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Are you a compatible couple? It may depend on your speaking style Add to ...

How compatible a couple is may depend on how alike they are when they speak, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at individual speaking style as determined by so-called “functional words––such as “the,” “a,” “be,” “anything,” “that,” “and,” and “will.” Such words aren’t nouns but how we use them is a fundamental determinant of our speaking and writing style, according study co-author James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Function words are highly social and they require social skills to use,” he explained in a release. “For example, if I’m talking about the article that’s coming out, and in a few minutes I make some reference to ‘the article,’ you and I both know what the article means.” Someone who wasn’t part of the earlier conversation, however, wouldn’t know what “the article” meant.

Two studies were used to examine how people’s speaking and writing styles could predict dating behaviour and the long-term strength of relationships.

In one study, pairs of college students had four-minute speed dates. Their conversations were recorded. While most pairs went over familiar territory–What’s your major, where are you from?–text analysis showed that the pairs whose language style matched one another’s were almost four times as likely to want to meet again compared to pairs whose speaking styles scored below average in language synchrony.

The second study, which looked at online conversations between dating couples over the course of 10 days, found that couples who speak alike stay together: nearly 80 per cent of the couples with similar writing styles were still dating three months later, while on 54 per cent of the couples whose speaking stills didn’t fit together so well were still together.

Wondering if you and your partner have matching language styles? Prof. Pennebaker is here to help. Check out is “In Synch: Language Style Matching” application online.

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Follow on Twitter: @Dave_McGinn


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