Author Topic: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?  (Read 4897 times)

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postalslave

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Today's story on the main blog described a couples frustration over their neighbours frequent offers to babysit yet never following through.

Most of the comments are of the "they were just being polite in offering" variety which I understand although I don't see it as being polite. More of false promises that in the end, caused a great deal of disappointment and resentment.

It got me thinking though. We've all been there I'm sure, offering someone generic help because, for whatever reason, it was the right thing to do at the time, while silently hoping it would not be taken seriously.

But when your offer is taken at face value, and you decline to do what you had previously offered, when do you become the rude one? For me, when committing to a previous offer means sacrificing ones health, finances or safety is where I draw the line.

Where do you draw your commitment line?

wolfie

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2014, 12:47:14 PM »
Why are you committing to do something when doing so would mean "sacrificing ones health, finances or safety"?

I think anytime you volunteer to do something knowing full well that if push came to shove you would not actually do it you are being rude.

Mikayla

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2014, 12:54:02 PM »
OP, can you give specifics?   I'd think a general response would be that if the offer was made in good faith, and then circumstances changed, it would be fair to to rescind.   For example, you could tell a neighbor he could borrow your car if he ever needed it.  Six months later, he asks for it, but you just got a brand new one a few days ago.   To me, that would warrant rescinding the offer.


AzaleaBloom

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2014, 01:12:55 PM »
For me, backout out would not be rude it would be if the circumstances of the favor changed.  For example, I housesit several times a year for some friends of mine.  I understand it to be me taking care of their two dogs, cat, and fish.  If they called me and told me that they've now added an extremely high maintainance parrot with a tendency to bite, I would not have a problem turning them down and rescinding the housesitting offer.  The terms of the original offer would have changed drastically enough that I would no longer be comfortable enough offering.

The other situation I could think of would be if your circumstances changed to the point where you could no longer offer it.  Let's say I got pregnant and had morning sickness something awful.  I would have to take back to the offer to housesit because there would be no guarantees I'd be well enough in the morning to take the dogs out for the normal walk. 


Now, I would be rude if I didn't give them enough notice that I would no longer be available to housesit.  I would also be rude if I just kept turning them down -but also kept telling them I could do it in the future. 

heartmug

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2014, 01:14:08 PM »
I can offer to babysit "anytime" but if you call me up and ask about next Saturday, and I am going to a wedding that day, well I won't be doing it.  Or if you want me to stay awake until midnight and I have work the next day, no, I can't physically do that.

It really all depends.
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Hillia

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2014, 01:32:45 PM »
Here's a situation that I find myself in: my best friend's parents live in our home town.  While I was not very close to them growing, we were always friendly; Friend and I were in and out of each others houses all the time. 

a few years ago, her parents began getting more 'eccentric', and her father began showing signs of early Alzheimer's.  One side effect was that they began hoarding.  The house was basically safe, just very cluttered.  I always told Friend that when the day came, I'd go down and help her clean it out.

Well, the day has come.  Her parents are being moved to assisted living, and Friend is faced with the task of cleaning out the house.  I again told Friend that I'd fly down and help.  However, I now live across the country in an area not served by any major carriers.  Flight arrangements will be complicated and cost close to $1000 to put together.  This is a major financial hit for us...had I looked into the plane situation before I promised to help, I might not have.  I'm very torn on what to do.

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siamesecat2965

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2014, 01:36:22 PM »
I can offer to babysit "anytime" but if you call me up and ask about next Saturday, and I am going to a wedding that day, well I won't be doing it.  Or if you want me to stay awake until midnight and I have work the next day, no, I can't physically do that.

It really all depends.

I agree. I've offered to babysit for my friend, whenever *I* can, but not any specific or set dates, which she is happy about, but she also knows its subject to my availability. To me, if its something open ended like babysitting "sometime" or pet sitting or anything else like that, whoever has agreed to do wahtever it is, absolutely has the right to decline doing it, and is not obligated to say yes each and every time they're asked.

Now if someone had agreed to a specific date and time to do something, and then flaked, barring an emergency, its not ok.

shhh its me

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2014, 01:38:08 PM »
   I'm going to stick with the babysitting example.   

For an offer to be genuine it only requires that in the moment the offer is made they have desire to fulfilling it with undisclosed restrictions.  That's a lot of room to say "no" and still be completely genuine in the offer.  I don't think "I'd love to babysit sometime." is a never ending offer to babysit on the day and time and duration of your choosing. The restrictions haven't been discussed , things can change , I can change our relationship can change etc.    Vague suggestions aren't promises , they can be anything from wishful thinking to opening negotiations.   

That said if you find yourself always turning down good friends when they accept your offers maybe you need to work on your communication.

I think there are 2 types of disingenuous offers ; Fluff........  those offers that come from acquaintances at funerals or high school friends you run into at the DMV.   Offers made to fill an awkward silence or because its what you say at a funeral or to make a polite exit.   I don't know that there will even be a stop to these types of offers , I try to avoid them myself but I'm often glad when I don't get taken up on them (but the funeral ones I would do what was offer if taken up on it )

Disingenuous offer from friends ....these I actually find to be manipulative and if made frequently will damage a friendship.  I do not count wishful thinking as being disingenuous , I consider that a person expressing desires not intentions, it annoying but in a different category then being actually disingenuous.  So by disingenuous I only mean making an offer you have no desire to fulfill under any reasonable conditions in the moment you're making the offer.  It's really , really hard to tell when someone is doing this , unless you say "yes , you can babysit that would be great" the second they offer and then make plans and be totally open to any restrictions
Friday ?
No
How about Saturday?
Nope
Sunday hmmm also not a good day ?
What day were you thinking of babysitting then?
...................

I don't think its rude to be disingenuous but I do think if you know you have no intention of doing something and offer it anyway , you're being manipulative and a bad friend.  Etiquette allows you to be disingenuous it doesn't allow you to get caught. IF you observed the above exchange once a week , you;d think the good friend making the offer was a jerk , right?   

 


Army Mom

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2014, 01:54:12 PM »
I've only "enforced" an offer once and it was a family member so hopefully I won't be cast into eHell. 

DD was very sick and had to be hospitalized.  DH took the overnight shift while I stayed home with the DSs.  Next morning, BIL called (he didn't know about DD prior to the call) and when I told him what had happened, he said "is there anything I can do?" 

Judging by his reaction, I think he meant it as a conversational device.  I however took him at face value and replied "yes!  can you come over to watch the DSs?"  He did sputter a little but arrived shortly thereafter and stayed until DH got home.

alkira6

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2014, 02:20:55 PM »
This is one of those things that really, really irritates me.  Do not offer to do something "anytime" and then when I need you find reasons why you cannot.  Please, please do not set yourself up as someone to depend on when you are really not.

If you feel the need to offer, offer something realistic.  Babysitting: "I'm free next Friday if you need" me or "I can do it on a weekday but not if it lasts after 9"

People know that the offer is genuine and that it comes with certain restrictions.

Outdoor Girl

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2014, 02:33:39 PM »
I agree.  I don't make an offer if I know I won't follow through.

I also have pretty good radar as to whether or not an offer is genuinely meant and will act accordingly.  I remember when my Mom was dying, in a hospice room at the hospital.  Everyone kept saying, 'Let me know if I can do anything.'  It wasn't until one friend came in and said, 'I'm going to sit with [Mom] tomorrow at lunch time so you two can get out of here for an hour or so.'  And Dad and I kind of went, 'Aha!'  Whenever we were asked if we needed anything, we brought out the schedule for lunch and dinner 'sitting' and had people sign up for a shift.  It was great; we got a bit of a break and they felt like they were helping out.  But there were some people we didn't even ask because we knew they wouldn't follow through.
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SoCalVal

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2014, 03:06:35 PM »
I don't make these kinds of blanket, open-ended offers unless I really mean them (which means I don't make them).  DH makes these offers and means them without thinking in advance (and, sometimes, just means them in the moment).  Just yesterday, he stated he told BIL to let him know if BIL and SIL need help moving this month, and DH will help them.  I asked DH how he expected to do that without taking help away from me (us) for a situation that I gave him a deadline he requested (and is costing us lots of money on a daily basis).  DH realized he messed up and said that he would not be helping them then.  It's on DH to figure out how to retract his offer; he will not be taking any more time away from helping us to help others while we are in this situation.

Another time, I was busy prepping food for DH's family's annual camping trip.  DH was sitting around not doing anything and asked if he could help with anything.  I said no then, a few minutes later, I *did* need help and asked DH for help.  DH was put out as he decided he was going to spend the time doing something else (a sort-of leisure task that could be done anytime).  I "enforced" his offer (to borrow a term from someone upthread).  I pointed out I was getting things ready for HIS family camping trip and that he had offered to help me.  DH stopped what he was doing and helped me instead.  DH has a really bad habit of not offering help until I am already done with something -- DH isn't sly or malicious so I think it's just a matter of him being really clueless but, yes, it drives me nuts and, finally, I mentioned it to him a few months ago (it's not like I'm expecting help because, if I need help, I'll ask; it's a matter of feeling his offer is disingenuous because he keeps doing it when I am done, as if he's asking to get "credit" for offering when there's little likelihood I'd actually be taking him up on it).  I get a sense he still gets put out when I take him up on his offers of help, sometimes, because I'll be prepping stuff to cook and he'll ask me if I need help.  Most times, I don't need help so I decline.  However, peeling veggies is laborious and hard on my hands so I will sometimes take him up on this.  I've noticed he's not very happy sometimes when I accept, and, frankly, I'll call him out on it (because, again, he shouldn't be offering if he's going to be all annoyed that I accept his offer).



blarg314

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2014, 02:01:11 AM »
I think there are a couple of different variations on this.

There's the general offer - you offer to babysit or housesit at some undetermined point in the future. I take this as a statement that you're okay with them asking for the favour, but it doesn't guarantee that you are going to be available and willing for a specific case, and it will depend on circumstances. If you're making offers like this, you do need to have some reasonable expectation that you can follow through, or you'll look like the case in the OP, where you're making meaningless offers.

There's the offer that is rescinded when you get more information. You offer to babysit on Saturday when your friends go for a movie, but then you find out that the kids have a highly contagious stomach virus, or that it's not just their kids, but their cousins too and it's six children instead of two. Or an offer to drive your friend to the grocery store morphs into a trip to the grocery store/post office/bank/doctor's office/drug store.

There's the offer where you have to back out due to unforseen circumstances. You agree to babysit, but you come down with a nasty stomach virus and you can't go.

I think there's also often an implicit expiry dates on general offers - circumstances and relationships change with time. So you might happily pet sit for your next door neighbour, but when they move a half hour drive away it becomes a major inconvenience for you, and you back out. Or you offer a floor to crash on when someone visits your town or drinks to much, but your BF moves in with you, and is not comfortable sharing a one room apartment with random friends of yours.




Cherry91

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2014, 03:27:23 AM »
I have to admit that I'm often guilty of doing an "I feel obligated by social/family conventions to make an offer but I'm hoping you say no" offer of assistance, but if I'm taken up on it I do commit, since hey, I offered.

Cali.in.UK

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2014, 05:50:10 AM »
In terms of the etiquette, I agree with AzaleaBloom
AzaleaBloom:For me, backout out would not be rude it would be if the circumstances of the favor changed.
and she used a good example of offering to housesit but that offer would not hold her to also take care of a high maintenance pet without a further discussion because then the circumstances would be different.
and
Shh its me pointed out disingenuous offers: So by disingenuous I only mean making an offer you have no desire to fulfill under any reasonable conditions in the moment you're making the offer.
I find disingenuous offers very annoying because my family and the people that I interacted with growing up did not engage with this (for the most part), so when people offer things I usually take it at face value. For me, and some other PP, I don't ever feel the need to fill "awkward silence" with offers for things I can't or won't do. Of course I notice people doing it sometimes and it always slightly irritates and confuses me. It reminds me of the old Friends episode when Chandler went on a date with Rachel's boss and he kept asking her out again because he felt awkward instead of just saying goodbye.