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By Eric Barker
September 16, 2014
IDEAS
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

A lot.

Your personality can be determined just by looking at the way you text message. You can make accurate judgments about your favorite author’s personality just by reading their work. You can probably tell a great deal about my personality from the words I use in my blog posts.

Word choice can predict whether you’re depressed, suicidal or lying. Swearing makes you more persuasive. It’s true, asshole:

Word choice changes when you’re lying:

Things that are easy for our brain to process feel more true than concepts that are difficult to process. This is one of the reasons we tend to like the familiar more than the unfamiliar. It’s also why we may fall for the glib and specious versus more accurate but challenging explanations.

It’s also why small words are more effective than big ones and why trying to sound smart actually makes you seem stupid.

Words affect our decision making. When crime is described as a “beast” people favor police and jails, when it’s a “virus” the public supports social reform.

But can words really predict behavior?

Boxers who spoke positively and referenced health and work before a match were more likely to win. Those who spoke tentatively and talked about social factors lost.

Speaking positively and using words related to “insight” is associated with outstanding achievement.

The way employees gossip about a company can predict its success or failure.

Via The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us:

Which CEO’s are going to run a company into the ground? Count the number of times they use the word “I” in their annual letter to shareholders.

Via Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:

That word “I” can be very telling. Powerful people don’t say it much. Less powerful people say it the most. People use “I” rarely when lying in order to psychologically distance themselves.

By the same token, “we” can be extremely powerful. Just saying it can make people feel more positive toward you and create a feeling of familiarity.

Couples who say “we” often when describing their relationships are more satisfied. Use of the word “you” is a bad sign. Using “we” can even predict whether you’ll survive a heart attack.

From The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us:

Mimicking another person’s word choice improves negotiations.

In fact, similarity in word choice can predict who will fall in love. Examining the words of speed daters was more effective at predicting who would get together than watching them interact.

Words aren’t everything though

Your body language may be eight times as influential as your words.

Via The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive:

(More on body language here.)

And in case you were curious: just like you get words stuck on the tip of your tongue, deaf signers get words stuck on the tips of their fingers:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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