How to Politely Borrow Something

How are you at borrowing things and returning them?

Trent Armstrong,
July 1, 2010
Episode #125

Page 1 of 2

It wasn't too terribly long ago that we took a look at lending things to others -- money, cars, etc. But there is another side to that equation. It's not usually possible to have a lender unless you have a borrower, and the borrower will be the topic of our discussion today.

How to Politely Borrow from Someone

Borrowing something from someone is a very big responsibility. It's a responsibility that some of us may take too lightly, so let's look at how to be a mannerly borrower.

We borrow so many different kinds of things from each other: a pen, power tools, money, books, and movies to name a few; and it's important for us to recognize the importance of each item to the person from whom we are borrowing. Some people freely loan out their DVDs and CDs but get a panicked look on their faces when someone asks to borrow a book. Others will loan their books out all day long but they can't even come close to lending money to someone. So the first tip here is that we should not take lightly the subject of borrowing something from someone. Friendships have been completely dissolved for less, so consider the reaction you might receive upon your request. If you think it's going to cause problems in your friendship with the person you are borrowing the item from, or if you think you will need to borrow that item frequently, consider just purchasing your own.

Ask Politely When Borrowing Something

Let's say that you have gotten to the point of asking for the item. The attitude with which you approach the transaction is crucial, as it can affect you later in the process. When making the request to borrow something, approach the situation with humility. I can't express the frustration that others feel when someone comes to them with an attitude of entitlement and asks to borrow something. It could be something they don't even want back, but the attitude might cause them to grab that item with both hands and hold on like their life depended on it. Asking with humility is a way to build trust and show the lender that you are serious about their feelings toward the transaction. You could say something like, "Joe, I hate to ask this, but I have heard a little of your Owl City CD and would like to take a listen to see if I should get it. May I borrow it for a few days?" Then be ready for Joe's response.

It's Okay if Someone Refuses to Let You Borrow Something

Joe might have just gotten the CD himself or not put it on his mp3 player yet. It might be a signed copy of the album and, therefore, special to him. Be prepared for him to say no. Have your reaction all ready in your mind so it doesn't shock you and elicit ill will toward your friend. And be ready to protect that item with all of your resources should the person actually agree to the exchange. Don't ask to take someone's expensive camera on your vacation out of the country unless you expect that you'll be able to cover the cost if you damage or lose the item. Convey your commitment upfront and make sure you stick to it.