Early in a relationship, addressing you and your s.o. as "we" can rub your friends the wrong way. But using "we" with abandon in any other context can be a total power move, according to new research. A study conducted by the University of Texas suggests pronouns send subliminal signals of social status. Who knew?
According to James W. Pennebaker, chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin, people who refer to themselves as "we" more frequently than "I" or "you" are of a higher social standing. He believes: "The high-status person is looking out at the world and the low-status person is looking at himself." Which translates to the high-status person addressing those in dialogue as "we," instead of the accusatory connotations of "you."
"Pronouns signal where someone's internal focus is pointing," says Dr. Pennebaker. "I," in this case, is often seen as a self-reflective term. Ironically, it can also signal a person's lack of self-assurance, too. Most people associate the term with egotistical narcissists, but research has shown differently. One of Dr. Pennebaker's five tests revealed that a random analysis of military e-mails showed those of higher rank used "I" less often. It's a subconscious decision we all make in confrontational situations. "If I am the high-status person," Dr. Pennebaker explains, "I am thinking of what you need to do. If I am the low status person, I am more humble and am thinking, 'I should be doing this.'"
Using the pronoun, especially in a long-term relationship or friendship, can be a tricky road to navigate. Dr. Pennebaker believes that when in doubt, use it. It's better than "you" because people often feel accused when addressed that way. At the end of the day, though, "I" is merely a gauge you can use to check your own honesty. Be more aware of the words you use and the manner in which you address others, and yourself. You might find you'll learn more about you than you expected. (Wall Street Journal)
Photo: via Wall Street Journal.