Gail Shak, Ph.D. - Licensed Psychologist, Burlingame, California
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Gail Shak, Ph.D.
405 Primrose Road
Suite 205
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 375-1588
License: PSY 10401



"Vive la Difference: His Brain, Her Brain — Why Can't We Just Get Along?" Interviews with Gail Shak, Ph.D., and Marianne Legato, M.D.

Men excel at focusing on a single task and coming up with a solution. Following an extreme bout of anger, men get over it more quickly than women. Want to talk to a guy about something important? Be direct, and tell him what you want.

These commonly held beliefs about men are more than clichés. A medically based explanation lies behind each one, Marianne J. Legato, M.D., explains in her book, "Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget."

"I'm interested in the profound and important differences between men and women, which are much more significant than doctors know and admit," says Dr. Legato, a pioneer in the field of gender-specific medicine. Dr. Legato recently spoke at the sixth annual Mills-Peninsula Women's Luncheon.

Intrigued by the question of what makes men and women medically different from one another, in 1997 Dr. Legato founded the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University where today she serves as director.

"Most recently, I've been interested in the explosion of research about the differences in men's and women's brains," she says in an interview from her New York City office.

Following publication of "Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget" in 2005, Dr. Legato embarked on a speaking tour to share new findings such as physiological differences that effect how men and women listen and communicate with one another. Often women in the audience approached her after a lecture.

"Two women said to me quite seriously, 'Had I heard this lecture years ago, I wouldn't have divorced my husband,'" Dr. Legato says. "Another woman said, 'What am I going to do with the 50 percent of my time I've been spending blaming my husband?'"

The answer to this question sums up much of Dr. Legato's message: Learn to appreciate and practice your partner's strengths and coping strategies.

For instance, the woman who blamed her husband for not being more like she was a "corporate dynamo" married to a less professionally ambitious spouse. The solution she adopted involved focusing less on her husband's upward mobility and more on his domestic stability, including what a great father he is and his extreme patience in helping their son with schoolwork.

Mills-Peninsula Psychologist Gail Shak, Ph.D., offers similar advice to couples she counsels at her Burlingame office.

"I love the title Dr. Legato chose for her book," Dr. Shak says. "Her work and the work I do with couples share a central premise that men and women can learn from each other. Learning from our partner's best coping strategies helps us to bridge the space between us and build intimacy."

Many differences that can complicate relations with the opposite sex stem from our biological make up. When it comes to communication, men and women's brains do not operate identically.

The language center for both sexes resides in the left half of the brain. Women, however, have more nerve cells in the left side and greater connectivity between both halves. One 2000 study at Indiana University, for example, demonstrated that when interpreting full sentences, men used a single specific area of the brain while women employed the same area on both sides of the brain.

Dr. Legato concludes that such differences may make listening to, understanding and producing speech easier for women. These findings may shed light on why so many couples treated by psychotherapists such as Dr. Shak report similar communication and problem-solving struggles.

"Often to relieve stress, a man will retreat into his mind to work on solving a problem," Dr. Shak says. "But women find satisfaction in talking about a problem, sharing their feelings and working it out verbally."

The conflict in style often creates tension.

The answer, Dr. Shak says, is to give your partner what your partner needs, not what you would need in a similar situation.

"My advice to men is to realize how effective they can be by being empathic, and by listening to and validating the experiences of their partners," she says. "A woman's challenge is to support her partner when he's not being verbally expressive and to let him know she appreciates when he's listening."

(Reprinted from "Healthpoint Magazine", Summer 2007)

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