Managing conflict where money and friendship is at stake

Money vs. friendship
It is better to be trusted than to be loved.

“I am fine thank you,” I said to my regular mama mboga (local name for women vegetable vendors in my country) when she greeted me as I arrived at her stand. “And you, how are you doing?” No response.

I was not surprised by her lack of response because lately, for some reasons, mama mboga had changed from being a jovial person to become an angry person. She seemed to have developed a permanent frown on her face, and spoke very few words. Had it not been for the fact that her vegetables were always fresh, I would have stopped going to her vegetable stand.

After she had packed the vegetables and I had paid for them, I thanked her and wished her a good day. But she just gazed at me without responding. At that instance, something inside my heart prompted me to ask her what was wrong.

“A very close friend has swindled me $500 dollars,” she said. “I gave her my savings a year ago for us to start a joint business venture, but since then, she keeps telling me all sorts of stories. I am so angry because I trusted her.”

Friends are people we trust, so it becomes very difficult to address issues of mistrust—especially where money is concerned.

“Have you told your friend how you feel?” I said to mama mboga. Her response shocked me. It made me realize how so many people make the same mistake when dealing with money—where a trusted friend is involved.

Mama mboga said that she had not bothered to tell her friend how she felt, because she (her friend) knew. “Why should I tell her yet she knows that she is a thief?” she said angrily.

By not saying anything to someone who owes you money, just because the person is a trusted friend, anger and resentment slowly starts building-up inside your heart. Shortly, these feelings change your personality, and you shift from being a jovial person to an angry person, which is not good for your health. Just because someone is a trusted friend does not mean that they have any right to take you for granted. It is on the basis of trust that you gave them the money in the first place, so you too have every right to ask for it.

Remember, anger is brought about by unfulfilled expectations. A trusted friend not owning up to repay money you gave him or her easily fits into this category. So what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?

  • Express your feelings by talking about the matter with the defaulter (who in this case is your trusted friend). If you keep quiet and the defaulter also keeps quiet, then the matter will never be resolved.
  • Listen to what the defaulter has to say. This will only be possible after you have expressed your feelings to the person. It will help you to stop making assumptions and jumping into conclusions—which only goes to make you angry. (Sometimes the defaulter could be having valid reasons for not meeting the obligation within the time limit).
  • Identify the options you have to move forward, that will give the defaulter an opportunity to amicably settle the matter. Either to give you something of equal value in exchange of the money owed, or to simply repay the money.
  • Make an agreement of how the matter will be resolved. You can do this by choosing one of the options identified to settle the matter. For example, the defaulter could agree to repay the money in installments, which is better than not paying back the money at all. The end result is that your friendship with this person will most probably not be affected.
  • Final call. If the defaulter refuses to cooperate and none of the above mentioned suggestions help, then you have two options. One, you probably need to seek for legal advice. Two, forgive and forget. Whichever option you choose at this point, be sure that your friendship with this person will never be the same again.