guidelines are there to maintain a consistency for the root organization operating their service and a way to help those working in the environment make fast decisions.


Anytime someone is communicating with another human there’s going to be situations in which they’ll need to use an interpersonal skill to resolve a problem.

These regulated environments have been setup to mostly guide people into making these decisions; usually in favor of the organization’s own image.

However, in my experiences, there always comes a time where people you interact with want to approach a more personal connection. And even occasionally bring up something you’re hesitant about. You aren’t always prepared for this by guidelines.


This site is very diverse and includes people from a lot of backgrounds. However, we’ve remained consistent with the idea that professional advice can’t be given in most cases because qualifications are difficult to verify.

When a user answers a question, the community doesn’t necessarily have the means to validate what they’re saying is correct, and if they’re considering everything within the situation they should. It could be very likely that an answerer suggests something contrary to what the OP’s environment recommends.

An example of something that would not be acceptable to ask is: “How to tell a patient they’re not going to die from omphalitis?”. Allowing any user to answer this question could yield a significant problem for the OP. The procedures leading up to that question have already been defined by standards... but not everyone would know that.


Should we allow users to ask questions about an interpersonal skill/situation in a specialized environment?

If we do, what would be the limit to when the question becomes out of scope?

I think it would be nice to document this within the help section for newer users as well.

2 Answers 2


It could be very likely that an answerer suggests something contrary to what the OP’s environment recommends.

This is up the writer of the question: We already ask people to mention what they have considered trying/tried when writing a question. Guidelines on communication from within your specific environment are such a thing: We can assume you're aware of the general way of handling a situation, you've thought about doing this but you have a reason for asking for an alternative approach.

Make sure your question mentions guidelines if you're aware they are there, and make sure to explain what about the guideline is lacking for your situation. If there's any restrictions (things you absolutely can't do without a risk of losing a job for example), mention them as well.

Of course, if deviating from the guideline means you lose your job, perhaps Interpersonal Skills isn't the place to ask about deviating, instead, you need to take this up with the people that have the power to change these guidelines. But that also involved Interpersonal Skills this site may help with.

You aren’t always prepared for this by guidelines.

If there comes a situation the guidelines don't prepare you for, think about the above as well. Is there a guideline that's usually used, but which for some reason doesn't seem applicable here? Write it down in your question.

Is there absolutely no guideline? Then make sure to make this clear as well. Also, don't expect IPS to give you these guidelines, we can only answer questions, not turn them into some sort of work policy for you. Our help/on-topic page says:

While this site allows questions that meet the Good Subjective requirements, some questions are too subjective for us. This includes questions that: [...] ask us to adjudicate “right” and “wrong” in a situation

I feel this probably goes for questions about guidelines/policies as well: While we may be able to write from experience and tell how we handled a similar situation, we can't really help you in making that 'the right way' to treat all future similar situations as well. So be careful, and don't ask questions that ask us to make policy/guidelines for you, and it should be fine.


However, we’ve remained consistent with the idea that professional advice can’t be given.

You might be misunderstanding this idea here. The reason here is if someone needs professional help for a specific situation or environment rather than tips on specific interpersonal skills. This means specifically therapeutic help. As the OP most likely isn't able to validate possible answers or comments them self and non professionals might just add harm to OP's situation with their advice.

It could be very likely that an answerer suggests something contrary to what the OP’s environment recommends.

That's kinda true. But in general if this makes a difference in such an situation, contrary to the former mentioned, we assume the OP him self can judge if an possibly answered advice is about a skill that is relevant to the described background, and the community is usually just supposed to interact with topics they have knowledge of. So most users of this community should (and hopefully would) just answer and validate (by up/down voting) if they actually have knowledge of the background OP describes as the given frame.

And since this stack is still about interpersonal skills, a skill and what to use it for, is just semi depended on a specific background, as the skills would work for most backgrounds the same (ignoring cultural backgrounds and that alike) or with little difference.

So asking for it should be totally fine and I don't see particular how this has a significant higher chance of generating low quality content compared to the common posts.

But keep in mind:

If you want to ask how to use a specific skill, or what skill to use to achieve a given goal, you are generally fine on IPS.

Your question sounds to me currently more like, you are very aware of what interpersonal skills you intend to use and what their effects are and you are more interested in their appropriateness for your given background.

In that case, while this wouldn't be Off-Topic here, either (AFAIK).

You might consider asking on The Workplace instead, as you are more likely to get useful input there, if I am assuming right and you intend to ask about a specifics skill appropriateness in a specific professional background.

The following is just my personal understanding of how our stack works, and I might be wrong with this one. So please teach me better in chat if I am wrong and I will change this meta post accordingly.

An example of something that would not be acceptable to ask is: “How to tell a patient they’re not going to die from omphalitis?”.

I don't even think this would be inappropriate for our stack.

This would be a tricky one that's hard to answer, for anyone not knowing the specifics. But again, contrary to the kind of questions seeking for professional help in a therapeutic way, we aren't asked here to assess the given patients mental state. I think in this situation it would be OK to assume that the OP is not asking us for assessing their patient and rather asking for a tool to communicate. While I agree that such kind of question would be best answered from someone comming from that field, that's not very different from all answers on our stack. We expect those who answer not just to assume what they would do in OP's place, but having experience with it they can refer to. For this kind of question I think it is just very important to carefully observe that given answers are very well backed up and it should be fine for our format. But again, just because I think it is ok asking such questions here, I am not sure if this is the best place for such a question.

  • 1
    I guess the point I’m trying to suggest is that if someone answers something that proves good in an interpersonal regard, but not actually within the constraints of an organization’s standard procedure then it might yield further problems. The OP might not understand those underlying procedures and giving a recommendation that doesn’t understand them too... could be risky. And my question is actually more interpersonal related than the work place, but it does involve an environment that’s highly standardized (hence me asking in the first place).
    – Anilla
    Feb 8, 2019 at 7:18
  • @Anilla: Check my edit, that might clarify this already. But I think the problem you refer to is pretty much valid for everything where people answer questions, without being aware of the full frame the question had been asked in. I totally get your point and as mentioned, I see that this kind of question is going to be problematic, but from what I know about our policy, yet it shouldn't be considered inappropriate for our format. But maybe this might change now after it got mentioned.
    – dhein
    Feb 8, 2019 at 7:21
  • 1
    @Anilla: Also, if OP doesn't udnerstand the background or underlyieng standards, how can we? But thats also true for most other questions. If OP presents a wrong frame and the community answers in the given frame, this might lead to unwanted results. Still, as long you point out the background as careful and precise as you do here already, I assume it should be fine. But maybe wait for a few more reactions on your emta post, as I am not the best guide for our IPS policys ^^
    – dhein
    Feb 8, 2019 at 7:24
  • I like your point on how we give responses specific to a narrow context and just have the OP fill in the rest. I’m concerned that when frame challenges come into play (ie. someone actually argues that the OP shouldn’t even tell the patient they’re not going to die) can be risky because that’s when things can’t be validated effectively by the community. At that point, the answer would be off topic. But if the question is so absurd, it would encourage such challenges and would make the question itself off topic. I really feel there’s a line somewhere that needs to be defined.
    – Anilla
    Feb 8, 2019 at 7:33
  • @Anilla: Are you aware of our requirements for frame challenges? The requirements of frame challenging an OP should take care of the validation worries you have. As we don't generally allow frame challenges, they have criteria to meet.
    – dhein
    Feb 8, 2019 at 7:36
  • Those criteria involve a sound reason for the reframing of the OP’s situation. How does the majority of the community know if such a frame is incorrect if it seems logically sound? Most of them aren’t apart of a standardized organization. Would it just immediately be deemed an invalid frame because not everyone is able to verify it simply because they’re not enlightened?
    – Anilla
    Feb 8, 2019 at 7:52
  • @Anilla: Can't tell for sure, but as I experienced it, yes.
    – dhein
    Feb 8, 2019 at 8:20
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    I'm not a regular user on here, but based on my understanding of both sites, your answer is reasonable: while the question can be asked on TWP for more professional/specialized workforce environment, it might also be asked on IPS as long as it's backed-up by relevant experience (e.g. for OP's example, any answers that aren't based on personal experience as a medical expert might be deleted)
    – Andrew T.
    Feb 8, 2019 at 8:35

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