As a person who is what is euphemistically called a "senior citizen" I occasionally receive offers of "help" that I do not need and do not want. Maybe in 10 years I will, but not now.

I cannot figure out what prompts this "helpfulness" -- certainly nothing in my gait. I could run most of them ragged on the tennis court.

I generally respond by saying "Thanks, but I am fine". Usually people smile and go on their business. But sometimes, the person is determined to help, and determined that I will accept her help. (It is always a woman.) I see this as aggression.

I have never got to the point where I have told the person to "f off", but I have said "Please, just go away." Once I received a lecture on how the person was bringing up her sons. To that one, I replied "You are teaching them to impose their will on women who are minding their own business? That sounds a lot like rape."

That was very satisfying, but what I am looking for is a way to get rid of them before I slander them. What should I say after two "No thanks, I'm fine." Mild rudeness is OK.

(culture: Northern VA, typical middle-class suburban mixture; highly educated)

  • 1
    Are these people who know you? I don't understand why a stranger would "lecture" you about their problems (that is how I read it anyway). Or are they just venting their problems on you? In any case, I can't tell where the "helpfulness" is.
    – user3169
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 20:25
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    @user3169 I can't figure out why they are so determined to help, either. They are not venting their problems on me, but they think if they are insistent enough, I will agree to their helping me. My theory is that they want to feel important, and helping is the only way they can feel important.
    – user1760
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 20:27
  • Is this a particular woman insisting on helping you? What sort of help, though? (Just curious)
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 21:12
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    @NVZ This particular incident was at the entrance to my health club. I had just started a perhaps 30 foot walk to the door. The woman (a total stranger) had gone through the door. She made a production out of standing there, holding the door wide open for me, with a big grin. (The door is neither heavy nor awkward.) I waved her off and said please just go ahead. She said "Oh, no problem". Meanwhile, I getting some stuff out of my tennis bag for the trash can at the entrance. She remained, standing there, grinning. I think it was the grin that got to me.
    – user1760
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 21:27

5 Answers 5


After two "no thanks" (probably even after one) I would stop smiling and say

honestly, this is something I can do without help and enjoy doing. By insisting on helping you're making me feel weak and incompetent and I don't like that. Please stop.

Or possibly "making me feel that you see me as weak and incompetent"

It's not rude, but it's blunt. To make it a little sharper, on the way to rude, shorten it:

I can do it, you know! Don't treat me like some weak incompetent old lady! So rude!

As for the sons comment, yeah, raise them to offer to help. And raise them to listen to the response from the adult competent human who has delivered an opinion on needing help.

My guess is that this person is not capable of imagining any down side to receiving help like this. It's a shame that you are stuck with having to explain that.


I was raised to offer to help, so I've probably been seen this way from time to time... My grandmother was the type of woman who would smack her grandsons for not holding the door for a lady.

That said, she was also a very independent woman who didn't take any crap from people. One of her lines was:

If I wanted your help, I would have asked.

Add a sneer and emphasize the word "your" and you manage to come across as openly hostile while not actually saying anything rude directly.

Also consider lines like:

Well aren't you precious, put that hand on me again and you'll be​ pulling back a stump.

I may be old enough to be your mother, but luckily for me I'm not and I don't have to put up with your​ crap.

  • 5
    I am UVing this because it is useful -- it is helping me bracket a stock response. I would have liked your grandmother.
    – user1760
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 3:25
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    "Thanks for your help. Do I really look that old ?" (adapt your face with a kind of scary eyes and astonished tone) or "I thought I still had some nice and healthy years ahead of me. Too sad. But thanks anyway..." ... with a big smile :)
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 6:11
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    @OldPadawan that looks like an answer to me. Why not post one?
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 12:42
  • Well, I thought it was just a kind of an add-on to the answer and didn't want to spoil it as it brought only a little to it :) but if some think it can help, let me get to my PC to write one then...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 12:47
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    I upvoted this before and stand by that upvote. I think the last two lines are . . . snarky, but I also agree that assertiveness is what ab2 needs, and they're certainly assertive (and the question allowed for some rudeness). Plus, I've heard the first suggestion used quite a lot before, with emphasis on different words.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:41

I gave the green check to @Kate Gregory, because the last sentence of her answer went "click" and gave me the solution I sought.

My guess is that this person is not capable of imagining any down side to receiving help like this. It's a shame that you are stuck with having to explain that. (emphasis added.)

What went "click" is that I don't have to explain anything; the onus to explain is on her (and it is always a her).

Thus, I should ask questions, in an incredulous tone of voice, until she goes away. Of course, first I politely decline help: Thanks, no need to bother, or whatever is appropriate for the specific situation. When the "helpful" person (PIA) persists:

ab2: What are you doing?

PIA: I'm just trying to help.

ab2: But why?

PIA: (Something asinine)

ab2: Why are you so persistent?

The point is, just keep asking questions. Do nothing except ask questions.

Thanks to everyone.

Note this is a community wiki answer, so anyone can chime in, but no one gets rep points.


if their "help" is not interfering with you, then it's their right and you should simply ignore it. if you must, you can ask for privacy. if their "help" is interfering with you, then you can simply ask them to get out of your way. in either case, the simple expression "would you please excuse me for a moment?" should get the point across. if they do not immediately comply with either request, i have found squaring my shoulders and silently staring people down to be surprisingly fast and effective. of course, i am a 100kg guy, so your mileage may vary.


I read a small booklet many years ago by a man by the name of Vincent Collins; it was called 'Acceptance.' I understood from that text, that if someone wants to help when you haven't asked them, it's actually called interference. They are interfering and they should basically f off and mind their own business.

In my experience, and to answer your question, say no thank you. You may have to repeat your 'no thank you' but that's ok. I mean, you shouldn't have to, but some people are a bit, well, human. They think they're doing the right thing. Let them get on with it. Senior citizen? You're an elder states-person. You are someone who has lived and who knows. To sum, a firm, 'I said NO.'

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