Are you one of the people who has lent money to a friend, a relative or a business partner, expecting that at some point it would be returned, maybe even with interest. Perhaps you negotiated payback terms and received reassurances that they would be met, but the deadlines went by. You might have felt too embarrassed to say anything or maybe you followed up with inquiries, some tentative, some more aggressive. But you still haven’t seen your money.

In the conversation below, Michael’s son Matt refuses to lend money to a friend who has not returned previous loans. It models how you can say no even when you are under some pressure from someone to say yes to their request. Although the conversation takes place between two children, Matt’s approach could apply to any situation in which you have lent something on the understanding that it would be returned. At the end of the conversation there is a set of tips highlighting the steps in the conversation.

‘Dad, can I ask you something?’

‘Sure, what’s up?’ Across the table, Matt was busy scribbling figures in a notebook.

‘My friend James always wants to borrow money from me, and I’m sick of it. How can I tell him I won’t lend him anymore, at least not until he’s paid me back?’

Michael put down his newspaper and pulled his chair closer to Matt’s. ‘Let’s have a look.’ He picked up Matt’s notebook. ‘You’ve got two problems here, haven’t you? You want him to pay back what he has borrowed already, and you have to tell him you don’t want to lend him anymore. Just how important is your friendship with James?’

‘He’s my best friend!’

‘Well,’ Michael said, ‘if you refuse to lend James any more money, there is the possibility that he won’t want to be your friend anymore. But if all he wants from you is someone to borrow money from, then he’s not the kind of friend you want, anyway. Do you see what I’m getting at?’

Matt nodded.The next morning, he approached his friend on the playground.

‘James,’ he said, ‘I lend you money every week, and now you owe me $55. I thought you’d pay it back when you got your birthday money, but you didn’t. Now I need it to pay for my new bike. I can’t lend you any more until you pay me back.’

James looked surprised. ‘I thought you had lots of money,’ he said. ‘Your dad is always giving you money!’

‘No, he’s not. I just get my pocket money, and I can’t afford to lend you any more. When are you going to pay me back? The other day you said you bought a new computer game. It’s not fair that you’re buying games when you owe me money.’

‘Okay, I suppose so.’ James looked down at his feet. ‘I get my pocket money on Friday. Can I give you some then?

‘How much?’ asked Matt.

‘I can give you $15.’

‘Okay, but can I have $15 the next week as well?’

‘It was easy!’ Matt told his father later that day.

‘It often is.’ Michael smiled. ‘You don’t have to make a big deal out of saying no. You don’t have to explain anything more than you did. And you don’t have to apologise either. Just give your reasons why you need the money back, and say what you would like the other person to do.

Straight Talk tips on this conversation

- In this example, the children speak more bluntly than adults might do, but the conversation still follows the CARE model for how to say no.

- Michael first asks Matt to think about the implications for the friendship if he refuses to lend his friend more money.

- Matt was very direct, but he sticks to the facts, without exaggerating or making accusations that would have given a negative tone to the conversation.

- He sticks to his guns even when James accuses him of having lots of money.

- He negotiates a payback plan. Tackling a problem in small steps is a good way to get things moving toward a solution.

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