I have reviewed various questions that appear to be related and still find the issue unclear.

I'm asking with specific reference to How to break off contact with someone without hurting their feelings? which has been closed as off-topic for:

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."

As far as I can see however, the OP has defined a goal:

break off contact with someone without hurting their feelings

and at least indicated that they wish to interact with the others involved in a direct way as they have specified that

I don't have the heart to ghost her.

The OP has also indicated what some of the difficulties with direct communication are:

English isn't her first language and we already sometimes have trouble communicating in normal conversation. So, communicating something like this can be difficult.

It seems clear that the OP has an objective of breaking of contact, wishes to communicate this intention to the other party and wishes to do so in a way that is unambiguous given the language barrier.

I appreciate that the OP has stated that they are 'not sure what to do', but I don't see that they have asked 'what they should do', they have decided on a course of action and are looking for assistance on how to effectively achieve that without causing undue distress to the other party.

So what further is it that we require of them? If I edit the question to say 'what interpersonal skills can I deploy to achieve this?', (and shouldn't that be accepted as a given on any question on IPS anyway?) would that bring it within scope?

1 Answer 1


About this specific question

While the title seems fairly clear, the body of the post is less so. There's one phrase in particular that feels problematic to me.

She's flying in later this week and I'm not really sure what to do, I don't want to hurt her feelings. I've thought about just taking her out on the few free days I have while she's here, even though I don't really want to.

To me, this paragraph sounds like the OP hasn't decided for sure to not meet up with this person, but is instead struggling to decide if he should just bite the bullet and meet her despite not wanting to. There's a comment asking the OP to clarify on this point. Once this is answered, I think the post will be ready to reopen.

About questions in general

When it comes to what we require, I think a bare minimum is a very clear goal. I err on the side of closing when the question is unclear because questions where the goal is even slightly fuzzy tend to get a lot of bad answers that sound like the OP ED column of the local newspaper. We are already having a lot of difficulty getting users to back up their answers and questions that straddle the line of what to do vs how to do invite a lot of opinion based answers that have little to no backup. It's better to put such questions on hold, workshop them into a more clearly defined, on-topic goal, and then reopen them than it is to let them stay open and attract several random opinions while we try to pin down the goal.

One problem is that these questions often come from new users who are likely not familiar with how Stack Exchange works. So, if you are going to cast a close vote on one of these questions, please leave the user a comment with some feedback about how to improve their post. Reassure them that putting their post on hold is just temporary while we get it into a good fit for the site. Provide a small explanation of why we need a very clear goal. And finally, help them improve their post. If there seems to be a goal but is a little unclear (as in this case), ask the OP about it and help them make their post very clear on what their goal is.

If there's not a clear goal

Sometimes, users will just post a description of a problem they are having without having a specific goal other than to solve their problem. If this is the case, help them figure out their goal. Give them examples of goals that are on-topic which would help them with their problem.

  • I was thinking the same things, the question title may be clear but the actions weren't clearly defined.
    – ElizB
    Jul 1, 2019 at 14:26

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