Thanks for the Offer: 9 Ways to Politely Decline Help


When we’re going through difficult times in our lives, we lean on the people around us. Our friends, family members, and colleagues will often offer their support when we’re facing challenges. Sometimes this help is welcome.

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Other times these offers of assistance aren’t actually all that helpful. You may be hesitant to hurt someone’s feelings by declining their idea of helping. But it’s important to be able to say no so that a difficult time doesn’t become even harder.

Here, we talk about ways you can thank someone for reaching out while politely declining their help. 

How to Decline Help From Friends or Family

Friends and family members know us better than anyone else. But because they’ve known us so well and for so long, they sometimes get hung up on certain ideas of us. They may end up offering help that doesn’t apply to who we are anymore.

They also may try to give advice that isn’t up-to-date or applicable to your situation. These situations can ultimately be somewhat frustrating. But you can gently let them know that their help might not work for you in a given situation. 

1. “Dad, I appreciate that you want to help me on my job hunt. Unfortunately, the job market has changed a lot since you were getting started. I know you have my best interests at heart though, and I am grateful for that. I did follow some of your advice, though. I was sure to send a thank-you note after all my interviews.”

We’ve all been there. We’re in the market for a new job. Our parents find out. And they immediately start telling us what we should do to secure a new position: 

  • “Don’t call or email - they want you to show up in person!” 
  • “Keep following up with them. Go by every single day. Eventually they’ll be impressed by your persistence and give you a job.”
  • “Track down the CEO or the owner of the company and show up on their doorstep. They’ll admire your initiative.”

While these tactics may have worked when your parents were looking for their early jobs, that’s just not the way the world works anymore. Some of these strategies might end up getting you a restraining order. However, you can communicate that message to your parents in a more gentle manner.

Additionally, you can pick out the morsels of good advice and make a note to mention that you followed them. That can help soften the fact that you’re not doing everything your parents recommend.  

2. “Mom, I appreciate the offer, but I don’t feel comfortable accepting money from you for something like a vacation. You always taught me to stand on my own two feet. You also taught me the importance of making sacrifices. Missing out on a trip this year is okay with me. Part of being an adult is not letting your parents bail you out.”

Some parents are incredibly generous. Others like to believe they are, but their money always comes with strings attached.

If your parent is the latter, turning down financial gifts becomes a matter of self-preservation. You can still spin it in a way that makes it seem like you’re living up to the person your parent raised you to be.  

3. “Thank you so much for offering to buy me lunch. I promise I’m not skipping meals because of financial issues - I just have some medical issues I’ve been dealing with that make eating challenging. Thank you for noticing and caring about my wellbeing.”

Occasionally a friend or family member will observe you doing something and may misinterpret your motives. You can gently set them straight while thanking them for their concern. 

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How to Say ‘Thanks for the Offer’ Help in a Professional Setting

At work, it often seems like people are trying to heap more things on your plate. But sometimes, a colleague may try to help you by taking something off of it. While this is a kind and thoughtful gesture, it may ultimately interrupt your workflow more. Here are some kind ways you can tell a coworker “thanks but no thanks” when they offer some help.  

4. “Thank you so much for trying to help my client when I was out of the office. In the future though, please feel free to just direct him to my voicemail. He can be very particular, and I’d hate to have him take you away from your own work.”

When you work in a client-facing field, you often develop a rapport with certain customers. If you’re not around, a coworker may step in to offer their assistance and believe that they’re doing you a favor.

But if that customer is especially persnickety, your coworker may inadvertently upset them. Then you end up spending extra time putting things right. However, you can phrase a request for your coworker to step back in a positive way.

Don’t make it about any trouble you may have faced as a result of their help. Instead, frame it as though you’re protecting them from being inconvenienced. 

5. “I really appreciate you inviting me to that networking luncheon. It sounds like a great opportunity. Unfortunately, I have so many tight deadlines this week I just won’t be able to make it. Thank you for thinking of me, though.”

Networking opportunities can be really helpful in your career. Sometimes though, they end up being little more than glorified social gatherings. If you’ve been invited to a networking event that you know will be unproductive, don’t feel obligated to go.

But don’t express that you think it will be a waste of time either. Just decline gracefully by alluding to your other obligations.  

6. “I wanted to reach out to you and thank you for the opportunity to interview with your company. I’m such an admirer of the work you do, and I really enjoyed getting to speak with you. Upon further consideration, I don’t think I’m the right fit for the position. As a result, I’d like to withdraw myself from consideration for this role.”  

Sometimes someone offers you a hand up by giving you an opportunity to interview for their company. After meeting other staff members and learning more about the company culture, you may realize it’s not actually a good fit for you.

If you realize that, you can absolutely bow out of the process gracefully. The earlier you realize it, the earlier you should communicate that to the hiring manager. Keeping them from investing more time in you is the most gracious thing to do.  

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How to Say ‘Thanks for the Offer’ After Someone Reaches Out to Help After a Death or Tragedy

People can get really awkward when someone they know is experiencing a personal tragedy. We often want to help a friend or family member who is experiencing some kind of loss. But we don’t always know the right thing to say or do.

As a result, when we offer assistance in the wake of a tragedy it may end up not being as helpful as we hope. If you’re on the receiving end of that kind of clueless offer of help, you’re more than allowed to say no.  

7. “Thank you so much for offering to bring by a casserole for the family. We’re so fortunate to have so many generous friends and family members. So many people have brought meals by that our pantry and refrigerator are overstuffed. I would hate for it to go to waste. I appreciate the offer so much, though.”

There are certain go-to gestures when someone is dealing with death or illness. One of the best ways to take care of someone is to provide nourishment. Providing food is always a thoughtful gesture.

But because it is an obvious thing to offer, you may find yourself inundated with food. This is a kind way to express “pleeeeeease no more casseroles” while acknowledging the thoughtfulness of the gesture. 

8. “I appreciate you offering to take the girls for the weekend for me. Honestly, though, they’re having a hard time being apart from me right now after losing their dad. Is it okay if I take a raincheck when they’re doing better?” 

Many people offer to take care of the kids to give a grieving widow or widower some space. But when a family has been disrupted by tragedy, they often feel the need to stay close. Gently acknowledge that while the timing isn’t quite right, you do appreciate the offer of babysitting.

9. “I miss you, too. I would love for you to come over with some dinner. Unfortunately, my immune system is really compromised right now because of my treatments. My doctors want me to strictly limit the number of people I see. Maybe we could Skype instead?”

If you’re going through treatment for an illness like cancer, your friends and family may feel the need to be close to you.

But too many people around you could endanger your health. You may also feel too sick to host people in your home. Let your doctors take the blame for limiting your visitors.  

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Don’t Be Afraid to Say No When Someone’s Help Isn’t Actually That Helpful

In times of tragedy or hardship, there’s been a movement away from asking “how can I help?”. Instead, people are being encouraged to offer concrete offers of help. This is important. Asking someone who’s having a hard time to specify what they need places a major burden on them.

But on the flip side, if someone offers specific help it may actually not be what the recipient needs. If you’re in that situation, you don’t have to feel bad about declining someone’s help. Just be sure to do it kindly. 

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