Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Psychology Of Possibly Getting Someone To Pay You Back

I was writing about a hypothetical, extrapolated situation yesterday, about someone irresponsible enough that their need bailing out financially (and, no, I'm not talking about the high financial centers of our great nation, where the bankers and Wall Street types are bailed out in spite of their crooked ways; those guys are allowed; it's the two bit characters on the street who are liable for various offenses.)

Let's say this hypothetical situation could be given a very concrete description, so that you could almost imagine it being a real thing or event. Let's say you were sitting at Dairy Queen, minding your own business, savoring a hot fudge sundae while your companion works on a Turtle Pecan Cluster Blizzard. And just to make it more concrete, you have your cell phone in your pants pocket and somehow don't hear it when it rings and then it apparently goes straight to voice mail. Then you listen to it and it's the desperate plea from an acquaintance, that he's having some kind of dire problem and needs to "talk."

At this point you would know that whatever "talk" you're going to have is likely going to cost you money. Or some other unpleasantness. But you dutifully call him back and try to discern exactly what has happened and what the options are. Since you don't keep track of his affairs ordinarily, it's all news to you, including the fact that he's behind on his rent a couple months and about to be evicted unless someone helps. Someone! And if he gets evicted and it happens to be zero degrees, which coincidentally it is, what's going to become of him?

Then let's add another possible detail, that you turn out to be a softie and promise to loan him $400 the next day, what would that do to your night? How great does the savored hot fudge sundae taste now? Is there any point of savoring it now? Just gulp it down, because the arguments have already started about the guy surely not being responsible to ever pay you back. Everyone says they will pay it back, but few do.

It sounds very realistic, I know.

Then the next day comes, which would be today, and the money would have to be gotten. Attitudes are flaring, recriminations are being bandied about, the whole issue of money going down the drain is raised. It's a mess (in this scenario).

Then we'll advance to the point where you need to present him the envelope of cash. What will you say? What kind of psychology will it take to impress upon him the serious need of paying it back? You could mention that your companion is "very mad about it." And that you have stood up for him in the face of this anger, assuring her that he's a hard worker, very trustworthy, and someone with other great qualities. He's a friend.

Once you see him you commiserate left and right over every setback he's ever experienced. It's all so awful, but you've come this far. You're strong. You've grown.

The openness, the belief in him, the recognition of all his hard work, our mutual friendship, our confidence that he will get everything squared away very soon by making better decisions. Every word would be true ... and geared to making sure he did mend his ways. And making sure he didn't forget to pay you back the $400.

$400 isn't that much money. But it would seem like a good chunk of change indeed if anyone else needed it.

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