Shades of No:  How to Refuse to Loan Money to Someone

Some claim that utang (money borrowing) is a part of Filipino culture.

That is not my personal view. Borrowing money is a quick (universally-practiced) way to obtain funds when one is short on funds.

Typically, money is borrowed from friends, relatives, or family members. Borrowing money is difficult, especially if you are proud. You must be in such desperate need that you would rather risk being rejected or scorned.

If you’re on the lending end, it’s also difficult to refuse a borrower who is close to you, especially a friend or family member.

“There are two sure ways to lose a friend, one is to borrow, the other is to lend,” as Patrick Rothfuss puts it in The Name of the Wind, but this does not have to be the case all of the time.

What should you do if you are cash-strapped but struggle to say no to a borrower? You have at least three options.

* Say “no”.  There seem to be no soft or hard ways to say no. A “no”, whether said quickly or slowly, is still a no for a borrower in desperate need of funds. Nonetheless, as a lender, you can always refuse requests with a firm NO. Any explanations for why you are rejecting the request (e.g., you have other commitments to allocate your money for, you are also short on cash, etc.), whether true or an alibi, are only intended to soften the blow of your “no”.

What is a rebel? A man who says no.

Albert Carmus

*Give less than what they request. This is my favorite tactic, which I picked up from a friend. Give them fifty cents when they borrow a dollar. The idea is to only give them a fraction of the amount they are borrowing – any amount that you are willing to lose.  Also, inform them that the amount is not a loan, but that you are giving it to them while they look for other sources of funding (Note: This method, in my experience, usually deters the person from approaching you again for a loan).

*Help them in kind.  You could give them food instead if they need the money to buy food. If the money is for a child’s enrolment (a common reason for borrowing money), offer to assist them in writing a promissory note to the school. Alternatively, offer to accompany them to school when they speak with administrators for consideration.

Final thoughts

Do not overextend yourself when assisting others, regardless of your relationship with the borrower or the scope or urgency of their needs. You can only help with joy and openness if you are self-sufficient.

Meanwhile, don’t pass judgment on the borrower too quickly. Pay attention to their explanation and respond appropriately. Even if they are borrowing money from you at that point, they have put themselves in a vulnerable position – even if they are adopting a “victim-mentality,” and you, on the superior level, do not use it as a power play.  If you don’t or can’t lend money, be firm but empathetic. Give them dignity and respect in their vulnerability as human beings with emotions.

Whatever you lend, let it be your money, and not your name. Money you may get again, and if not, you may contrive to do without it; name once lost you cannot get again, and if you can contrive to do without it, you had better never have been born. – Edward Bulwer Lytton, English writer, politician

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