CommunicationCustomer serviceDifficult peopleLeadership: Say it like a leader

When someone refuses your help again and again

By August 2, 2015December 4th, 2019No Comments

Don’t you just love summer? One thing I really enjoy about this season is getting together with friends outdoors. A few weeks ago, a dear friend invited me to a BBQ at her place. I was delighted to accept.

When I got there, my friend (let’s call her “Carrie”) was the always gracious host, offering the five of us drinks and snacks on her patio. During this wine-sipping time, Carrie struggled with getting the BBQ going. Several of us offered to help. She said it was okay, she was fine.

We offered to help … and again she refused

Then she got the steaks and precariously carried them down the stairs to the patio. Unsteady on her feet due to medical reasons, we again offered to assist, this time more forcibly. She again refused. Amidst the huffing and puffing, cursing, and sighing, it was clear she needed help and, in spite of it being offered several times, wasn’t going to accept it.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Personally, I had a vested interest in helping with the cooking as this dear friend tends to overcook the best of steak until it’s tough as shoe leather. I like my steaks medium rare – she typically cooks them very, very well done. I remember her inviting us for dinner years ago. When I called to advise that we were on our way and would be there in about 20 minutes, she said that she was putting the steaks on the grill as we spoke. Sigh.

Just as Carrie was about to place the steaks on the second of her two grills (yes two) the flame died. She hissed that the propane tank must be out. When one of the men present got up to check she muttered under her breath that he was useless. Clearly, she thought little of her friend’s husband and seldom missed a chance to give him a dig. She tolerates him out of respect for her friend, though her biting comments and thinly veiled contempt is anything but respectful.

Know when to step back

Again, we asked her to let us help her. “I’m fine”, she snapped. Alrighty then. We stepped back, stopped asking and let her do it herself.

Carrie then moved the veggies she’d had on the second grill to the top rack and began to place the steaks, one by one, from the BBQ that no longer worked, onto the bottom grill of the one that was functional. Then, in a moment of inspiration, she took the tray that the steaks had been marinating in, and dumped the oily seasonings directly on the steaks.

To no surprise, the flame shot up with a fury. Carrie stepped back in time to save her eyebrows. She dove in to grab the steaks. I could resist no longer, I stood up to grab the steaks and stop her from falling into the BBQ. In all the excitement, the steak that I’d asked to be placed on a few minutes after the others, sat there sizzling. Sigh. Another leather steak coming up … all because Carrie refused to be helped.

Refusal to accept help often causes unnecessary drama

I could feel myself getting angry at her stubbornness. Her refusal to accept multiple offers of help caused unnecessary drama. This scenario played out as it had so many times before – Carrie takes on more than she can handle, people try to help and she refuses to listen or accept, and everyone pays the price. She is a professional victim. Don’t get me wrong – she has some very real reasons to have pity parties, like health and medical challenges. However, so many other situations she creates herself. It hurts me to see her hurt needlessly. I remind myself again and again that she creates it, that it doesn’t need to be this way, that I do the right thing by offering and she responds in the way that creates the situation.

Here are the lessons:

  • When you see someone struggling, offer help
  • Even if they refuse the first time, offer again
  • After a few times, give it up. Stop offering. You’ve done the right thing. It’s their choice not to accept.
  • Remember that they create their own reality. Them refusing your help leads to that reality.
  • Learn to let go. You did the right thing and you can’t control how they respond.

How you respond to life events and the people in them, is completely within your control. So next time you offer your help and someone refuses, let them. And don’t let that stop you from ever offering help again.

© 2015 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

POST YOUR COMMENTS BELOW: Got comments or questions about this article? Post them on my blog. Don’t be shy. Let’s get the conversation going. After all, it’s all about connecting, right?! 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete tagline with it:

Workplace Communication consultant, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to connect with clients, colleagues, employees, and bosses, and how to handle workplace communication challenges to improve morale, confidence, and productivity. Chat with her at and sign up for her FREE weekly “Marion’s Communication Tips” at

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”

Helping biz people find solutions to workplace communication challenges.
Better communication, better business, better life.

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

Leave a Reply