Upon review of this answer on "How to tell a friend I don't want his help with miniature painting", this answer got flagged for lacking citations of personal experience on similar matters:


After a comment asking for citations was left, the answerer said that they don't have experience but thought it should work. However, they mention an analogy with building Lego sets, and the flag was already dismissed once.

Would this answer be considered valid on IPS?

2 Answers 2


This answer is close!

It really just needs a makeover of one of its paragraphs to be well over the line.

My issue with the answer is this paragraph right here:

There's no need to say that you prefer your painting style, or that you don't like the way he paints, or anything else.

Why? Why not explain what you actually think? Why do it this way, like it's legos? This is the place where the argument for why this is the correct answer should happen and it's just...absent. We're given an analogy to help get a feel for the approach the answer wants us to take, but again, there's no why.

I feel that if that paragraph I highlighted was instead changed to the following, this would both be a much stronger answer and prevent future flags:

The above quote works to focus the problem on you, not on your friend. There's nothing wrong with their painting (that you're telling them), but the problem is that you want to be able to paint these yourself. The quote also focuses on using "I ..." statements to reduce any defensiveness from your friend. Notice how I've written "I know..." "I realize..." "I feel...". By focusing on the reasons dependent on you for why you'd rather paint alone, you can prevent him from feeling offended or hurt--as opposed to criticizing his painting job directly.

  • Thank you for the ideas. I agree that your additions would make my answer better. I see that others are upvoting this answer as well. However, as @Ælis commented below, your additions still wouldn't have made my answer acceptable. It does not add any citations or personal experiences. It seems that there might be disagreement or confusion among high ranking contributors about what is needed to make a subjective answer acceptable.
    – James
    Aug 23, 2019 at 15:42
  • 1
    Thanks for bringing up that discrepancy, @James. I've made a meta post to kick-start discussion on the issue, but in the meantime, I don't think adding some citations to this would be overly difficult. There is a lot of research done/articles written on the effectiveness of "I" statements. I'd also relate this to breakups (in the way you're using how you feel). I'm sure looking up effective ways to breakup would give you several articles to quote from that would agree with the way you've described for OP to approach the friend.
    – scohe001
    Aug 23, 2019 at 19:13

I'm the guy who gave that answer referenced by OP. I'm pretty new to the "Interpersonal Skills" site, but would like to respectfully ask some questions about the citations requirement.

I can totally understand the need for citations on a hard science site. "I feel like..." would not be the start of a good answer on the Physics site. On this site, however, it seems that feelings should be paramount.

For the question referenced by the OP, wouldn't it be valuable to get several answers describing how different people would handle the situation? Then let the voters decide which approach is likely to work best. My answer actually has the most upvotes. There are 3 downvotes, perhaps because of lack of citations.

Another answer of mine about cheating in board games is an accepted answer with 162 upvotes and 0 downvotes (at this time). There are no citations in that answer either.

I have read What are the citation expectations of answers on IPS Stack Exchange?. It says that subjective answers should be backed up...

Back It Up! means that your answers must be based on either:

  • Something that happened to you personally
  • Something you can back up with a reference

Sometimes I have what I think is a great idea for navigating a social situation, but it has never happened to me personally. I've never had someone else paint my miniatures (I don't even paint miniatures). I've never caught someone cheating at board games. So my choices seem to be:

  • Don't answer. (but people seem to like my answers and think they are good advice.)
  • Find a story somewhere else about a similar situation. (but there won't be a similar story if my idea is original.)

In short, shouldn't we judge the quality of an answer on this site by upvotes rather than by citations.

  • 1
    Are you answering why your answer in concern is valid or questioning the policy while using "what-about-those-answers" method? Also, since you are attentive to votes, DVs on meta mean different, so please don't bother yourself about these 2 as of now. Since this couldn't be a long comment, as an answer, it feels fine to me.
    – anki
    Aug 23, 2019 at 13:01
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    Hey James, your backup policies is relatively new which explain that your old answer was okay without those back-ups. However, you are right, your old answer didn't respect this rule and should be edited or deleted too. As for your post, I feel like you are more asking a new question than answering @avazula post. If this is true, could you re-post this as a question and not an answer?
    – Ael
    Aug 23, 2019 at 13:07
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    "In short, shouldn't we judge the quality of an answer on this site by upvotes rather than by citations." -> This was already discusse many time and the answer is "no, upvote on IPS don't really count". If you wish to discuse this, you should open another meta question.
    – Ael
    Aug 23, 2019 at 13:08
  • Also, you may find this faq post interesting.
    – Ael
    Aug 23, 2019 at 13:11
  • @Ælis: Thank you for improving my answer about cheating at board games. I guess I won't make a new meta question from my answer above as it seems the topic has already been discussed more than I realized.
    – James
    Aug 23, 2019 at 13:20
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    One of the problems with looking at upvotes is that they are easily skewed on IPS. They're not often of the 'this worked for me' kind, but more a form of general agreement. This can be pretty awkward when e.g. the cultural background of an answer and question don't match, but all Western people here agree that something sounds sensible ;). Also, back up never means 'exact same situation'. Take the cheating for example, if you never had to deal with cheating because you handle stuff a certain way, then writing it down like that might help too, and be backed up with personal experience.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Aug 23, 2019 at 13:44
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    In regards to "I have what I think is a great idea for navigating a social situation, but it has never happened to me personally": it doesn't have to have happened to you personally. What we're looking for is some explanation of your thought process. Why did you answer this and what makes you think it'll work? See my answer above for what I imagine that'd look like here. Note that this would make the answer as a whole stronger too. Not only are you allowing others to learn more about interpersonal skills, but now the answer can also be applied to other situations as well.
    – scohe001
    Aug 23, 2019 at 14:33
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    @scohe001 Note that the "why you think it would work" isn't enough anymore. But you can still use someone else experience, an external source (like you did with the "I statement") or a similar experience if something didn't happen to you personally
    – Ael
    Aug 23, 2019 at 14:37

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