I went on a vacation to a coffee plantation recently. After enjoying my stay there, on the last day, some of the kids of the coffee plantation workers played football (soccer) with my dad and my sister.

The ball they played with belonged to me and I had a lot of memories attached with that ball, as my friends had gifted it to me, and I don't meet these friends anymore, so now it's like the only thing I remember them by...

Just before we left from there, one of those kids came up to us and asked my dad if they could have a ball. My dad was probably unaware of the the ball's story, so he first said yes, and then decided to ask my permission. Knowing the circumstances (these coffee workers' kids live in poverty, and my dad had already promised them), I kinda made up my resolve to give it away. I did this quite unhappily, but I tried not to show it.

I guess I did the "right" thing, but that ball really meant something to me. My question is that to prevent these things happening in the future, I want to convince the other party without looking selfish or mean or evil... How do I do that diplomatically?

Clarifications

  • I told my dad all about the ball's sentimental value to me when he asked if I could give it away. He wasn't exactly asking, but requesting, and I downplayed its value at the time.
  • We weren't exactly in a city, so there weren't any shops for about a 15 km radius... So no ball to be brought later... I suppose we could have mailed them a ball, but the kids were actually told by the supervisor of the coffee estate not to ask for things. Hence, sending it would probably result in them not being allowed to keep it.
up vote 60 down vote accepted

If you have evaluated that keeping the ball is going to be of more value to you than the feeling of having performed a selfless action, don't be afraid to simply say:

"No, sorry, but this item is of deep personal value to me."

While others may not look upon your actions in the best light (because they aren't able to see those same values you have), you can try to bridge the gap by proposing alternatives:

"Would we be able to get them a different ball before we leave?"

"What if we gave them X instead?"

Even though these solutions may not yield anything, trying to propose alternatives can help others (in this case your dad/sister) see that it's not that you are intentionally being malicious or prudent, but are truly just not wanting to sacrifice your item of personal value.

If you are able to come up with an alternative where all parties involved get a desired outcome (the impoverished kids get a new ball/toy/etc and you get to keep your sentimental item), it's a win-win for everyone, and all parties get to go home happy. Otherwise, at least you showed concern and care for your decision by trying to reach a compromise, which will leave you in a better light in the eyes of others as opposed to just saying "no".

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    Good answer. Hopefully the OP will see that the children will now grow up playing with that ball and develop happy memories doing so. Because of the gift, others will receive joy. The OP should be able to take joy from knowing that. – mbomb007 Apr 4 at 21:44
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    @mbomb007 Thanks for the sunny side perspective, but believe me, I did think of this while making up my resolve to give it away. I really hope they receive joy, and that would make me happy too. – AbhigyanC Apr 5 at 0:22
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    @AbhigyanC I think mbomb007 is on point -- think of it as "passing on the memories". The memories they've created with the ball may be different than the memories you had with it, but now when they play with or even look at the ball, they can fondly remember the games played with your dad and sister. If anyone happened to take any photos of them playing with the ball, perhaps you can print and hang that photo, and now that photo will help you remember not only your previous memories associated with the ball, but also the new memories of giving it to appreciative kids! – Doktor J Apr 5 at 16:06
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    @DoktorJ Thanks so much for that beautiful idea... This really brightens up my day. I think I'll actually hang a pic on my wall! – AbhigyanC Apr 5 at 17:01

You just need to explain that the item is of great personal and sentimental value. It will be up to the other party to decide if this is an acceptable reason; you should be under no obligation to actually explain your reasons further.

It is common for people to place great personal value on things of little material worth. These reasons can be public or private, it's up to the owner. It can sound harsh but do not be made to feel guilty if someone disagrees with your decision to keep something like that.

For what it's worth, I'm sure you brightened up the children's days considerably.

For me there is nothing selfish or negative or mean/evil about having his own wishes and not giving everything away.
You could have bought those kids another ball, if not at the place you were then you could have sent one to them. Then you would still have your ball and made a nice present to those kids anyway, even more if it wasn't only one ball but two or three or something else that makes them happy. Is that selfish? No!

For this reason I don't see a problem if you explain to your dad that this ball meant a lot to you and next time he gives anything away, he should ask you before. Don't think too much about how to do it not selfish - it isn't.

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