Implications of Saying “Maybe” Instead of “No”

Several reasons make it difficult for people to say “no” or say “maybe” when they mean “no.” Experts in psychology acknowledge that people may avoid saying “no” because of fear of conflict; they avoid disappointing or hurting others, or the desire to be unique (Barth, 2016). Barth adds that this trait is taught to people passively during their childhood (2016). For instance, parents dictate what their children do regardless of the desires of the child. That way, the ability to say no, or to counter desires of others is reassessed in most people. They end up complementing “no” with other words like “maybe” even if their hearts are screaming “no” (Kislik, 2011).

In Kislik’s examples, she illustrates the real experiences of people who are cultured not to offend others. However, while the answer is mostly inspired by the avoidance of hurting or disappointing others, it has underlying adverse effects like in powerless speech. Powerless speech is that which employs linguistic features, which adversely affects the perception of the speaker. For instance, hesitations like “uh” or hedges like “I guess” result in misunderstanding and often negative perception of the speaker, just like “maybe” when the speaker means “no.”

free essay typer



I am a victim of the hedge “maybe”, and I can only hope to do better now and in future. Last year my daughter asked whether I could attend her inhouse patty, organized by workmates. I was not sure whether I would be available, and I did not quite like the idea. Mindlessly, I said “maybe.” Although I meant “no”, she took it as “yes” expecting that I would not disappoint her. The day came, but I had other commitments, which made her angry for weeks. If we had such a conversation again, I would tell her a definite “yes” or “no” to avoid bias.


Barth, D. (2016). Why Is It Hard to Say “No” and How Can You Get Better at It?. Retrieved 9 July 2020, from

Kislik, L. (2011). When “No” is Preferable to “Maybe” – Liz Kislik. Retrieved 9 July 2020, from