The other day a friend was saying to me that he’d been involved in an investigation at work, and colleagues were asking him for details (gossip).

He said he’d been telling them, “I can’t say anything.”

Got me to thinking of the difference between “can’t” and “won’t”.

  • Can’t is more, “I’d like to, but I don’t have a choice in keeping quiet.” It’s a way of keeping social care of those who have asked, even if they should know better. The authority deciding sharing or not is external.

  • Won’t is a personal choice. “I’m choosing not to tell you because of my personal values.” It risks people pressuring you and social damage. The authority deciding sharing or not is internal.

Obviously, if someone responds, “I shouldn’t,” then sit down and listen to it all. Facts and speculation combined.