Recently I've been seeing more and more answers starting with "from my experience" or which contain "I've been in a similar situation before/I've been in your shoes" and then don't say more about said experience.

From this meta post, we can find an explanation as to why it's not enough to say one faced similar issues in the past:

In my experience you should do X...

[...] I don't think this should be sufficient for backing up an answer. It's slightly better than nothing, at least it hints at the idea that the answerer may have done the thing before, but actually explaining and providing an example of what they did and how it worked would be better.

"In my experience" is pretty much another claim that needs some support.

I know it may be hard to answer questions on IPS as we require personal experience and/or literature citations to back answers up. It may be difficult to talk about said similar situation: maybe you think you'd be "stating the obvious" or you don't want to go into the details of your personal life online. But as said in the above mentioned post,

[...] When you provide a subjective solution you believe will resolve the situation, we expect that you cite analogous experience of how it has worked out in actual practice — your own experience or someone else's.

Keep in mind any cultural differences when doing so.

Describing how it worked out is more preferable to describing how well it worked out: “these things happened, the people I was interacting with felt this way about it” is preferable to “it worked well”, but either is preferable to no citation of it actually being tried at all.

The experience does not have to be of the exact same situation, although that would be ideal. Experience of similar or analogous situations is also relevant and helpful, at least to the extent they are similar/analogous enough to be relevant.

(Emphases mine)

There's a lot of information in both the posts I linked but I think the most important things to remember when answering are this:

  • "in my experience" / "I've been in your shoes" does not count as backup. It doesn't say much about what is said experience and we don't have any proof it is the same/similar enough to what the OP is facing right now.

  • said backup does not need to have happened to you: maybe you witnessed someone trying what you're suggesting and you've seen how it worked. That's okay too.

  • please remember that there's no such thing as "stating the obvious" when it comes to interpersonal skills. People on this site come from very different cultural backgrounds and/or neural constructions, and chances are that what is commonly understood in your context is not in others.

In my experience (see? that's the bad thing to do! :p), when you think you know how to address a situation you'll find a relevant, similar event to compare to. If you can't think of any, then maybe you're less familiar with this topic than you thought you were. And that's okay. We all have different sets of expertise. We can't know everything about interpersonal interactions, just like we can't know everything about every programming language this Earth has ever known.

If something is unclear for you about our backup policy you may drop by chat and ask our regular users, and the mods are of course here to answer your questions too.

  • 5
    This would eliminate most of the good answers in questions such as my (highly upvoted) question: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/23251/… Nov 27, 2019 at 3:46
  • 12
    @notmySOaccount If they're truly good answers then I believe there's something that's worth using as backup, whether it's from personal experience or reference articles and papers. Otherwise it's not expertise we're providing, but opinions. And opinions are not considered on-scope on SE.
    – avazula
    Nov 27, 2019 at 6:22
  • 7
    Personal experience is the heart of expertise. As an example, a successful car mechanic with 30 years of experience is an expert mechanic, even if they have no formal education and can't quote a single article or reference. I'll generally value their opinion over some recent graduate who can reference a bunch of articles and papers. Nov 28, 2019 at 2:12
  • 4
    @Rock no one is saying not to value personal experience. Quite the opposite actually--if you have some experience to validate your answer, not only would it count as valid "backup" as we require it, but it also makes your answer that much stronger. No, the problem here is people prefacing their answer with "In my experience," and then calling it backed up. It'd be the difference between your car mechanic saying "I've seen things go wrong if we do this..." vs. "I'm an expert, do this."
    – scohe001
    Nov 28, 2019 at 4:08
  • @scohe001 Ah, now I see what you're saying. Thanks for clarifying. Yes, I agree with you. The opinion of one does not make it an expert opinion. Verifiable data combined with opinion based on extensive experience are often the most useful combination, as you point out. Nov 28, 2019 at 5:22
  • I sometimes wonder if this SE would benefit from opinion polls to gather opinion-based data for some of the questions. Just a thought. Nov 28, 2019 at 5:24
  • @RockPaperLizard: "if this SE would benefit from opinion polls" = no. (scissors! scissors cuts the paper, you lose, end of the discussion :)) - just kidding, but for the no, which would be a very bad idea IMO).
    – OldPadawan
    Nov 28, 2019 at 17:22
  • @OldPadawan Spock beats scissors every time. lol :) For some questions, there is real research or expertise to support answers. But for questions without such answers, I wonder if polls would be a good way to gather imperfect general consensus (and see how overwhelming or underwhelming that consensus is). Anyways, just an idea. I'm not going to write the code for it, and I doubt I'm going to spend any significant amount of time lobbying for it, so it won't happen unless others see value in it. Regardless, thanks for your humorous feedback... it made me smile. :) Nov 29, 2019 at 10:55
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    May I kindly ask what the purpose of this post is? There are at least 1 2 3 4 Meta posts concerning answer quality and backup criteria, all of them repeating the same conclusion. Why do we need another one? I don't really see how this discussion is different from the existing posts, which makes it a duplicate.
    – Elmy
    Nov 29, 2019 at 14:25
  • @Elmy it was more of a PSA than a request for discussing the matter actually. Meta posts need at least one of those tags (discussion, bug, feature-request, support), though. Discussion seemed to be the most appropriate here. As for why did I write this now? Well, we had a lot of those answers lately and I get how our policy may be unusual and confusing for new users so it felt like the right thing to do to inform them as to why.
    – avazula
    Nov 29, 2019 at 14:28
  • 1
    @avazula The problem I see with this kind of post is that it hides older posts and the answers therin. New users are almost never farmiliar enough with StackOverflow to even find the help, not to mention any Meta post if they aren't linked to them in a comment. In my experience they don't even notice that their question is a direct duplicate, even when the system points it out to them while writing the question. The answer quality will not improve by yet another Meta post. The most effective improvement is commenting on bad quality answers and asking the author nicely to provide more backup.
    – Elmy
    Nov 29, 2019 at 14:41
  • 3
    @Elmy I understand what you're saying and you make good points. I wish we knew exactly how to make the scope and policy crystal clear for everyone and how to make them all feel welcome and valued. We do comment, flag, downvote, help answerers to improve their posts, but it's really not easy sometimes (no willingness to edit / no idea where to start to explain what's wrong / no time or energy to review / ... the reasons are countless). We're continuously moving forward, but it takes time. And I think we need reminders of the milestones achieved on the way.
    – avazula
    Nov 29, 2019 at 15:04
  • @Walfrat Good point, but it's already in our site guidelines (e.g. the first link I gave). This post was meant as a reminder that this is not enough as a backup for an answer, and to explain more throughly why.
    – avazula
    Dec 18, 2019 at 6:24


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