Words With Dates: Similarity in Language Use is Important Too!

In the past, there has been an abundance of research focusing on what will start a relationship and what will make a relationship more likely to last.   We here at eHarmony Labs, as well as many academics from around the world, have found that similarity in values, interests, and personality traits will make initial attraction and overall success of a relationship more likely.  But what about how people interact with each other?

A recent study however looked at the similarities in language use between two people, namely potential daters and those in relationships.  By looking at the similarities in the use of function words (like pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, etc.) it is possible to examine how aligned people are to one another in the natural course of conversation.

In a speed dating context, the researchers found that similarities in language usage in potential daters would significantly increase the likelihood of romantic attraction.  In couples who were already in relationships, this study found that couples were more likely to remain together if they had shown similar language use 3 months prior.  These findings were found even while controlling for how similar each person felt to each other as well as relationship satisfaction.

So what does this mean?  Overall the non-conscious similar use of these function words works to create better communication and mutual understanding.  Apart from how similar we feel to another person in general, this underlying similar use of function words can make you feel more engaged in conversation with the other person, and leads you to feel more attracted to them and more likely that you will stay in a relationship with that person.  This adds to previous research in language use in couples that has shown that married couples who use the terms ‘we’ more often than ‘you’ have lower divorce rates and higher relationship satisfaction.  So next time you’re exchanging emails or texts with a potential date, take a moment to compare the similarity in your pronouns, it could show you more than you think!


Here are some similar articles from eHarmony Labs you might enjoy:

Imitation is Good for Your Relationships – Similarity in emotional facial expressions and writing styles lead to greater happiness.

The Five Love Languages – How do you best express your love?

We? Oui. – Can the word “we” instead of “me” or “you” actually improve your relationship?


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