We can learn a lot from just one word. And according to psychologist James Pennebaker, no word reveals more about our hearts and minds than the word ‘I.’ In fact, here’s what you need to know about that one little word, according to Pennebaker’s book, The Secret Life of Pronouns:

  • ‘I’ tells people about our personality. Just count how many times you hear others say it. Pennebaker says people who rarely say ‘I’ tend to come across as confident, almost to the point of being snobby. While those who say it a lot come across as more personal, warm and approachable because they’re revealing themselves to you.
  • ‘I’ tells others about our honesty. In fact, Pennebaker describes the word as, quote: “a linguistic lie detector.” That’s because when people tell the truth, they’ll say ‘I’ more. But when people are lying, our expert says they tend to say ‘I’ less, as a way of distancing themselves from their lies. So, instead of saying “I went to the bar at six,” a liar may say, “the bar was open at six.”
  • ‘I’ tells people about our relationship status. The thinking here is that if you and your partner say ‘I’ at about the same rate, it means you’re romantically compatible because you’re literally speaking the same language! But if one of you spends a lot of time talking about “me, myself, and I” – and the other doesn’t – then it makes sense that your romance probably isn’t going to last.

Lesson Expert

Ben Harris

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