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The answer lies in the male and female brains; Bridging the great gender divide can feel a bit like knitting soup. Emma Pomfret tries to discover why the battle of the sexes will never be won.

Why won't he ever ask for directions? Why does he never listen to me? And why does she always want to talk about our relationship as soon as I switch on the television?

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. These age-old disputes between the sexes are common to almost every relationship, according to Dr Marianne Legato, author of Why Men Never Remember And Women Never Forget.

But rather than simply explain away our conflicts with sweeping statements about how all men are insensitive and all women are over-emotional, Legato says the key to resolving our differences lies in understanding the way each other's brains work.

"This has been the decade of the brain and there has been a lot of new research into how male and female brains significantly differ in both operation and response to stimulation in the outside world - even the way that we respond to memories and recall them is different," she explains.

"Our sense of ourselves as male or female is hardwired into the brain and is probably determined as early as the first third of pregnancy.

"In fact, at some point during the first trimester there are many irreversible structural and functional details embedded into our brains that will determine how we will behave later in life.

"Men's brains are larger than women's but women have more cells in some areas of the brain, particularly those that control speech and the generation of language.

"In general women use more than one centre in the brain to do cognitive tasks - for example if a woman reads a story then more than one area of the brain will light up to retain that memory.

"So women not only talk more but they have larger vocabularies," she adds.

Unfortunately however, Legato reveals that in the heat of an argument, women do tend to think less clearly then men.

"Men are much better at being logical and asking 'what's your point?' and so it is better to tell them exactly what you want rather than trying to get them to read your mind.

"Women also tend to remember sad or troublesome things in great detail and so one of our habits is not only to talk for a long time but also to refer to episodes in the past, which men probably won't even remember.

"The other interesting thing is that women can't let go of a fight -that is because we have a lot of brain wiring to the adrenal gland, which prompts the stress hormone cortisol.

"Cortisol persists for 24 hours in women whereas in men the levels drop straight away and they feel energised and optimistic the next day."

Dr Legato's laws of communication include:

PUT HIM ON ALERT

"Listening may well be harder for men than it is for women. As a result I have found that it helps to let a man know when you're about to say something you really want him to hear," says Legato.

ASK HIM FOR HELP

"The partners in our lives aren't required to act as our sounding boards - out of respect why not be courteous and ask him to listen?"

PICK A CONVENIENT TIME

Legato says that her friend John always asks if she has the time to talk - if not, he's never insulted but asks when a more convenient time might be and calls back then.

"I suspect he extends a similar courtesy to his wife, which may be one of the reasons behind their long and successful marriage," she says.

ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT

"It's everyone's impulse - especially a man's - to want to solve a problem when presented with one. Unfortunately, a solution isn't always what you're looking for. Tell your listener what you want at the start of the conversation' it will help him respond in the way you hope he will."

SAY WHAT YOU MEAN

"We know that men find it more difficult to decode non-verbal expressions than women do, especially those on the female face - so say what you're thinking out loud!" Legato recommends.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

"Make simple declarative points in order' don't gild the lily - illustrate your point with anecdotes."

STICK TO THE POINT

"Once you're angry, it's easy to get in touch with every single hurt feeling you've had in the relationship - I realise that banishing the memory, and the impact, of a previous argument or betrayal is easier said than done, but I suggest that you make an attempt."

BELIEVE WHAT YOU HEAR

Legato advises listening to your partner - if he tells you that he has no time for a serious relationship that means that he has no time for a serious relationship.

Why Men Never Remember And Women Never Forget, by Dr Marianne J Legato, is published by Rodale International, priced pounds 7.99.

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Emma Pomfret
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 25, 2006
Words:802
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