A while back, we discussed How to encourage questions to actually focus on the 'interacting' part of Interpersonal Skills. My answer there proposed editing the help/on-topic page to be clearer, and editing our question guidelines accordingly. I've started reworking the help center text, and I think there's more improvements that could be made at this stage than just the points discussed there. So, I've started drafting, and you'll find the 'new' version I would like to propose below. I've added some rationale for the major changes I made, but before actually editing the page I'd like to hear if I've missed anything, done too much, or any other feedback!
A few of the major changes I made and why I made them:
- Removed "understanding social norms as they relate to interpersonal interactions - why do we interact the way we do?" from the on-topic section. In practice we rarely get questions about the social norms that underlie interpersonal interactions, yet this line seems to actively encourage "Why did he do that" type questions. Since the on-topic variant of this type of question overlaps with the one on theories and concepts, I think we can do without mentioning this category.
- I've reworded a lot of the bullet points about what's on and off-topic, in the hopes of making things both shorter and clearer. I found that specifically for the off-topic parts, there was often an explanation of what to do instead. This should either be under on-topic or not in there at all to hopefully avoid giving the impression some of the off-topic stuff is still okay. I've also just put 'questions about disputes between users on SE' under off-topic instead of in a different section. It's off-topic, after all.
- In the same way, I reworded large parts of the section about making questions as specific as possible. I tried to make it clearer that most of this is necessary information, and rephrased it so the wording doesn't seem to suggest including those things is optional. The "How to write a good question" FAQ should probably be rewritten so that each point here can be linked to 1 entry in that FAQ (we can link the bolded sections) where people can click through and see more information. OR we could scratch the whole section and just put a warning in: Don't try to ask these types of questions without including everything mentioned in the linked checklist. This would be more like stackoverflows help/on-topic.
- I have removed the 'Questions should focus on the interpersonal interaction' disclaimer. While it is a nice disclaimer, I don't think a very new user will have much benefit from it. It does not give any real guidance about what types of questions are on- or off-topic, and with the citation expectations, hnq removal and comment-only locks now in place, I feel we have better tools to moderate this kind of behavior than a fuzzy warning in the help center. And with the amounts of traffic we have these days, I don't see this becoming a huge problem again soon. We can edit it back in if things change or if we see a rise in this behavior when the disclaimer is gone.
Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange is a question & answer site for people looking to better understand or improve their interpersonal skills: the behaviours that are used to interact with other people in an attempt to achieve certain goals. As such, the following are welcome on this site:
- Questions focusing on using and improving your own interpersonal skills, in an attempt to resolve specific problems or prevent problems from occurring when having specific interactions with people. A list of what to include can be found below.
- Questions about the written and unwritten - but well-established and expected - rules or conventions of behavior in a specific setting (also called etiquette).
- Questions focusing on understanding theories and concepts commonly associated with interpersonal skills. - What is [theory/concept] or How do I use [theory/concept] to achieve [goal]?
Questions must be specific enough to be answered
Because interpersonal interactions are very complex, we require that questions be specific - and preferably that they relate to a situation you are actually in. Please include at least the following information (anonymizing as necessary):
- Who is involved and their relationship to you - how you interact with a spouse vs coworker vs employee is vastly different.
- A clear goal. This may include solving an immediate issue (apologizing, convincing, remaining polite) but also more long-term goals such as improving a relationship, having feelings acknowledged or spending less time on issues. If any of your goals might conflict, please prioritize or rank them.
- What you've already tried or considered trying during the interaction you're asking about to reach the goals you have.
- What effects you've noticed or think might occur as a consequence of your behaviour during the interaction you're asking about: What response have you gotten so far that made you not reach your goal yet?
- Cultural context. Culture may include your geographic location and/or the type of setting (e.g. a specific workplace or social group).
Questions failing to provide sufficient detail, asking overly broad, general questions, or questions that are purely hypothetical, will likely be closed.
What questions are off topic here?
- Questions that lack a clear goal we can address and ask us what to do and choose an approach for you. It's up to you to decide whether you want to apologize, be assertive, avoid a fight, or anything like that.
- Questions that ask us whether there is a problem. Don't ask whether something or someone is right/wrong/rude/racist/etc., instead focus your question on how to resolve the problem.
- Questions that ask us to rewrite text or otherwise tell you what to say. It's up to you to decide what you want your response to be, we can help you with the interpersonal skills to successfully convey that response.
- Questions about behaviors that would violate the Stack Exchange “Code of Conduct” rules by encouraging bigotry of any kind, harassment, or abuse of others. While not all interpersonal interactions meet these guidelines, our goals are to encourage respectful interpersonal skills.
- Questions that focus on discussing issues and disputes between users on the Stack Exchange Network. This site is not the “court of public opinion” of Stack Exchange. Please refer all concerns related to Stack Exchange to:
If your question relates to others but doesn't focus on the interpersonal skills interaction, there may be other sites that better suit your needs:
- questions about interacting with your children may be better suited to Parenting
- questions specific to the workplace environment may be better suited to The Workplace
- questions specific to the academic world may be better suited to Academia
If you’re still unsure whether your question fits on the site, please check Interpersonal Skills Meta to see if there are any discussions related to what you would like to ask. If there aren’t any, please go ahead and ask the question on the main site and the users will help guide you to improve it if it does not meet our standards. If it is closed, please ask for help improving it on meta. For more information, see our discussion here.
Although entirely optional, if you would prefer to get feedback on a question before posting it to the main site, feel free to visit our main chat room, The Awkward Silence (requires 20 reputation on the Stack Exchange Network), or post a draft in our question sandbox (requires 5 reputation on Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange).