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Yup. Nope. Maybe.–A Guide to Communicating with Men

with David Thomas, Stephen James | August 20, 2007

Counselors Stephen James and David Thomas, authors of the book "Yup." "Nope." "Maybe."," share some valuable insights about communicating with men.

Counselors Stephen James and David Thomas, authors of the book "Yup." "Nope." "Maybe."," share some valuable insights about communicating with men.

Yup. Nope. Maybe.–A Guide to Communicating with Men

With David Thomas, Stephen James
August 20, 2007
| Download Transcript PDF

Stephen: Women tend to communicate in a more process-oriented way.  They tend to talk about things, talk around things, talk through things.  Men, we're more action-oriented.  We want to get to the solution of things.  And so as we talked we're moving in direction.  Women are moving in process.  And so we both wanted the same thing, we're just sometimes walking over each other and around each other and by each other in the process.

[Song:  "What Did You Say?"]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 20th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to look today at a number of reasons why couples who share a common language can still have a lot of trouble communicating.

(Song:  "What Did You Say?"]

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You know, when I get home at night, I usually – I greet Mary Ann and say, "Hey, honey, how was your day" and give her a hug.  And then when I see my son David, I go, "'Sup, Dude?"  You know, we really do communicate differently when we're communicating just man-to-man than we do when we're communicating husband and wife, don't we?

Dennis: We do.

Bob: And that's probably a good thing, isn't it?  If I cam home to Mary Ann and said, "'Sup, Dude?" it probably wouldn't work.

Dennis: I don't think she's looking for a buddy relationship.  Genesis 1:27 says, "And God created man in His own image."

Bob: Right.

Dennis: "In the image of God He created them," and listen to these next three words, "male and female, He created them."  And it has been 34 years of me exploring and finding out how really different we are as a couple.

Bob: Have you got it figured out yet?

Dennis: What do you think?  I have a greater appreciation for the genius of God and how He made my wife and how much I need her, but we have a couple of …

Bob: You think she's listening, don't you?  That's why you said it [laughing].

Dennis: No, I really don't, that's the truth.  I honestly – I do have a great appreciation – in fact, I feel like Barbara and I have spent the last three or four years learning, in a fresh way, to appreciate one another's differences, and language is one of those ways we're different.

Bob: It is one of those ways and, you know, you've heard guys say for years that women speak a whole lot more words than guys speak, and guys tend to be more kind of bottom-line in their communication, and women tend to be more emotional in their communication, and we've talked about these things on FamilyLife Today, and yet I think it's always helpful to come at it from a fresh angle and to reconsider the subject, because I'm still learning, too, you know?

Dennis: I think we have a fresh angle today.  In fact, the name of this book has to be the – one of the most creative of any interviews we've ever done.  Now, I want all the female listeners to listen carefully to the name of this book.

Bob: Yes, because you need to be able to type it into the search engine correctly, you know?

Dennis: At 

Bob: Right.

Dennis: The name of the book is, "Yup" – gotta get that right, guys, is that how you pronounce it?

Stephen: That's right.

Dennis: "Nope.  Maybe."

Bob: That's it?  "Yup.  Nope.  Maybe?"

Dennis: "Yup.  Nope.  Maybe – A Woman's Guide to Getting More out of the Language of Men."

Bob: Now, wait, what more is there?  I mean, there's more than that?  More than yup, nope, maybe?

Dennis: Well, what did you say to your son when he …

Bob: 'Sup, Dude, how ya doin'?

Dennis: There is no doubt about it.  Stephen James and David Thomas join us again on FamilyLife Today.  Guys, welcome back.

Stephen: Thank you so much, we're glad to be here.

David: Good to see you again.

Dennis: It's good to have you guys.  Stephen is a pastor.  He's been married 11 years to his wife, Heather.  They have four children, and that's why he communicates so clearly, yup, nope, and maybe.  David is a counselor, been married 12 years to Connie.  They have three children, two of whom are twins.

David: Yes, twin boys.

Dennis: That's why he communicates yup, nope, and maybe.

Bob: Well, now, wait, he's a counselor, so communication is one those things he's been trained in.  You had a couple come into your office one time and afterwards, as you described it, you said, about him, "Dude can't talk," and about her, "Girl won't shut up," right?

David: That's it.

Bob: Is that typical in a counseling office?  "Dude can't talk and girl won't shut up?"

David: Extremely typical.  In fact, this particular couple, they were engaged.  I did some premarital counseling with them, and the Dude Can't Talk lived out of town, so I would so sessions with them when he was in town.  We'd meet together, and she continued to voice this frustration of "every time we talk on the phone, I come to you with all these questions, things I want to talk about, things I want to ask you, and you give me one-word answers or nothing."

 So she proposed this assignment that she was going to step back, he was going to take the lead, she was going to really sit in silence for some period of time, she said, and wait on him to initiate.

David: This is "Girl Can't Stop Talking?"

Stephen: Yes, exactly.  And I remember thinking, "This thing is going to blow up pretty soon.  I really want to see what comes out of this."  So I signed onto it.  They came back for the following session, and reported in, and evidently it didn't take but one phone call for them to end up in complete silence.  He wasn't initiating anything, and she was screaming, like, "Well, at least tell me what you have on."

Bob: Now, what's going on here?  I mean, why couldn't Dude talk?

David: You know, I don't think it's that he can't talk.  I just think it's the reality, and we speak to this in the book, that we, as men, say more with less, and I think women say more with more.

Dennis: Oh, now, there are going to be some women there …

Bob: So you're saying we're much more efficient?  Much more pragmatic?

Dennis: You know what, Keith, I wasn't going to do this to David, but you know what?  Let's call his wife right now on the phone and, Keith, would you reroll the tape so she could hear what he just said, and I want her to react to that.

Bob: And I think we've got her on the telephone.  Connie, are you there?  Welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Dennis: And, Connie, we're sitting here with your husband, David Thomas, that is your husband, correct?

Connie: Yes.

Dennis: He just made a statement we want to replay for you …

Bob: Before we replay anything, David, anything you want to say to Connie before we play what you just said on the radio?

David: I love you, sweetheart.


Connie: Uh-oh, that makes me nervous.

Dennis: What I want you to do, I want you to listen to this, and then what we'd like you to do is just make a comment about it, as a woman.  We're talking about the differences of how men and women communicate and, as you know, your husband's a counselor, and he was giving some advice to our listening audience.  Keith …

Bob: Can you play back, Keith, what he just said?

Keith: Sure.

Bob: All right.

David: [replay audio] You know, I don't think it's that he can't talk, I just think it's the reality, and we speak to this in the book that we, as men, say more with less, and I think women say more with more.

Bob: What do you think about that?

Connie: Men say more with less?

Bob: I think what your husband was basically saying is that men are remarkably efficient with their words, and women just kind of drone on and on.  I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but that's what you were saying, isn't it?


David: Go ahead, put words in my mouth.

Dennis: What do you think about that, Connie?

Connie: Well, I think it can be true but not always the case.

Bob: Connie, you're being much too gracious.  We're really looking for a little anger and a little …


Connie: Well, you know, it's – I don't know, it doesn't make me feel angry.

Bob: Here is my question – when David comes home at night, and you say, "How was your day," do you get a pretty complete debrief, or do you get just the "Reader's Digest" version?

Connie: You know, with him, he has been doing a whole lot of really intense work as a counselor all day, and so he's pretty tired of talking, and I think it's taken us a while to realize that that's the case.

Bob: And is that okay, that when he comes home, he's been doing a lot of really intense work, so he just says, "It was fine," or "It was tough," or whatever, and you don't get much more than that?  Is that all right?

Connie: I do think David is difference.  I'm really not trying to be unrealistic.  I really think David is different because he cares deeply about my life and what's happened with the kids' world, and so I really – it doesn't take a lot of energy for him to listen, so he's a great listener to what's happened on my day.

 You know, does he always want to talk about his day?  No, not necessarily, but he's a great listener to what's going on in our world.

Dennis: Connie, I know there are some moms that are starting to get angry at us that we've bothered you with twins, and a third child there as well, but I have to ask you this question …

Connie: Sure.

Dennis: What is the number-one lesson you've learned about how men communicate?

Connie: I think, for us, it has required us to be creative because of the nature of David's work and the fact that I'm really pretty spent by the end of the day myself.  I don't often have a lot of chit-chat left in me.

 I think we've kind of worked it out so that I kind of hit the high points of what I really need his consult and really important things that I think we need to talk about, and I also know that he's tired, and so we just kind of figure out a way to – I don't know, I should have some things figured out by this point.

Dennis: Not with two or three toddlers wrapped around your legs.

Connie: That's true.  Each season brings new opportunities, too.

Dennis: Connie, you've been a good sport.  Thanks for allowing us to …

Connie: I'm so sorry for the craziness of this particular moment.

Dennis: You know what?  This is called FamilyLife Today.

Connie: Well, I have a little FamilyLife happening right here in the car.

Dennis: All right, see you later, Connie.

Connie: Thank you.

Dennis: Bye-bye.

Connie: Okay, bye-bye.

Dennis: That did bring back the memories, though, and it's why communication is so important.  It points out why it's so difficult.  I mean, you have a wife who is spent, by her own admission, at the end of the day.  You have a husband who is coming home – or maybe you're both arriving home having worked, and you're exhausted.  But, in the middle of that, you have to appreciate your differences and reach out and meet one another's needs.

Stephen: I think the thing that we miss a lot of time in relationship is that we're a whole lot more alike when it comes to our relational needs than we are different as men and women.  How we go about getting those needs met is sometimes really different.

Bob: Okay, now, wait, explain – I'm not following you.  You say we're alike in our relational needs, but we get them met differently.  Explain what you mean.

Stephen: What we would need out of relationship from a men and women's standpoint is a lot of the same thing.  We all are relational beings created by God for intimacy, and we've found our fulfillment in life only through relationship, through God and ourselves and others. 

 How women go about getting that need met and how men go about getting that need met is really different.  God has made us really differently.  So you put those two people together, and you weave their lives together, and you've got a lot of conflict and a lot of missing each other and a lot of heartache.

Bob: And how did those relational needs intersect with the differences in how we communicate?

Stephen: Women tend to communicate in a more process-oriented way.  They tend to talk about things, talk around things, talk through things.  Men, we're more action-oriented, and we want to get the solution to things.  And so as we talked, we're moving in direction.  Women are moving in process, and so we both want the same thing, we're just sometimes walking over each other and around each other and by each other in the process.

Bob: I know it's a little dangerous to have four guys in the studio and be talking about a book that two guys wrote that helps coach women on how to understand guys' communication because some women are going, "I don't want you guys telling me how to understand you," but let's talk to some wives.  If you were coaching a young wife, and her husband is a yup, nope, maybe, my day was fine, I don't really feel like talking right now, what would you tell that woman?

David: Well, one of the things we did in the book was we would break down a number of different statements that men oftentimes make.  In fact, each chapter is a different statement that a man will commonly make, and we break that down to talk about what's he really saying when he says that?  What's he not saying when he says that.

Dennis: Okay, let's just take a couple of those.

David:  Okay.

Dennis: "I'm not lost."

Stephen: "I'm not lost."  I remember being with my wife one time on a hike early in our relationship, and we had gone to the local park, and we were hiking around, and I was trying to be romantic and take us off into the adventure and into the woods and have a great day, and as we're hiking, it became pretty clear to me I didn't have a clue where we were.  And she is pretty certain we're lost, and I'm pretty certain we're not.  And what was really going on in me was, "If I tell her we're lost, she's not going to trust me.  If I ask for help, she's going to feel vulnerable.  She's going to know I'm clumsy, and nothing good is going to happen," and God's glory prevailed, and right when I was about to make a confession about being lost, we took a turn in the trail, and there was the parking lot, and I got us out there safe and sound and, to my own ego, she's – we're driving home, and I look over, and I said to her, "I told you I knew where we were."

Dennis: So you didn't ever admit it.

Stephen: Oh, gosh – well, I just did now, I guess.

Bob: You're a poser, that's what we call guys like you, you're a poser.

Stephen: But I think there's something in the heart of a man that's been there since the beginning that needs direction, craves for direction, and wants to explore and look for adventure.  And so some of the statement of "I'm not lost," is "I'm not ready to ask for help yet."

Dennis: All right, here is another one – "Can't it wait until halftime?"  How about that one, David?

David: We actually talk about men and sports in that chapter and how men are highly competitive creatures and sometimes that statement of "Can't it wait until halftime," is just "I can't leave the battle."  And men can use sports as a battlefield.  We don't have outlets to really feel adventurous, to feel like warriors sometimes in the day-to-day of life.  They'll really use other men's experience on a field to kind of live through that, and so "Can't it wait until halftime" is kind of a "Leave me alone, I'm kind of living out adventure and risk right now."

Bob: But you know what a wife is thinking at that time, she's thinking, "This stupid game is more important than me and my life," and you're saying to her, "There is more to it than the stupid game.  Your husband is in the middle of something that is a part of what it means to be a guy."

Stephen: That's what we're saying, and we even go …

Bob: Do you think they'll buy it?


Stephen: We hope.  We go a step further than that, too.  I mean, not only do we kind of take women to that place, introduce the idea of this may be some of what's going on in his heart, this may be some of what's behind that statement, but we go a step further with that into saying, "Okay, and if that be true, here is some of what to do with that," I mean, here is a way that you can love him, care for him, bless him, encourage him, draw him out in that process.

Dennis: Okay, let's take one more – and I can hear myself saying this – "You know, your problem is" …

Bob: And whatever you say next you're in trouble.

Stephen: Oh, you're definitely in trouble.  This happened to me this week.  Tuesday my wife was at a Bible study at church.  The woman was speaking about relationships and about how we parent our kids and all those things, and my wife called me later.  It was very confessional and talking about how she overreacted with one of our children and how she felt badly about that and how God convicted her of that.

 And I went immediately to, "Well, you know what your problem is?"

Bob: "You know what you need to do."

Stephen: You know what you need to do – and, really, in the core of my heart I was trying to meet her in that place, but instead of being with her, I gave her direction.  I gave her a solution as opposed to stepping into the moment of "I understand what you're saying and let me sit with you in it."

Bob: And how did that work for you?

Stephen: Not well at all.

Bob: What happened? 

Stephen: By that evening, I had called and apologized before I came home, and she had forgiven me.

Bob: When did you know "I really messed up there?"

Stephen: I called a friend and told him how badly the conversation went and how my wife is stubborn, and he shook his head at me, and he said, "Oh, you didn't.  Oh, you didn't."  And I said, "What?  What?"  He said you so harmed your wife.  She opened up to you, and then you told her what to do and tried to fix her, and she's not a problem to be fixed, she's a woman to be loved.

 But I think what women need to understand in that is a man is not trying necessarily to fix you, he's trying to be with you, and what men do so well is we engage problems and try to solve them.

Dennis: It's part of our DNA to fix stuff.  I mean, it's the default position, and, you know, just to summarize what we've talked about here, it's really encapsulated in 1 Peter, chapter 3, verse 7 – Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way as with a weaker vessel, since she is a co-heir of grace and esteem her and value her differences and how you both are different, and you're going to miss each other.  Learn to keep your sense of humor about your differences at that point, but as both of these gentlemen have shared with us today, find a time when you can talk.

 And, for us, and I'm just identifying with where you guys are in your own families, you know, one of your has four, the other three children, we had to find that time to talk after the children were in bed.  Now, many times we were too exhausted to talk, and we had to delay some of those conversations until the next evening, but find a time that works for you as a couple.

 And then just a word of exhortation around this subject of communication – and this is going to sound like this is off the subject – trust me, it isn't.  If I had a word for young couples starting out their marriages together and trying to embrace their differences and communication and meet one another, it would be this – begin to pray together every day.

 You know, there are a lot of times when we miscommunicate, and we just simply have to forgive each other and give a little grace and forgiveness and just keep moving and not get irritated or ticked off.  And one of the ways that reveals whether we're in a right state in the right sense of being connected to one another is whether you can take your wife by the hand and say, "Sweetheart, let's pray."

 And end each day or perhaps begin each day in prayer.  I think it's one of the most important spiritual disciplines and most powerful forms of communication on the planet.

Bob: You know, the last couple of days have been kind of busy.  I was out of town for a few days and then back in town, and we had some meetings that went late at night and started early in the morning, and I got up this morning, and I looked at Mary Ann before I headed in, and I said, "I remember you.  I know you.  I've seen you before."  And then I said, "We need some time to talk, don't we?"

 And I think just that acknowledgement that I haven't forgotten you, and I'm missing you, too, I think you can – well, I'm hoping you can buy a little time with statements like that, you know, until you do get to the time where you can sit down and say, "So, tell me what's going on with you?  Tell me what's been happening," and, you know, you talk by cell phone along the way, or you catch a moment here or there, but it's not the same as sitting down across the sofa from one another or sitting in bed together at night and just debriefing and, as guys, we've got to remember that's a priority and hopefully women can remember, as well, that not everything we say is really exactly the way it comes out.

Dennis: You mean that yup, nope, and maybe …

Bob: We actually mean, "Yup" means a whole lot more than "yup."  I think that's what we're trying to say.  We've got copies of the book that Stephen and David have written that is called "Yup. Nope. Maybe."  It's a guide for women to better understand how a man communicates, and we've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go to our website at, and in the center of the home page you'll see a red button that says "Go," and if you click that button, it will take you to an area of the website where there is more information about this book and about the book that you've written for husbands to better understand their wives communication.  That book is called "Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat?"

 And, gain, we have both books in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  If you'd like to get a copy of both books, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week with Stephen and with David, and you can listen to it again or pass it along to someone who might benefit from hearing these interviews.

 Again, our website is  Click the red button that says "Go" in the middle of the screen.  It will take you to the area of the site where you'll find more information about these books.  You can order them online, if you'd like.  Or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can have these resources sent out to you.

 Over the last couple of weeks we've been having a lot of fun.  Listeners have been calling us to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and we've been hearing from a lot of folks who are calling to say "We want to respond to some of the challenges that have been initiated by FamilyLife Today listeners." 

 For example, we had listeners in Central Illinois who listen to WBCI radio, and they called, and they said, "We want to challenge other Central Illinois listeners who listen to WBCI.  We want to challenge them to call and make a donation, and some of those other listeners have called now and either matched that challenge or, in some cases, given more than the original challenge, and we appreciate the financial support.

 This Challenge Fund that we've got going on during the month of August is one of the ways we are hoping to end our fiscal year in a positive place financially.  FamilyLife Today is a listener-supported ministry, and it's donations like this that provide more than 65 percent of the funding that we need to continue the work of this ministry.

 So thanks to those of you who have called and issued challenges and thanks to those of you who have called and responded to some of those challenges.  And if you'd like to make a donation today, you can do that online at, or you can call 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY and make a donation over the phone and, again, thanks for your support of this ministry.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to turn the tables a little bit.  Stephen James and David Thomas are going to be back with us, but instead of trying to understand what a man means when he communicates or when he grunts, we're going to talk about what a wife means in the way that she communicates, and we'll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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