Column: Mark me down for an almost yes, if you must
The word “sure” has a connotation that complicates communication, and the more we use it, the more it spreads.
Feb. 05, 2019
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
Society is facing a new epidemic. Somewhere in between “yes” and “no” is the word “sure.” The small, four-letter word acts as a more hesitant agreement. It’s a way to say yes without the commitment of real follow through — and that’s the problem.
Commitment isn’t just about relationships, and the reasons people don’t commit to a relationship aren’t either. Jeremy Nicholson, author of the blog The Attraction Doctor, lists satisfaction, investment and lack of alternatives as the main reasons that committed relationships survive. These factors, when combined with attraction, create the environment needed to commit.
When it comes to big decisions, society’s lack of commitment can end up harming individuals. People who quit, are fired or laid off in the first 15 months of a job are 43 percent less hirable than those with a normal work history, according to Talent Works. This has about the same impact of hireability as losing approximately five years of work experience.
The more that passive agreements exist in day-to-day life, the more difficult big decisions become. People want the same thing, just on a smaller scale. When choosing a place to eat for dinner, you want somewhere satisfying that invests in customer experiences and you want the alternatives to be limited. As the consumer, you don’t exactly want to say sure about a product, you want to know for certain that this is the best option.
That’s where people tend to experience the paradox of choice. From soda to job satisfaction, individuals with more choice are less likely to commit than those with fewer options, according to Medium. It takes practice to break the habit of indecisiveness, and using smaller decisions as practice can help get rid of that habit.
By using the word sure, it’s an easy way out. It’s indecisive and leaves room to back out. It’s not a no, but it’s not exactly a yes. The word sure offers people the opportunity to agree without truly committing to what they say.
While saying “sure” to Taco Bell for dinner may not matter, saying sure to a new home or car would seem a little bit absurd. Practicing the ability to say yes or no, without a passive and hesitant “sure,” can make it easier to deal with those decisions.
When you start having conversations about cars, rent or even your job, the ability to say yes or no directly can help you appear composed and decisive. You’re allowed to say yes. You’re also allowed to say no. If you get invited to a party that you don’t want to go to, you don’t have to say sure to appease your friend. Being able to politely decline or humbly accept is a skill everyone needs.
Saying “sure” can also make the person you’re speaking to feel like a burden.
“It’s not that I expect everybody to be enthusiastic all the time. That would be obviously fake, or at least unnecessary,” Jeremy Gordon said in a column for The Outline. “But sure slaps down the outreached hand, presented as intent of community and collaboration.” Gordon goes on to explain that the word sure is derived from the Latin word that means free from care.
The modern usage of sure doesn’t foster a positive or productive decision-making process. It allows for a way out, which cultivates a society that doesn’t commit. The person who receives it may feel like that option is both in or out, while also possibly making them feel like a burden.
This doesn’t mean you have to be confident in every decision you make. It means that people should be more conscious of how we interact with the choices we make. Even small, four-letter words for almost agreeing can train you to be more indecisive. By not using sure as a substitute for yes, you can prevent confusion and hurt feelings. By not using passive agreements like sure, you can stop an epidemic from infecting our decision-making.