Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Can't vs. Won't

I hate it when I hear people tell they can't. I hear this at work a lot.

"Sorry, can't do it without the proper form."
"Oh, we can't do it that way."

And I hear it from people in customer service all the time.

Me: "Can you please make sure my three-day service package arrives at its destination in the three days I requested?"
Them: "Oooh, sorry. We can't."

The word "can't" necessarily applies to some situations: I can't go to the moon tomorrow. (That's really the only example I could think of.)

What "can't" really means is: you won't.

That's probably why it's so irritating to hear "can't." I'm sorry to go all self-helpy on you here, but how many times have you said "I can't" or "I won't"? It's okay to say you won't, but don't pass it off as can't.

You can't be a published writer? Or you won't put the time into it to make it happen?
You can't get an agent? Or you won't take a look at what's wrong with your plot, query, letter?
You can't finish your book? Or you won't find the time to?
You can't find the motivation? Or you won't give up watching American Idol in order to?
You can't be a better writer? Or you won't put the time into learning how to write?

It's up to you to do what you will and won't, but personally, I try very hard not to say can't anymore.What I am really saying is I won't-- and I try not to say this, either.

Listen to the next time you hear someone say they can't do something for you. See what they're really saying.

6 comments:

Travener said...

I can't say I disagree with you -- or, at least, I won't say so.

Tina Lynn said...

I can't figure out a way to top Travener's snarky response.

Tara McClendon said...

My mom always said, "Can't couldn't cook a biscuit if he was starving." In this case won't works as well.

Jm Diaz said...

I can't stop reading this... maybe I won't! Pfft... try and make me.

I know what you mean though... My dad always told me: "If you THINK you CAN'T, then guess what? You're right"

Stephanie Thornton said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! This post is a great reminder! I've put myself in the mindset that I am going to get published. I just have to work a little every day and eventually my manuscript will be ready. It's a long road, but I can do it!

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I can't imagine a world without American Idol.

However, this year I vow to text votes with only my left hand while I write with the right.

(Kidding. I totally don't vote for contestants on Idol.)

(Well, I did vote for Katharine McPhee. Okay?! I admit it. But I don't vote anymore.)

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