For example, some people who ask things like:

how do I deal with colleagues not behaving as I want them to

But after a closer look it becomes obvious that the person asking is the problem (e.g. by looking at their question history, where they collide with every boss and colleague over years under different circumstances).

Usually I am tempted to (and sometimes I do) write:

reflect on your own behavior

Which I believe is the factually correct answer, but it is not an answer to the question being asked.

So what should one do? Options:

  • answer with an honest answer
  • answer with a literal answer (and no sarcasm)
  • answer with a literal answer (and some sarcasm)
  • do nothing and hope the question gets closed
  • comment on the question
  • 3
    have you considered flagging to close? Question closed with right close-reasons provide instructions for askers how they can improve
    – gnat
    Jan 15 '17 at 19:54
  • 5
    Writing "reflect on your own behavior" would be a comment, not an answer. Comment if you choose, then vote to close or just ignore it. You are probably better off avoiding sarcasm. Jan 15 '17 at 20:45
  • 1
    Sometimes the right answer is to rewrite the question, or close it and ask the one that should have been asked.
    – keshlam
    Jan 16 '17 at 5:11

To put the hopefully obvious bit first: sarcasm isn't big or clever, and has no place in answers here (or on any other SE site, for that matter). Don't do it, and if you do, expect a justifiable load of down votes.

It seems like what you're talking about here is a classic XY problem: the question is asking about one thing, but the actual problem is something else. In that case, I'm perfectly prepared to give an answer with what I believe is the underlying problem - see e.g. this answer, and I think this is the right thing to do as it solves the actual problem. This is a often lot less controversial on the more technical "hard facts" type sites where there often an actual solution to a problem rather than the slightly "softer" problems we deal with here - certainly the poster of the question I've linked to above didn't like my answer much so I suspect it didn't do much good, but I still think that's better than reinforcing a bad opinion that someone already has.


Often enough, we run into someone who asks a question based on their rather one-sided narrative. And who demands that we give an answer that matches the question when it is clear from their narrative that THEY - their attitude, conduct, behavior and actions - are the problem.

You are under no obligation to answer the question exactly as asked. Make sure that the OP knows exactly why you are deciding not to answer the question as asked, though. Only the more dim witted and pointy headed members of the community will object to what you are doing.

If a question gives a bad smell, rest assured that usually, you are not going to be the only one who catches on to that smell.


So what should one do?

Answer with an honest answer or move on. No need to psychoanalyse the OP or worry about anything else. I (almost always) take all questions at face value as if it's the first time they asked a question, and either answer it in that context, or go look at another question.

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