This question (as the title could summarize it) arose when I saw the 2 following questions. I interacted with either the OP or the person who answered.

  1. I read that and also the more specifically relevant advice on what is on-topic here. The question is about how to respond to another person's behaviour in the course of an expected ongoing interaction. It comes under what is described in the advice as "understanding interpersonal interactions to resolve specific problems or prevent problems from occurring with a specific goal in mind". "(P)riorities may include (...) spending less time on the issue."
  1. I suggest you vote to rewrite the advice then, because understanding an interaction in order to spend less time on an issue (defined as on-topic) might also often be classed as "intrapersonal". In fact learning anything might be called "interpersonal".

  1. To me as a parent, I would not think of receiving a gift from my child I am going to meet after so many years, if not for the first time. The 'what can I get as a gift?' is not an uncommon question. You are entitled to your rating, which makes me want to hang out less in a rigid environment of how to answer. I am not disrespectful or stupid, it was a genuinely felt answer.
  1. [...] For a moment, this part of StackExchange felt like a forum. More than a scientific corner, it was like a gossip corner, but I understand now. Especially with the blog post link you shared, it all goes down to getting to the point and learning something from the experience. I actually came back here to delete my account. It kinda hurt being down-voted by a number of you. I appreciate the explanations. [...]

So, to me, both missed the scope of this stack and the way it was working, what was expected and so on... But I'm afraid (at least when I tried to interact with them, so I may take the blame for it or completely miss the target a second time), that it wasn't handled that great (except when Tinkeringbell stepped in, I thought she cleared the misunderstanding).

So... 2 questions:

  1. do you think our help center misses some targets and some points could be clarified (which could be very clear to us, long-time users, but less to newcomers)? Or they didn't read carefully and then misunderstood?

  2. was the situation handled nicely? or a little more sugar-coated speech would have been a much better idea? or more guidance?

  • 1
    I might try to write a longer answer when I have the time, but I think the line between interpersonal and intrapersonal is really difficult for a lot of people to understand. I'm not sure if we can update the help center to properly explain that, but it might be worth a try.
    – Rainbacon
    Jan 10, 2020 at 14:21
  • At first, when I started posting in this community, I had a lot of constructive comments sent to me, and being downvoted is quite shocking. I actually feel intimidated to post a question nowadays, as I haven't thought that this community is quite strict rules on their questions. Jan 14, 2020 at 8:10
  • From what I see, I feel that most of the newcomers haven't had time to look through the guidelines, as they need solutions for their current problems, and they post on to IPS and hope someone will have the answer soon. Jan 14, 2020 at 8:16
  • I am writting here as I dont think my comments qualify as an answer. Thank you for bringing this topic up, I truly want this community to be better. Jan 14, 2020 at 8:28

1 Answer 1


To address your first question

do you think our help center misses some targets and some points could be clarified (which could be very clear to us, long-time users, but less to newcomers)? Or they didn't read carefully and then misunderstood?

I could never say for certain because I can't get inside the heads of others, but I would be willing to bet that there's some of both going on here. There's not a whole lot we can do about others not reading carefully other than to give them links pointing to the help center when needed.

What we can do is look at the help center and see if there is any room for improvement. The biggest issue that I see lacking in the help center (which is what caused the problem in the first example you posted) is the lack of explanation of the difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal. One of the biggest issues I've noticed is the assertion that an intrapersonal issue such as how to control one's own response to a situation is inherently interpersonal because there is another person involved. I believe that the help center should be as succinct and easy to digest as possible, and for that reason I don't think we can properly describe the difference in one of the pages there.

What I would suggest instead is that we consider creating an FAQ post on meta about the difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal that includes several easy to approach examples to illustrate the finer points of those two words.

To address your second question

was the situation handled nicely? or a little more sugar-coated speech would have been a much better idea? or more guidance?

I think the answer to this depends on which situation you are talking about

The off-topic question

I'll walk through your comments and provide my thoughts. If you would prefer I not go into too much analysis of them, let me know and I'll happily revise the post.

Your first comment

Hi tell. Unfortunately, this question isn't a good fit for IPS, that's why I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about an intrapersonal issue, and the scope of this stack is about interactions with others. Please take the tour and read How to Ask, thanks. But we sure can't tell you how you can deal with your "inner peace" or "anger management"...

Your tone is pretty neutral, and you've given a good reason for what is wrong with the question, but there's nothing actionable to improve the post. That in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing because some posts can't be fixed, but in this case adding a suggestion of on-topic questions the OP could post related to their issue could also be helpful. The OP responded by saying that they felt their question was interpersonal because it was about responding to an interaction with another person (this is a prime example of the misconception I mentioned earlier in the post) to which you responded with an analysis of how you understood their question and a re-iteration that it is intrapersonal. Again, this is factually correct and tonally neutral, but still doesn't really help them understand where they've misunderstood the help center or how they can improve their post.

Overall, I don't see anything bad or unwelcoming about your interaction with this post, though there is potential room for improvement.

The answer to an off-topic question

In this situation, someone posted an answer to a question that is blatantly off-topic. When they asked about getting downvoted, you commented:

Looking at your answer timeline: your OP doesn't seem to follow this stack guidelines (i.e. How to Answer). Plus: the main topic being completely off-topic (opinion based and too broad), I'd say that bad questions attract bad answers? Well it's kind of harsh saying it that way, but I can't find some other more appropriate wording, even if it's certainly possible.

The fact that you included in your comment the phrase "it's kind of harsh saying it that way" should be the first indicator that you probably shouldn't post the comment in that state. Saying that bad questions attract bad answers is a pretty blatant way of saying that you think the answer is bad. If I had come across your comment before the answer was deleted, I probably would have flagged it. I think that a better course of action would be to explain to the user why the question is off-topic and nicely point out that off-topic questions shouldn't be answered and just leave it at that.

I would like to commend you for posting this question. It takes a lot of courage and humility to point out a situation where you feel you could have done better and to ask for feedback.

  • Thanks, very helpful. Agree about doing something (what?) about point #1 if we can improve. Agree on point #2-2 too unfortunately :/ tried to salvage by writing another comment, more on target and less offensive, but I guess I knew I screwed... Maybe the bad state of mind of a bad day when seeing another bad post badly answered without deeper thinking...
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 10, 2020 at 21:05
  • I think the first step for #1 is figuring out a good way to explain the difference to people. It's a very subtle one that can be hard to articulate, so coming up with a static reference (probably a meta post) that we can point people to that is easy to digest is probably the best course of action.
    – Rainbacon
    Jan 10, 2020 at 21:30
  • @OldPadawan For the off-topic question, I think I would have avoid saying "thanks". People can often take it badly, as if it was a passive-agressive way to give them an order. I believe changing the "Please" for a "you might want to" would also help to not being seen as you giving them orders.
    – Ael
    Jan 11, 2020 at 8:39
  • yeah.... that *** hurts, but you're right I believe, and thanks for the feedback anyway :) didn't think I could be flagged as R/O/A or dismissive remark :/
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 11, 2020 at 9:08
  • 1
    I often butt heads against this (I am sorry to say; partly nonsensical) focus on interpersonal vs intrapersonal. Any interaction between two parties is relying on at least two intrapersonal processes. Most interaction problems, especially the "how do I..." come from a perceived or hypothetical situation and this perception process can certainly be part of both root cause and solution.
    – Stian
    Jan 17, 2020 at 8:50

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