Etiquette of Borrowing

Roommates having a disagreement
Take care of anything you borrow from someone, or you might hurt your relationship. Jamie Grill/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Have you ever needed or wanted something you were unable to buy? Have you ever had someone ask to borrow something from you? If you've ever been in either of these situations, it's essential to be aware of a few things, or you might risk your friendship or working relationship with the other person.

Rules for the Borrower

Being a borrower carries a tremendous amount of responsibility. You don't want to take advantage of someone's generosity in lending you whatever the item is, and you would never want to let that item create a wedge between you.

 

Here are some basic etiquette guidelines for borrowing:

  1. Never borrow anything you can't return as soon as you are finished with it.
  2. If whatever you borrow breaks or tears, make a sincere apology and go buy the person a new one if it can't be fixed.
  3. Don't borrow anything that is brand new. The owner should be the first to use it.
  4. When someone borrows something from you, let the person know when you will need it again and expect to get it back by then.
  5. If you don't receive it within a reasonable amount of time, there is nothing wrong with asking for it back, although you shouldn't have to do that.
  6. It is okay to say no when someone asks to borrow something.
  7. Don't borrow money from a friend, or you risk jeopardizing your friendship. You are better off going to a lending institution where the deal is strictly business.
  8. Be extra cautious about borrowing from a coworker because if something goes wrong, you risk jeopardizing your career.
  1. If you ask to borrow something, and the person turns you down, don't get upset. Save your money and buy the item for yourself.

Rules for the Lender

When someone approaches you and asks to borrow something, you may feel uncomfortable. If you have an item the person wants, but you don't want to lend it, you can always say no.

However, if you are okay with letting him or her use it, make sure you have an agreement.

Here are some tips for a borrowing-lending agreement:

  1. Have a set use for the item. In other words, the other person should let you know how the item is going to be used so you'll know it's not being abused.
  2. Have a set amount of time the other person will have the item in his or her possession. If it is not returned by the day and time you've agreed on, it's acceptable to ask for it back.
  3. If you're lending money or an item with a high value, write out an agreement that both of you sign.

How to Ask for an Item Back

There may be a time when you let someone borrow something, but she either forgets or refuses to return it. This can be quite uncomfortable, but you are within your rights to ask for it. You can use sarcasm, but remember that this may embarrass the borrower and damage your relationship.

Here are some ways you can request that a borrowed item be returned:

  1. Come right out and ask for the item. If the other person is offended, you can remind her that she agreed to return it on a certain day that has already passed.
  2. Ask if she has finished using the item and state that you'd like it back as soon as she's able to get it to you. This is open-ended, so you might want to add that you need it by a certain day and time, even if she's not finished with it.
  1. Casually bring up the item in conversation. You might say something like, "Remember that fan I let you borrow?" Or you can say, "It's been really hot lately. Do you mind if I borrow my fan back?" 
  2. Have a heart-to-heart talk with the borrower. You can mention that you trusted her with the item (or money), and you'd like to keep that trust.

Last Resort

There may be a time when you let someone borrow something that is never returned. You have several choices. You can persist and try to get it back. You might even consider taking your friend to court, which is where the signed agreement comes in. Or if you can spare the item or money, you can write it off and consider it a lesson learned. All of these choices will probably hurt the relationship, which is why it's generally best not to borrow from or lend to someone you want to remain friends with.