Can’t is a word I hear almost every day whilst working with patients, short for ‘cannot’ it implies that the individual considers that they are unable to do a particular activity or reach a specific goal, I heard these three examples today whilst consulting;

I can’t go back to work.
I can’t lose weight.
I can’t cope. 

This article gives you a structured response that can help you coach the ‘can’ out of a can’t do.

In general any approach is better than the Pantomime approach, that a lot of managers, bosses and even doctors still use, when responding to a ‘can’t statement’, the pantomime approach gets you caught in a loop of;

‘I can’t’
‘Oh yes you can’
‘Oh no I can’t’ ……..etc.

Not only does this approach get you into direct confrontation, this confrontation leads to further polarisation and is not solution based.

So here’s an ordered coaching approach with a set of questions to ask when you hear a can’t statement that methodically pushes a client or a patient from their problem into a solution from a variety of different angles.

1. Dispute their world.
This questions the reason and belief for the can’t statement.

How do you know that? What do you need to know to know that’s not true?
Repeat back to them their can’t statement and add a because ….. to look for a reason.
What are you not telling yourself?

2. Explore the reverse of their statement.
This explores the opposite of their statement, and looks at would would happen if they could.

What’s the most likely thing that would happen if you could?
What are we not thinking of?
What haven’t you tried yet?
Imagine if you could, how can you ? or how would you …..?

3. Give back control.
One method is to simply replace the can’t with a won’t so that the presupposition is that that the person has control and is making a decision to do, or not to do something, it also helps the individual think of any remaining barriers that’s stopping them achieve what they need to do.

So why won’t you…..?
So what’s stopping you? Why haven’t you decide not to do this before?
What would other people think if you did?

3. Blow up their ‘Can’t’ into something unbelievable.
This works by making what they have said to you not an absolute, and not a general rule and to explode it into a myth.

Are you saying that it’s totally impossible to…..that there’s no way…..
Has anyone else ever……..?
What did they do to……?
Can you think of anything else that’s impossible that you can do now?
What other things can you do? and… and…..

4. Explore their past.
This works by identifying past success and brings resources from the past back to the present.

Have you ever managed to do this before?
look back, what helped you in the past, and can you do that now?
What is it you need to do now? Then explore their solution more.

5. Explore their future.
This starts to look at future goals, even imagined ones takes someone out of a problem mindset.

So what would happen if you did?
Can you imagine what you would do if you could?
How does that look to you? how do you feel about that?

7. Explore the solution.
By exploring any solution it takes the conversation from a problem into a solution, it also helps gain the motivation through visualising outcomes, this is done by exploring any solution the client comes up with using Cartesian questioning.

What would happen if you did?
What would happen if you didn’t?
What wouldn’t happen if you did?
What wouldn’t happen if you didn’t?

8. Explore their present.
It’s also important to bringing any solution back into now, this makes it real and this is an essential step before any goal planning can happen, to do this bring resources or solutions from the past or the future.

So what is it you are not doing now?
So what can you do now about that? and
what would you need to do now to make that happen?

9. Make the solution smaller.
This works by breaking up a solution into small achievable steps, because it is easier to believe that smaller steps are possible.

So what’s the next step?
Can’t you think of the next step?
What’s the simplest thing you can do?
How can you do that every day to make it happen?
There must be something easier than that?
Can’t you think of the perfect solution here?
What is it you are not doing now?  

In Summary.

‘Can’t’ and many other absolute statements can all be approached using this method, I’m sure I’ve missed a few tricks, so feel free to contribute and get in touch if you have any other approaches.