UPDATE: I edited the help center page accordingly on 2022-08-22. This is now live.

Over a year ago, IPS worked on this post to re-work the help/on-topic page. It might be good to read through the first sections (which include a rationale for some of the changes) first, and also refresh your memories with this post that's also linked there.

After that though, the updating of the help center was never finished/finalized. I think that's a shame, because a lot of work was put into that post. So, I'd like to revive this process and finally finish it. I've given the text we had back then one last pass, including the suggestions given back then. Most of them I just edited in, but for two of them I suggest a different approach:

  • EmC's suggestion to swap the word 'convincing' for 'discussing': She makes a good point about the convince questions, but I felt that the same points also often arise for questions about 'discussing'. Instead, I chose 'Asserting a boundary': asserting boundaries is something on-topic for Interpersonal Skills that slightly relates to convincing or discussing but is much more specific.
  • EmC's suggestion for the sentence "Questions that lack a clear goal we can address and ask us what to do and choose an approach for you.". I kept the 'what to do' sentence, but put an 'or' in between 'what to do' and 'choose an approach'. These two form two distinct variations on the same theme: Some questions just ask us 'what to do', others ask users to pick between 1 or more predefined approaches, which is why I personally would like to keep them to make it clear both are off-topic.

I've put this, and all the other suggestions, into the text as can be seen below. I'm aiming to put this on the help/on-topic page on August 20th, so please leave any additional feedback before then.

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 to make these questions answerable can be found in the section "Questions must be specific enough to be answered"
  • 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, asserting a boundary, 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, or believe would be a bad idea to try 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 are purely hypothetical, will likely be closed.

What questions are off-topic here?

If your question relates to others but doesn't focus on the interpersonal skills used during an 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

Still unsure?

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).


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