AEE 1210: How to Ask for Something Back and Avoid Sounding Mean in English

Have you ever had to ask someone to give you something they borrowed and didn’t return?

Did you feel frustration and wish to know the best thing to say in English?

Knowing what to say in these awkward situations can be really tough.

We’re going to talk about such scenarios and how you can work through them in the best way possible.

We have a listener question about this but it is about a specific situation.

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Hi Lindsay,

How are you? I heard from your podcast just how busy you two have been–please take care. I have been listening to your podcast for over two years, and it accompanies me every morning when I commute to work.

I’ve learned so much from you, Michelle and Jessica. You guys make me so confident with my English that I dared to open a new chapter in my life: to live and study in New York city with my 6-year-old son.

I’ve been teaching my son English since he was two years old. So when we moved to New York in January of this year, he quickly got involved in school life quickly and made a lot of new friends. I’m so proud of him.

Recently he was annoyed with one of his classmates, who borrowed one of his toys but never gave it back when he was supposed to. I told my son to voice his frustration, but his classmate wouldn’t listen to him. I’m planning to talk to his mom who I have never talked to before, but it is tricky to talk about the drawback of a kid with his own mom.

Could you please give some suggestions or expressions to help with this?

Many many thanks!

Best,

Ming 

Talking Through A Tricky Situation

It’s quite understandable to feel uncomfortable with this situation, and we’ve all been there.

Today we are going to talk about what to do in this situation, because being prepared can help a lot.

This can apply to all our listeners because it is about how to talk to someone about something uncomfortable and kind of critical in general. 

You want to be assertive, get your point across, but also be gentle enough that you don’t offend the person.

We’re going to look at how you can talk through this and make it a positive experience.

Making It Less Awkward

You want to say something, but you don’t want to come across as rude.

So what could you say and get the message across the right way?

Of course a mother thinks the best of her child but at the same time knows that kids can do things that require a little bit of teaching or interference from the parent.

What can you say?

Here are a couple of ideas of what you could say.

  • Hi! I love that our kids have become such good friends. Your son/daughter is really adorable.
  • My son mentioned to me that your son has some toys of his, and he was trying to get them back but wasn’t able to.
  • It would be great to get these toys back because my son has been asking about them. Do you happen to know if your son has them? Let’s definitely get the boys together to play soon!

These are all good lead ins, but you need to think through the transitions too.

You have to think through what you say or do between each step.

Thinking Through Each Part of This

You want to consider what may happen with each step of the process.

So you have a good lead in to deal with this scenario, but there’s more to it than just this.

The question is what happens in between these steps? 

What if she…

  • Says the toys are her sons?

 Explain that you remember purchasing them and that perhaps the toys got confused. Always assume innocence and that will guide your tone and your language. Remember that a softer approach will go over much better here.

  • Says she doesn’t know where the toys are? 

 Ask her to take another look and if she would ask her son. A gentle little nudge like this can really go a long way in trying to get her to look for the toys.

  • Says the toys were already returned? 

Explain that you haven’t seen them and wondered if she could double check. Maybe mention that there is some sort of misunderstanding and if she could check it would be great.

It’s all about your approach and tone of voice.

You are likely to get much further if you are kind and gentle in asking for their help.

Roleplay To Help

As always, it helps to see how this may work in action.

We’re going through possible scenarios and what each party could say to get to a good end goal.

L: Hi Michelle.

M: Hi Lindsay!

L: I love that our kids have become such good friends. Lucas is really adorable.

M: Aww me too! Lucas loves Jack.

L: It’s so cute. Oh so Jack mentioned to me that Lucas has some toys of his and he was trying to get them back but wasn’t able to.

M: Really? What toys?

L: Two stuffed animals. A red bear and a brown puppy

M: That’s weird. I thought those were my son’s.

L: Hm, odd. I actually bought them for Jack so I know they were his. 

M: Ok I’ll double check. It’s easy to forget which toys are his!

L: I totally understand! Thanks!  It would be great to get these toys back because my son has been asking about them.Let’s definitely get the boys together to play soon!

We did a variation of these–of course it depends on the situation and what the other mother says

Takeaway

This can help with ANY situation where you have to awkwardly ask for something back.

Of course you won’t use the same language about children, but the same idea applies.

Be nice and assume the best of others and try not to come off as critical.

This will help you sound really friendly and keep the connection going. 

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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