When a woman asks a man a “How-could-you?” question such as, “How could you forget?” it usually means she is upset about something. She actually wants to better understand the situation and feels that her question is a harmless expression of her feelings. She most often will ask a “How could you” question rather than stating her negative feelings, “I am mad that you forgot.”
Because women tend to speak more indirectly and men speak more directly, there is a difference in the message that is heard by a “How could you” question. While she is expressing negative feelings about a situation, he is feeling directly attacked. For men, a “How could you” question is derogatory, insulting and demeaning. While women think the question is harmless, for most men, this type of question means it is time for a fight.
ADVICE TO MEN: Recognize that her use of a “How could you” question is not intended as a direct attack on you. If you respond defensively, she will likely become even more upset. Instead, try to respond in a way that explains your situation and also lets her talk and express her negative feelings. If she feels you are listening and really care about her, she will be able to respond back to you in a positive way.
ADVICE TO WOMEN: Try to avoid all “How could you” questions and instead use direct statements. Instead of saying, “How could you do that?” try a more direct approach and say, “I don’t like it when you do that.” Men respond much better to direct statements and requests, than they do to “How could you” questions that they feel are very insulting.