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Could you? vs. Would you?

By Karen Card

Are you speaking the same language as the opposite sex? There are some differences in how men and women speak to each other that seem small and yet can have significantly different results.

For instance, most women do not see a difference in using “Could you ___?” versus “Would you ____?” to ask a question or make a request. Some women even think it is more polite to use “could you”. On the other hand, most men can see a big difference between “could” and “would”, and may even get insulted by a question or request that starts with “could you”.

A woman asking a man, “Could you mow the grass?” is heard by a man as insulting and manipulative, because obviously he COULD mow the grass if he wanted to. After all, he is physically capable of working a lawn mower. The question is not could he, but will he? For a woman to be more successful in getting her requests met, she needs to ask for things in “his” language. Rather than asking, “Could you mow the grass?” she needs to ask in a more direct way using “would you” or “will you”. By asking him, “Will you mow the grass, today?” she is more likely to get the response she wants.

Men: When you find yourself resisting a request from a woman, try to remember the exact wording of her request. Did she use “could” or “would”? Then you can let her know you are more likely to answer with a YES to a “would you” or “will you” question rather than a “could you” or “can you” request.

Women: Even if you do not see a difference in these words, just understand that men do. If you want him to say YES to your requests, be direct and use a “w” word: “would you” or “will you” and not the “c” word: “could you” or “can you”.

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