I Don’t Know: The Maybe Zone
- If either person doesn’t know what they want, then you’re both in the Maybe Zone.
- The Maybe Zone is all about taking time and getting more information, until you’re ready to make a decision.
- The trickiest thing with the Maybe Zone is getting that information without feeling pressure or harassment.
About I Don’t Know
On a lot of big decisions in our lives, we can have trouble making up our minds. We see an opportunity that looks appealing from one angle—but we also see the ways it could go wrong, or how it might cut off other options.
So what do we do? Sometimes we take a risk and say yes, and hope for the best. Sometimes we back away, and take shelter in the End Zone.
But we don’t always need to decide right away.
If deep down you know you’re a yes or no, then you’re not in the Maybe Zone—you might just be uncomfortable with being clear on this issue and communicating with the other person.
Getting more information
Often we don’t know what we want because we don’t have enough information.
In the Maybe Zone you can take the time and space to get more info so you can have a sense of how this decision will play out, and that might help you make the right choice.
There are a variety of ways we can get information.
Researching the options
Whether it’s a decision to go snowboarding, move in together, or get Afghan takeaway, there’s always a way to do a bit of research, whether through resources such as YouTube, Google or books, or your personal networks of friends, colleagues and experts.
“Do you want to go on a holiday to Tasmania?”
“I don’t know. I want to read what people have said on TripAdvisor first.”
You obviously want to make sure that you have your internal filters switched on, so you can assess the credibility and trustworthiness of the content.
Talking it through
You can always talk about the decision with friends, family or even your partner.
Again, you want to have your internal filters on, to work out if the person is credible and has your interests at heart. If these people respect your right to make your own decision, they will talk without pressuring you.
“Do you want to kiss me?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Where do you see this heading?”
Trying smaller steps or alternative decisions
Some decisions you can break into smaller steps or taste-tester decisions. These give you a preview of what the bigger question is going to be like.
“Do you want to go out to dinner?”
“I don’t know. Can we go out for coffee first?”
Space and time, free from harassment
Yes, it can be frustrating if you want to do something, and your partner can’t make up their mind.
But the biggest rule in the Maybe Zone is that you can’t pressure or harass the other person. (And if you’re the one trying to make up your mind, you should expect to be treated without pressure.)
Ideally, the Maybe Zone is an opportunity to demonstrate your respect, care and positive regard for the other person by giving them time, space and support.
Of course, you can try to make a case and be persuasive—but you need to be sensitive to the other person, and back off if you sense they are feeling pressured.
If you’re yes
- Find out more about what the other person is imagining, what they are uncertain or afraid of
- Provide information
- Paint a picture of what will happen
- Describe what the decision might mean to you or to the other person, what would happen if it went one way or the other
- Help them find ways to dip their toes in the water
- Ask about how they would make the decision, what they would need
Give them time and space—only check in periodically:
- Don’t pressure them
- Don’t threaten them—including threats of withholding
- Don’t ignore their inner world
If you can’t support them to come to their own decision, then it’s better to ease off: “We can park it. Forget about it for now.” It will probably be a relief to the other person to not have to decide right now.
Leaving the Maybe Zone
To leave the Maybe Zone, you either need to both agree yes, or someone needs to finally decide no.
If you both agree yes, then you can move to the Action Zone.
If either person decides no, then you both move to the End Zone.
However, a third possibility is that you never leave the Maybe Zone; you just postpone the decision indefinitely. That can be frustrating, but there’s no rule against it.