HOW NOT TO BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF
Dana over at Note-It Posts ruminated a while back on how going out of your way to help other people is not always as rewarding as the world's altruists would have you believe, and wonders what to do about it. If you have any advice you should stop by & leave a comment.
Her dilemma got me thinking tangentially of an excellent book I once read (now, sadly, out of print and very hard to come by), called "The Art of Manipulation." The book is more preventative than prescriptive, but there was one particular observation by the author which I've taken to heart and used over the years with good results.
On the topic of making loans to friends, he noted that such a loan causes a feeling of resentment on the part of the borrower. Every time you meet the borrower afterwards, the unpaid loan, even if not spoken of, causes an uncomfortable, dangling-loose-end feeling, which can only be relived by either 1) repaying the loan or 2) not being your friend anymore. Both avenues annul the feeling of obligation equally, and even people you like and trust will sometimes surprise you by opting for number 2.
His proposed solution: ask for collateral before making the loan. Doing that secures the loan by an object instead of merely fragile goodwill. In the past, I have accepted things like cassette tapes, walkmans, a post-dated check, and even a driver's license. These loans were nearly always paid back.
In the one case where I didn't receive my tape back, I kept the tape I was holding for collateral, which I actually liked better than the one I lost.
It also works for favors. For example, "will you help me move next weekend?" can be countered effectively with something like, "sure, if you help me paint my living room tomorrow afternoon."
Turning a loan situation into a barter situation avoids the one-sided pressure build-up, prevents resentment, and keeps friendships intact. I strongly recommend it.
Don't be concerned that such a technique might seem crass or insensitive in the abstract. I've discovered that if a person really needs that $20, "just until payday", he'll be perfectly happy to accede to your request for a little something up front. Either that, or he'll bug someone else who'll do the job cheaper.
In either case, the beggar stays off your "owes me" list. And that's a good thing.
posted by Harvey at 10:45:08 PM permalink HOME