Distinguishing Can’t from Won’t


CAN’T vs WON’T

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of the ADD Coaching Skills Series

A fundamental concept underlying the manner in which I coach individuals with attentional spectrum deficits is a result of the distinction between “can’t” and “won’t.”

Distinguishing articulates the differences between words as they apply functionally

When we distinguish one word from another, we bring to conscious awareness the reality that, while the denotation of two words – the surface, dictionary meaning – might be effectively equivalent, the connotations are quite different.

Connotation – subtext and common usage within sub-groups – always rides along with the denotative (dictionary) meaning of a word, whether or not we intend the emotional “spin,” or whether or not we are aware of it consciously.

A Distinction, as it applies to the coaching relationship,  is a psycho-spiritual subtlety of language, used consciously for the express purpose of facilitating psychological and spiritual growth.

Distinguishing hones functioning as well as thinking.

  • It sharpens listening, language and coaching skills.
  • It helps to form vital neurological connections, ” brain-links” in a way that expands your knowledge base exponentially — rather than in the linear fashion in which we are accustomed to learning.
  • It’s a brain-game that helps build positive-minded neural-net — weakening the bonds of “old tapes” so that we can shape new futures.

My goal, whenever I select a distinction and let my brain loose to blog about it, is “to seed a shift in come-from” — to illuminate cherished opinions and unconscious habits of thought, hoping to inspire a reframing of underlying assumptions. 

Can’t vs. Won’t

I want to shine a light on the necessity of accepting the behavioral characteristics of ADD/EFDers as part of the ADD/EFD diagnosis.  

For far too long, neurological ADD/EFD challenges have been assigned to the provinces of behavior or psycho-analysis. The distinction between can’t and won’t lies totally within the province of volition.

Accepting the idea that a person could sincerely try and fail due to dynamics completely divorced from underlying psychological conflicts is fundamental: as long as we look for blocks or conflicts, our view of behavior is indelibly skewed in a way that predisposes us to find them.

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