This is an important concept when being assertive. When making a request of another person, the majority of people will phrase the request:

"Could you please do X?"

If you really want someone to do something, try phrasing a request:

"Would you please do X?".

The former is simply bringing into question the person's ability to do X: "Can you do X?". "Could you do X if you wanted to?"

The latter questions their intention to do the task: "Will you do X?"

You'd be surprised the difference this makes both in terms of your assertiveness and the results you get.

Picture this: A romantic candle-lit dinner for two: the lighting is dim, the music soft. Just before the desert arrives, your beau takes hold of your hand, looks deep into your eyes and asks:

"Can you marry me?"

People who struggle with the concept of assertiveness will often be found using the awkward:

"Would you be able to..."

Which is just as bad as "Could you". Furthermore, it's one of those annoying turns of phrase that irritate me.