How do you respond to 'I can’t'?

In daily conversations, most people listen to an answer without attempting to understand. In coaching some clients admit that the moment they feel they have been heard is the moment they that they begin to heal.

Deep and thorough communication is king and I truly believe it’s a skill that we all need to master to get the best and the most out of our life. There is no way we can have a deep, meaningful conversation with someone without having an impact on each other.

We, as humans, converse in order to subconsciously seek out more options and explore the intellectual and emotional landscape for more resources. Deep down we know what the answers are, however, we require more clarity in order to access the results. 

Somewhere behind the shadow of our anger, guilt, fear and every other facet of our negative beliefs, we have all the answers and all the resources – and we know that the answers to our questions are there. We just need to unmask them… we create conversations in the hope that someone will provide an easily accessible route into our feelings and decisions that are inextricably linked to certain memories.

It follows then, that there exists an immense value in seeking out conversations with people who know how to listen effectively and, in return, provide a meaningful, directive question rather than simply a stock answer. This valuable question will help to steer us toward the answers and resources that exist within us since such a question derives from the inquirer.

One of the most important conversations is regards a person’s limitations and their sense of inability to act upon them positively. When this occurs, the person usually begins or ends their sentence with "I can’t…"

The next time someone gives you an answer that involves “I can’t”, you should recognise this and support that person in order to help them resolve their issues with a positive and constructive answer.

What is the best response to "I can’t”?

Most people, when asked, would say “why?” or "why can’t you...?"

However, the answer to a 'why' question is multidirectional: it can - and more often than not, will - go anywhere.  Such an answer is also non-conclusive and may be cyclic or infinite – neither of which will lead to a resolution.

For example, if you are having a conversation with a friend and they say they can’t trust their partner or spouse anymore, there is often a tendency to seek out the juicy, salacious content of their woes for personal enjoyment. However, this almost certainly will not help your friend and it’s very unlikely that it will generate any useful or positive transaction for either person. Furthermore, in coaching, we prefer not to use “why’s” that often, unless it’s for the purpose of eliciting a person’s deep values.

Instead of using “why”, we use “what” and in this particular example, if someone says “I can’t”, the best response is to use “what stops you?” This question enables the person to open up to you (if they so choose) and increases the possibility of them questioning their limiting, rigid belief about their inability to trust their partner.

More importantly, with “what stops you?”, you will obtain answers that refer to the person, rather than external factors that people use as scapegoats.

This way, the person asking the question, begins to believe that within them, there was once a natural flow to their positivity that was in some way inhibited. They are now prompted to investigate themselves and discover what it was that stopped the positive, meaningful flow.

Now, this is a very powerful technique when it comes to self-help. When you are stuck in a negative cycle and don’t know what to do next, instead of confusing yourself with “why“ and stepping into a loop of negative destruction, use the phrase “what’s stopping me?” instead. This allows you to investigate and the answers that you find, as these are your own leads that will help you to access the negative emotions that have kidnapped the positive answers to your challenges.

Unless you remove the negative emotions, you will not be able to liberate a positive thought process and uncover the key that will open up the door behind which the answers to your questions lie.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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