How to Politely Decline a Gift

Gift-giving is seen as a normal part of life. It is something nice that people do for one another to show their love and appreciation for them. So, the idea of declining a gift might not be one that sits very well with us.

Many people would see that as rude and ungrateful behavior.

There are situations, though where you may need to decline a gift. But how to politely decline a gift in a polite and nice way, that is not going to cause offense?

That’s what we are going to discuss in the following post.

Can You Decline Gifts?

The simple answer is yes, you can decline gifts. There is no law or rule that says you must accept gifts.

Although you may not want to decline a gift you really wanted or from someone you are especially close to, there are situations refusing gifts is perfectly acceptable.

This includes:

  • When the gift was given by someone who has ulterior romantic intentions and you do not feel the same way. If you were to accept the gift, it would likely give them false hopes and would make an awkward situation worse.
  • When the gift is given by someone you were previously in a romantic relationship with.
  • When the gift was given by your boss. While it is okay to accept a small gift, especially if everyone in your team has been given the same thing as a way of appreciation for your hard work and effort, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline expensive gifts. These could be considered as fraternization that may lead to unwanted romantic and sexual advances or even sexual harassment.
  • Similarly, when the gift is given by one of your co-workers, clients, or customers. Most businesses have strict rules, company policies and guidelines on this kind of gift-giving.
  • When it is against office or business policy to accept gifts, no matter how small they may be, from your business associates.
  • When you are given gifts by someone you have just met. Although flowers and similar gifts are often given as a thank you for business transactions, these are accepted because they represent the company, not an individual.
  • When you think the person has spent more money than you really think they should have or that they can afford on over expensive gifts. You won’t want your friends in financial hardship over an expensive gift (maybe suggest alternatives, so they don’t feel bad)
  • When it feels like the gift is being given in the hope you will return the favor or in some way owe the giver in the future. You don’t want to create obligations for yourself.
How to Politely Decline a Gift 1

Is It Rude to Decline a Gift?

It really depends on various factors, such as the gift itself, the circumstances surrounding receiving gifts and who has given it.

The list above is a great guide to situations when it is perfectly reasonable and not rude to decline a gift.

You may find that it is not the easiest thing in the world to do when you receive gifts, but if you are nice, polite and express yourself clearly, you have no reason to feel bad.

How Do You Decline Something Nicely?

Even if it is obviously an inappropriate gift and the person should know better, you will still want to handle the situation calmly and with good grace and politeness.

How do you refuse gifts politely?

Well, first and foremost, if at all possible, you should try to decline the gift in person privately.

If that is not possible, it is best to write a letter.

In this modern age, you may be tempted to write a text or email, but that may seem a little impersonal.

It’s also possible for a text message or email to be easily missed and ignored.

You should always thank them for the gift and remember that they may simply have given the gift to you with good intentions.

The last thing you want to do is embarrass the gift giver (and some of us are a habitually bad gift giver!)

You also need to explain fully the reasons why you have decided to decline the gift.

It can help to ease the situation if you show you are sorry and regretful for needing to decline it. Or use works like “thanks for the lovely gifts”.

You need to keep things short, simple, and to the point.

Be firm and assertive without being hostile, as some people will try to change your mind. Decline the gift politely.

If you receive a gift from a business associate, client, or customer, and they refuse to accept it back from you, you should inform your manager or another appropriate superior member of staff, so your actions can be recorded.

It is also a good idea, after refusing gifts from a superior or colleague that you discuss the situation with someone higher ranking in your office or company, so they are aware of the situation.

This may be helpful if the gift giver continues to try and offer your more inappropriate or expensive gifts.

How To Politely Decline Money

One gift that you may not feel comfortable accepting is money.

Particularly if you think there are ulterior motives, or they are thanking you for a small task that you wanted to do, or they are simply giving you too much money.

So, how do you refuse money or gifts politely?

In much the same way as you would decline other gifts really.

In a polite and kind, but firm and assertive way.

Express your thanks for their generous gift but explain why you don’t need or feel comfortable accepting the money.

If it is someone you know well and they are offering the gift as thanks for something you did for them, you could counter their offer by suggesting they buy you a beer or something similar.

Again, if the gift giver is a business associate, client, or customer or someone who works with you or a superior, you should be firm and explain that you need to refuse the gift because it is against company policy prohibits employees from accepting gifts and it is not considered ethical.

You then need to report it to a superior or human resources, so they are aware of what has happened and can keep a record of it for future reference.


It may seem like the done and polite thing to always accept a gift, even if you feel uncomfortable about doing so.

However, as we have discussed, you should not feel coerced or obligated to accept a gift that you feel puts yourself in a strange situation.

While it may be a genuine sign of their generosity, accepting the gift may make them feel like they have some control over you and your relationship.

As we have seen, there are certain situations when it is perfectly natural to feel uneasy accepting a gift.

Unless it is from someone you know well, such as a close friend, relative or someone you are romantically involved with, you have the right to refuse a gift.

You should always be firm, but nice and polite, showing that the gift is sincerely appreciated, and a kind gesture.

Then fully explain the reasons why you can’t accept their gift in simple words, making an effort to avoid drama and causing them embarrassment.

While it’s likely you will feel bad about declining the gift initially, that should pass with time.

Draw a line under the situation and move on, as there is no point tying to continue the conversation and talk about your reasons for refusing the gift, if they are falling on deaf ears.

If the gift giver makes a lot of fuss about it and tries to make you feel bad about not accepting their gift, try to ignore them.

You’ve done the right thing and handled it in a polite and kind manner, so you have nothing to feel ashamed or bad about.

Read Also: How Much to Give for A Wedding Gift if Not Attending, 6 Best Self Gifting Ideas To Unwind In 2022

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