The Caveat of Maybe

Maybe IG

Somewhere between a definite Yes or No is the caveat of Maybe. Before we debate why or whether it is an unsatisfactory place holder, let’s insert Maybe in a number of everyday responses.

“Shall we have a picnic today?”


“Is buying this iPhone a good idea?”


“Do they own half my business if I sign this contract?”


“Will you marry me?”

Maybe can mean ‘it’s possible’ or ‘it depends’. The word itself isn’t the problem. It gives us time and space to explore the other options, implications or actions. So Maybe is handy when we need more time.

However, use it wisely. It can also come across as indecisive or not committed; or more dangerous… fobbing off. You could be saying ‘I’m actually not interested at all. I just want to look like I am’.

Maybe itself is not a bad place to be if you know why you’re there. Do you need additional information? Are you unprepared? Would other things you haven’t taken into account now become urgent? Are there other options you still want to explore?

There is an old reggae song which goes “Let your yeah be yeah…”. Maybes hold you back from doing that. It can make us look shifty as the lyrics go on to explain “Because, I’m on my guard and I’m watching you from head to toe”.

To maybe or not to maybe… that is the question.


1. Let your No be no. If your Maybe is only holding off inevitable bad news (i.e. you already know it’s a No but you are trying to be ‘nice’)… Don’t. We may not want to rock the boat, but our indecision affects how other people get on. It’s the Abilene Paradox (which you can look up in your own time). As soon as we can, turn that Maybe into a No by saying so. Deal with it and move on. We are only wasting time and energy. And the longer that limbo lasts, the more bitter it feels. Let it go, let it gooooo 🙂

2. Be optimistic about Yes. Think of Yes and No as a ladder – with Yes at the top and No at the bottom. Now you’ve got rid of the definite No, work your way up step-by-step towards a Yes. This may involve a lot of soul searching and challenging some deeply held perceptions. It might mean addressing other situations, contracts or conversations which could impact this one (or vice versa). Working towards Yes could still mean we get stuck at a No. However we’ll have a greater understanding of why this No is a definite no.

3. Share the Maybes. Whether our decision is about ourselves or involves someone else, sharing the possible outcomes can really help give clarity. We tend to be surrounded with people like ourselves so be thorough when exploring your Maybe. Speak to others who aren’t in the same boat. Chat with a freelancer about being self employed rather than your office mates. Network with successful investors rather than others managing multiple overdrafts. Seek advice from people other than your girlfriends – they already share your point of view.

What makes us appear confident is being direct and decisive. More yes and no; fewer maybes.

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