In June 2023, we looked for evidence to confirm that celebrated author and poet Maya Angelou had once said or written the words, "Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."
The question we were looking to answer here wasn't if Angelou would agree with the quote, but rather if the words truly originated from her.
In the past, this quote had appeared on numerous websites that claim to collect sayings and writings from famous people. Some of these quote websites credited Mark Twain with originating a similar quote, even though there was no evidence of him ever having said or written the words.
We've found over the years that quote-collecting websites like these can often be unreliable, and we do not recommend utilizing them for research as trusted sources.
The quote in question was published with Angelou's name by both the BBC and The Guardian on the day of her death in 2014. Still, despite being cited by these two credible news sources, we were unable to find any evidence that would shed light on her purported utterance of the quote. If Angelou truly had said it or wrote it, when and where was this information originally documented?
According to Google, the oldest online post with the "never make someone a priority" exact quote appeared to be in a message board comment from December 2005. The post did not credit anyone by name.
The first printed work to feature the exact quote with Angelou's name appeared to be a 2008 book titled, "For Love Alone," which was written by an author simply known as Sabdale. In the book, the author wrote, "But I should have heeded what Maya Angelou once said, 'Never make someone a priority in your life, when to that someone you are an option.'"
According to Newspapers.com, a website that has made available online the contents of more than 871 million pages of over 24,000 historical newspapers from around the world, the five words "never make someone a priority" didn't appear in any of those newspapers until July 22, 2009, when it was simply credited with the words, "Someone once said."
As for Twitter, the first tweet with the exact words from the quote was posted in March 2007. No one was credited by name.
It wasn't until June 2010 that the first tweet appeared containing both the quote and Angelou's name. According to a number of manual retweets, an old account named @iheartquotes had tweeted, "'Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.' ~Maya Angelou." As of 2023, the @iheartquotes account was no longer available.
In our research, we noted that the quote in question had never been tweeted on Angelou's former official Twitter presence, @DrMayaAngelou, an account that appeared to be managed by her estate. We reached out to her estate to ask about the quote but did not receive a response.
Following the initial publishing of this story, in which we rated the claim that Angelou said the quote as "Unproven," we received information from a reader that pointed us to etymologist Barry Popik's blog, The Big Apple.
In 2015, Popik blogged about a similar quote that read, "Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option."
Popik didn't mention Angelou in the article, but did point to a helpful source from 2002. In that year, a book was released by author Sherry Argov, titled, "Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl―A Woman's Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship." On page 213, a woman named Nina Potts-Jefferies was credited with the quote, "Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option."
In light of a lack of evidence regarding Angelou ever having said one of these two quotes, the fact that Angelou's estate never responded to our email, and Popik's find regarding Argov's book with the credit to Potts-Jefferies, we updated this fact-check rating from "Unproven" to "Misattributed."