Author Topic: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?  (Read 4832 times)

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Harriet Jones

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2014, 06:33:53 AM »

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.

Is there a leg of the trip you can replace with another form of transportation?  Bus or train or something?
« Last Edit: April 09, 2014, 09:36:36 AM by Harriet Jones »

LadyClaire

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2014, 09:34:45 AM »
I do wish people wouldn't offer to help if they have no intention of doing so.

A few months ago my Mom was in hospital with life-threatening heart failure. I was completely and totally exhausted because I didn't have enough paid time off to take much time off work, so my days consisted of getting up early to go to work, going to see Mom on my lunch break, going back to the hospital after work, then going to mom's house after the hospital visit so that I could take care of her pets and clean her house. After that I'd go home to mountains of my own laundry and a house that needed cleaning and an empty fridge because we had no time or energy to go get groceries. My next-door neighbor knew what was going on and commented on how exhausted I looked and how I'd clearly lost weight. He said he'd make dinner for DH and I and drop it off later in the week. I was so grateful..and the dinner never materialized.

I also had similar offers from friends of meals, or to take time to help me out with taking care of mom's pets, and so on..none of them ever actually did it. These are people DH and I have both done favors for countless times over the years. I hate the "if you need anything, any help at all, let us know" or "I'll come help you with XYZ" offers that don't really mean anything. As a result I just don't bother responding if someone offers help..and I've also stopped giving so much help to a lot of the people we previously did so many favors for.

alkira6

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2014, 09:48:34 AM »
What LadyClaire said.

People offered to help when my mom was in the hospital and when I accepted or took them up on the offer help rarely materialized.  You have no idea how exhausting and disheartening it is to come home and realize that the person who offered to drop off a meal didn't and have to clean up pet accidents because the person who offered to let the dogs out hasn't been by since that morning and it's now 9pm and you have no food and a mess to clean up and you still have to be up at 4am to go to work.

Please don't offer to fill awkward silences or because you don't know what to do. Sometimes people are desperate for help and take it as an honest offer.

Redsoil

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2014, 10:01:01 AM »
Wow, Lady Claire - that's just horrible.  I'm sorry to hear about your mother's health issues - it's never easy to manage when thrown in the deep end like that.  I wonder if these "friends" realise just how much they added to your burden, by letting you down.  I'd call them "users" given that you've done favours for them previously and they obviously let you down when you needed them.
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LadyClaire

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2014, 10:33:30 AM »
Wow, Lady Claire - that's just horrible.  I'm sorry to hear about your mother's health issues - it's never easy to manage when thrown in the deep end like that.  I wonder if these "friends" realise just how much they added to your burden, by letting you down.  I'd call them "users" given that you've done favours for them previously and they obviously let you down when you needed them.

yeah..it made me look at a lot of people very differently.

It has also made me think very hard when I make offers to help someone. If I say I'm going to do it, I will do it, unless major unforeseen circumstances arise. I think it's fine if you have a standing offer of "I'll babysit" but the night someone asks you to babysit won't work out for whatever reason. But if someone is struggling and you say "I'll help you" and you have zero intention of following through, it just adds to their stress levels when you don't actually do anything. It also caused me not to trust any offers of help from anyone, so someone who might honestly be offering help likely isn't going to get taken up on it because I've had too much experience with the insincere ones.

m2kbug

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2014, 10:51:53 AM »
I think it's important to think about the long-term when making an offer and follow through.  Don't make an offer you can't stick to.  And of course circumstances in life can change and I think it's reasonable to back off, depending on those circumstances.  One example was the moving (and having to fly across country to help), and I think that for the Mover to expect someone to do that is unreasonable, and I also don't think it wouldn't be unreasonable for the Helper to apologize and say they just didn't realize how much it would cost - any situation like that where they didn't realize just what they were promising to do.  Then there's the stories about how an offer to help when needed turns into an expectation and someone taking advantage, and at that point you have to put a stop to it.  You might be prepared to drop everything during the month of April on a moment's notice, but you offered and expect to help in the near future, but that offer does not apply six months from now when life circumstances are entirely different. 

It really depends on the the offer.  I think you should try to follow through whenever possible. 

shhh its me

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2014, 12:22:55 PM »
What LadyClaire said.

People offered to help when my mom was in the hospital and when I accepted or took them up on the offer help rarely materialized.  You have no idea how exhausting and disheartening it is to come home and realize that the person who offered to drop off a meal didn't and have to clean up pet accidents because the person who offered to let the dogs out hasn't been by since that morning and it's now 9pm and you have no food and a mess to clean up and you still have to be up at 4am to go to work.

Please don't offer to fill awkward silences or because you don't know what to do. Sometimes people are desperate for help and take it as an honest offer.



I think there is a world of difference between a long time friend saying " I will help by bringing dinner , next week./Today , at noon ,I will go let your dog out for you"  and an acquaintance saying "Let me know if there is anything I can do?".     

Even the vague offer from the acquaintance may not be utterly insincere;  They could be thinking ...can I get you a coffee , do you need someone to run to the shop for a bottle of aspirin , can I sit with the kids while you eat *right now*.   


I have an example on the opposite end of the spectrum. About 20 years ago my parents bought a condo they had an elderly neighbor who was a "say hi  hows the weather" type of neighbor (these condos had decks in the rear but no gathering space at the front doors. This was a neighbor whose front door face my parents front door so even that much interaction was infrequent)  Literally ever time this neighbor saw my husband for a year she would come by knock on the door and ask him to do a favor ...change a light bulb , move furniture , get Christmas decorations from the basement and put them up etc.  I'm talking about between 20 and 40 times, I didn't even know her name.   I don't even think there was an offer of "if you need anything let us know."  Even if that offer was made it became too much from a person whose only relationship with us was to ask for favors.

snappylt

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2014, 07:22:44 PM »
I have learned to be very careful about promises.  I almost always put limits upon promises I make.

Many years ago I had a job working for a non-profit organization with teenagers and young adults.  We were specifically trained to qualify our promises to our clients.  For example, if a client asked me to promise to never tell anyone what he wanted to tell me, I would always say that it would depend upon what he was going to say. If he was going to share a harmless confidence about his career plans or his girlfriend, then yes, I could keep it to myself. If he was going to tell me that he was thinking about hurting himself or someone else, then no, I could not keep that confidential.

Maybe the connection isn't clear, but I learned from that and other experiences to not make "unlimited" promises.  For example, I might say, "I'll come help you pack boxes if you call one day ahead and if it is a day I'm off work." Or, "I'll give you a ride to the airport if you let me know a day in advance and if it doesn't conflict with our vacation schedule."

I realize it is too late now, but in the case upthread about helping de-clutter the hoarders' home, the way to avoid that in the future would be to promise, "When it comes time to move them out, if I possibly can, I'll help with the packing and sorting." Moving a thousand miles away makes it not possible.

Ceallach

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #23 on: April 09, 2014, 10:29:13 PM »
I don't make offers I'm not willing to follow through on.   

However, if it's a general offer, the specifics of that are still within my control.   Asking "is there anything I can do?"  doesn't obligate me to do exactly what they ask.   Because what they ask might *not* be something I can do e.g. it might require time or resources I am not able to commit.  But if they do suggest something I can't do, I will see if I can find a compromise to help meet their need or an alternative that I can assist with.

And of course, a change in circumstances means a change too.   Having said that, I will also try to specify the conditions when I make an offer.  For example "I'd be happy to come around and help you with that - as long as DH is home to watch DS".    So that they are aware beforehand of the possible limitation on my offer.   If they were to call and ask me to do it at a time DH wasn't able to watch DS, I wouldn't feel even the slightest bit guilty.   I'd most likely feel disappointed, as if I've offered to help I probably *want* to help!  But I wouldn't feel guilty about it or feel I've let down my offer. 
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shhh its me

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2014, 07:58:21 AM »
    I think "if its possible" is always implied.  I'd consider it to be common knowledge that "I'll babysit sometime so you can have a night out." (I'm going back to the main page post that inspired this thread) does not mean  "I'll come home early from vacation to babysit" or even "I'll take a day off work so I can babysit" and "A night out means no later 2 or 3am not noon the next day."    It's not rude or insincere for someone to think its clear that also means "Not on a work night" or "for about 4 hours."    I actually think that offer is vague enough that conditions can be discussed when plans are being made.     The end of the main page post the submitter said "is it selfish thinking they should babysit on a weeknight."  That makes me wonder if the "no " included the info "I can only babysit on the weekends."

Sometime and anytime are 2 totally different things.  I think you(general you) have be very careful using the word anytime. When you say anytime there really have to be very few conditions but that still doesn't mean there are no conditions.  If you say "anytime" while meaning "Saturday between noon and 4 pm" I'd call that poor communication at best.  On the other hand if you meant  "7 am -midnight except Tuesdays and Thursdays those I'm not available till 6pm and not during my class on Fridays" I think "anytime" is reasonable. 

bopper

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #25 on: April 10, 2014, 05:08:38 PM »

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.

What is your budget? 

"Friend...I have looked into the airfare and am very surprised how complicated and expensive the cost is.  Right now the best i can find is $1000.  That is beyond my budget...the most I can afford is X. Do you have any other ideas on how I can get there?"

And she can say "I will pay the airfare because I really don't want to do this by myself" or "Not really" or "what if you drove 3 hours to XYZ city and then flew" or "I have frequent flier miles you could use."   

State what you CAN do and let her make the choice.

EllenS

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #26 on: April 10, 2014, 06:39:59 PM »

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.

What is your budget? 

"Friend...I have looked into the airfare and am very surprised how complicated and expensive the cost is.  Right now the best i can find is $1000.  That is beyond my budget...the most I can afford is X. Do you have any other ideas on how I can get there?"

And she can say "I will pay the airfare because I really don't want to do this by myself" or "Not really" or "what if you drove 3 hours to XYZ city and then flew" or "I have frequent flier miles you could use."   

State what you CAN do and let her make the choice.

Yes, I think good communication is the opposite of flaking out. You have a very good reason why this has become a much bigger favor than the one you originally offered.

VorFemme

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #27 on: April 10, 2014, 07:18:48 PM »
I had a friend who was going through a really nasty divorce.  I had not SEEN most of what happened, although I had heard about it and seen her spiral into depression and her health suffer.  I offered to talk to her lawyer about what I had seen & heard in person and could legally provide a witness to.  I drove her to at least one of the hearings so that she had someone in the courtroom who was on "her" side.  I drove her home, too, as she was emotionally and physically wrung out after her time being questioned by her husband's lawyer (he was trying to "gaslight" her, or possibly cause her to have a nervous breakdown - he was a self centered bacon fed knave and had been the "golden child" of his parents, so he knew that he could do no wrong....in his own mind). 

Similar situation with a relative being asked to witness in a neighbor's divorce - only instead of asking, they were served legal papers after telling the neighbor that they weren't sure if they could get off work (used a lot of sick time and didn't have a lot of vacation days to spare to take off a day for court).  Now they HAD to be there and it caused problems at work with their boss & caused them to drop being a volunteer for supervised visitation of the neighbor & minor children in the case.  Because they no longer trusted him to be reasonable or accept that their own family came first and the neighbor came second (or even third) in priorities - he wanted HIS family to be everyone else's first priority. 

It got him dropped from being any part of their social circle at all.  Because if he wasn't willing to recognize that his kids were HIS first priority and HER kids were her first priority - but having known them for years, his kids were someone she was willing to "help"...just not willing to be dictated to that helping his kids took priority over her own family and health....well, that was NOT what she'd signed up for).
« Last Edit: April 10, 2014, 07:23:48 PM by VorFemme »
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Deetee

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #28 on: April 10, 2014, 07:34:18 PM »

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.

What is your budget? 

"Friend...I have looked into the airfare and am very surprised how complicated and expensive the cost is.  Right now the best i can find is $1000.  That is beyond my budget...the most I can afford is X. Do you have any other ideas on how I can get there?"

And she can say "I will pay the airfare because I really don't want to do this by myself" or "Not really" or "what if you drove 3 hours to XYZ city and then flew" or "I have frequent flier miles you could use."   

State what you CAN do and let her make the choice.

Yes, I think good communication is the opposite of flaking out. You have a very good reason why this has become a much bigger favor than the one you originally offered.

I agree. I think your offer is one of helping. Maybe you could help in some other way. Send her a bunch of gift cards to restaurents in the area? Meet up with her after for a mini vacation in some place you can both get to? Search for reccomendations for cleaners or organisers and pay for a couple hundred dollars of their services?

ChinaShepherdess

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Re: When can you rescind a previous offer and not be rude for doing so?
« Reply #29 on: April 12, 2014, 03:14:43 PM »
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?

I think the bolded is important. I have a bad tendency to over-commit myself and sometimes make pretty offers that are perhaps more generous of my time than I ought to ("Oh, you're moving to the area to join my graduate program, person I've never met before and only emailed twice? Call me when you're in town if you need someone to help you make an IKEA run!") but it's really important to me to be the kind of person who follows through on these offers (cue the seven-hour IKEA run, over the course of which a stranger becomes a friend). That said, when I think I really do need to back out of an offer or commitment for a really big reason, I'm trying to get better about making that clear.

My biggest cancel trigger is that I have extremely broken sleep, and sometimes my sleep has been out of whack for long enough that I just don't feel myself safe to drive, period. But that's an issue that's difficult to convey to people, because it sounds so flimsy as an excuse. Still, when driving, drowsiness is red alert, and attacking SoCal freeways with significantly impaired mental processing and reflexes just isn't worth the risk most of the time.

As other posters have said, I think communication is the most important thing. If you're going to back out of an offer or plans, the sooner and more clearly you communicate that fact, definitively, the sooner the other people can calibrate his/her expectations and make other arrangements. I think the worst thing is to let someone keep thinking that you're going to come through when you know there's a good chance you aren't, because the longer you string someone along (even with the best of intentions), the more disappointed they'll be if you have to renege.

(Of course, that's easy to say, but can be hard to put into practice. I'm extremely guilty of canceling later than I should because I'm convinced I can turn things around or make them work if I just try harder, put more pressure on myself, etc.)