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butterflykisses's avatar

What is the best wording to use when asking someone to do something for you?

Asked by butterflykisses (1376points) December 12th, 2009
26 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

I really want to know how to get someone to do what I ask, in the most effective wording. I have heard there is a way to ask someone to do something and it gets the desired response much better than others. For example: Will you? vs Can you? or Would you? vs Could you?

Of course manors are understood.

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janbb's avatar


butterflykisses's avatar

LOL edited..

ragingloli's avatar


AuntieEm's avatar

Appeal to people’s innate desire to be helpful and toss a little sincere acknowledgment of their special abilities on top and you have a high chance of success.

Ie: Tom, I could really use your help with setting up my new computer since you are a whiz with them.

If you are sincere in your request and praise you aren’t manipulating and, usually, you both feel good about the exchange.

ModernEpicurian's avatar

@AuntieEm has given some great advice, but I can’t stress enough that the sincerity of the phrasing and mannerism must be true. There is nothing worse than someone doing that and just being false.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

“Tom, I know how busy you are. I bought a new computer and I’ve been trying to get it set up, but am having problems. I wonder if you would have some time over the next few days to come over and help me get it set up?”

Acknowledge the imposition.
State what needs to be done.
State that self-sufficiency hasn’t worked.
Be flexible as to the time parameters, but if there are constraints, state them up front before the person has to agree to help you.
Thank them profusely for agreeing to help. If they can’t help, ask them to suggest who might be able to.

littleGirlLost's avatar

Get them a cup of tea or coffee then pose the question!

PandoraBoxx's avatar

In the case of the language cited in your example,

Can you means are you able to
Will you means will you agree to
Would you means will you have the time to
Could you means could you arrange your time so that you are able to

charliecompany34's avatar

can you do me a favor?

butterflykisses's avatar

Thank you for responding, great answers! Now I wonder what about the simple task like closing a window…or opening a door. I know it sounds silly, but I really do want to know,I don’t like giving orders but want to get the desired effect.

Saying ” Please close that window.” sounds bossy

Saying “Could you please close that window?” I wonder if that leaves too much choice

Saying “Would you please close that window?” to me sounds right but I am not sure.

Saying “Can you please close that window?” is mocking to me…

Saying “Will you please close that window?” sounds all wrong…but it may be right??

LOL I am not good with words..sign language is my first language so one sign covers all the above..LOL

Thanks again for all the replies…=)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

How about, “Tom, it’s getting a little chilly in here. Would you close the window, please?”

butterflykisses's avatar

Ok now here is another one…Tom’s work station is a mess! he is otherwise a good worker, would it be right to say: “Tom, your work station needs a little TLC, would you please straighten it up a bit?

OY I am awful at these things… I can give compliments so well but it is so hard when it comes to these things. I always end up sounding so wishy washy and like a big ol push over. =(

I would normally stammer around the topic and say something like “Tom!! I can’t find you in there…laugh ( talk about something else) come back to it and say ” If you have time today do you think you could straighten this station up?” laugh Tom would say “Oh yeah I will, if I get time.” AND he never does…=( I am so lame…I hate telling people what to do…specially when it is a flaw like being messy or unkept. =( It is uncomfortable for everyone but I can’t be a push over solves nothing.

Shemarq's avatar

Saying “please” goes a long way.

HighShaman's avatar

Please is very good in most cases ; BUT if it is overused abd abused… people will start saying “NO” .

LeopardGecko's avatar

You have to be be upfront with what you want but cannot make a demand, you need to make it as a request. Don’t beg either.
Say something like: “Could you please get me a glass of milk” not “Could you get me a glass of milk, please” Although they are the exact same words, where you put some of them changes the entire meaning. Also, when using the first example, don’t be overly friendly or give a huge smile after saying it or say “please” like “pleeeeeaaase” .

ratboy's avatar

Tom, do you see this gun in my hand?

AuntieEm's avatar

@ratboy @buttkisses @PandoraBoxx – we sure have poor old Tom awfully busy :)

AuntieEm's avatar

@ModernEpicurian – You’re right.. sincerity is the key. Manipulation is just icky and most people can spot it a mile away. And for me, it is guaranteed to make me very uncooperative :)

Trissinger's avatar

I think it was in the book ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ that I’d read, when asking one ‘from Mars’ something, ’:) preface the request with “Would you…?” instead of “Could you…?”

Apparently, if the survey reported in the book is viable, the male sex hears or interprets the latter question as more of a challenge as to whether or not “he is able to do…” what is questioned, whereas posing a question in the “Would you…?” format is seen as a kind request to do such and such.

?—- Any input on that one, fellows?

Berserker's avatar

Draws sword.

Don’t piss me off, and get to it.


butterflykisses's avatar

@ Trissinger That makes sense..LOL That is kind of what I am talking about. I need to figure out a way to use wording that is effective much like you have described here. Leopard said it well too. The arrangement of the wording. I don’t want to sound like a bossy b*tch or a complete push over. Thank you! =)

TheJoker's avatar

Psychologically “will you”, is the least abrasive. However the key is to get the person into the ‘yes’ frame of mind before you ask the question. Talk to them first & ask questions to which you know the answer is ‘yes’. Then when you come to asking to real question they’ll be in the right frame of mind….. it’s an old trick.

littleGirlLost's avatar

@TheJoker very cool answer lol :)

Trissinger's avatar

@butterflykisses About ‘Tom’—- if you’re his superior at work and he is responsible to you for what he does, and he definitely is unable to do his job because he can’t find his work in all of the mess, then stand in a self-assured way, hands at your sides, and say in kindness something that isn’t a ‘heavy-hitting comment’ but lighter in tone yet with enough ‘firmness’ that he knows you mean business, hold eye contact with him as you speak to him and ask him to clean up his desk in a “Would you…?” kind of way. (You may need to practice this in front of a mirror or with a friend, first.) Let him know you’ll be by later on in the day to see how he’s doing with the job. Of course, its always wise to use the ‘sandwhich technique’ to say a few comments of praise to ‘Tom’ before (and possibly after) your request, as well. Though, if Tom thinks you’re a big ‘pushover,’ don’t even phrase it as a question—- do the same as I’d suggested above in a kind, firm tone and simply state your expectations and when you would like to see the improvement made, following it up with feedback later on, praising him for progress, even if its not done perfectly.

But if he’s simply a co-worker and his mess bothers you, well, that’s kind of a ‘tough luck’ situation for you—- in this scenario, guess you’d just have to learn to live with his ‘messy desk’ nearby.

butterflykisses's avatar

I am the boss..Tom is my maid…she is a good maid..but there are things I need her to do and didn’t know how to ask without sounding like a wack job

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