Does the way you speak affect your compatibility with your partner?

Recent research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that couples who speak in a similar way are more suited to each other than those who don’t.

The research looked at “function words”, and how these are used. Examples of this category of words include the, a, be, anything, that, will, him. These words influence both our speaking and writing styles, and these styles were analysed in the recent study. In the first stage, a computer programme was used to analyse speaking styles used in four-minute speed dates between pairs of college students. Whilst the majority of the conversations conducted sounded similar to the naked ear, in general covering similar topics, they actually varied a lot when analysed. Scores were given depending on the similarity of the speaking styles of the pair, and when these marks were above average, the couple in question were “almost four times as likely to want future contact as pairs whose speaking styles were out of sync”.

The second phase of the study looked at internet conversations between couples over ten days. Three months later, almost 80 percent of the couples with similar writing styles were still dating, as opposed to just 54 percent of those who weren’t as similar.

Pennebaker, one of the researchers involved in the project commented: “What’s wonderful about this is we don’t really make that decision; it just comes out of our mouths”.

I wonder if this experiment can only be carried out with people who speak the same language? Is there a way of evolving the research to include those who speak a different language to their partner? Either way, the research highlights yet another fascinating fact about language, an aspect of communicating that, although we may not be aware of it, can affect how we interact with others.