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Male Brain Biology 101

By Dr. Noelle Nelson

There you are, your honey and you, basking in the post-dinner, kids-tucked-in-calm, watching TV before turning in for the night. Well, sort-of watching. Your favorite sit-com is over, and your mate is channel surfing. You figure this is a great time to talk about replacing the hot water heater; after all, nothing much is going on. So you ask, "Honey, what do you think - should we go to Home Depot this weekend and pick out a water heater and see if we can install it ourselves, or do you want to look into getting a contractor - although they're so expensive, and I don't know right now if that's a good idea - but anyway, we really do need to do something about that water heater and . . ."

Your mate is looking at you with the same expression he has when he bites into a sour fruit. "What?" you ask. "Do we have to talk about this now?" he replies. "Well, why not?" you ask. "Cause we're watching TV," he answers, clicking the remote. "We're not exactly watching," you snap, frustrated. "I'm watching," he retorts, clicking away. "OK, fine," you sputter, "You never want to talk about anything." Your sweetheart looks dejected. "That's not true. I just don't want to talk about it now." You roll your eyes. "I'm going to bed." You wonder, what is wrong with men? Why is getting them to talk about anything such a big deal?

Because “talking” is hard for a lot of men. You see, women are generally great talkers - they express themselves freely to most anybody, anytime, on just about any subject.

Gals will start a deep conversation while having their nails done, or during a commercial in response to something prompted by the TV show they're watching. Men are quite different. For starters, men usually prefer to attend to one thing at a time. If they're watching TV, they're watching TV (don't be fooled by the channel surfing, they're still watching TV). If they're cooking, they're cooking. If they're changing a tire, they're changing a tire. Few men are comfortable doing any of the above and having a conversation about something else.

These differences between men and women aren't just stories, they're biologically based. Recent research has shown that male and female brains are composed of different amounts of grey and white matter. Women's brains contain about 15% to 20% more grey matter than men's, which gives women more processing power, facilitating their multi-tasking abilities so often envied by male friends and spouses. The white matter in female brains is found primarily in that area of the brain which links the brain's two hemispheres, making it easier for women's brains to respond to verbal tasks, which is one of the reasons why women are usually better at talking than their partners are.

Men have more white matter than women do in their brains overall, giving them that uncanny ability to parallel park in two swift accurate maneuvers, as opposed to women's three or more stabs at it, and to glance in the trunk of the car and say "Oh, sure, that'll fit," while the woman in their life is saying "No way," when yes indeed, it fits. The white matter is also what allows men's single-mindedness, the ease with which they can focus all their attention on one task, even if that does drive women nuts when they want his attention on several things at once.

Respect your man's biology! If you want to talk with your mate about a matter of consequence, make sure nothing else is going on so he doesn't feel torn between two (or more) points of attention. And then, be attentive. Wait. Many men don't have thoughts just ready to pop out on cue, they have to dig deep, rummage around in their minds, so that their next thought will be considered, genuine. His thought process deserves your respect, not your impatience.

With just a little attention to your guy's different brainpower, you may find he's a much better conversationalist than you ever thought possible.

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a respected psychologist, consultant, speaker and author. "Men Are is Wonderful--And Yours Can Be Too!" (Free Press, will be published in January 2009. For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives through appreciation--at work, at home and in relationships. E-mail:], website:

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