Personal Pronouns as Relationship and Company Indicators

The personal pronouns used by couples during “conflictive marital interactions” are reliable indicators of relationship quality and marital satisfaction, according to a study tracking 154 couples over 23 years. The study showed that We-words‘ (our, we, etc.) were indicative of a more positive relationship than ‘Me- and You-words‘ (I, you, etc.) (doi).

Using We-ness language implies a shared identification between spouses, even when the conversation is focused on an area of conflict. Consistent with this, We-ness was associated with more positive and less negative emotion behaviors and with lower cardiovascular arousal. In contrast, Separateness language implies a greater sense of independence and distance in the relationship. Compared with We-ness, Separateness was associated with a very different set of marital qualities including more negative emotional behavior and greater marital dissatisfaction.

Similarly, the personal pronouns used by CEOs in their annual shareholder letters provide a useful way of predicting future company performance. No doubt gleaned from the Rittenhouse Rankings Candor Survey, this is from Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent is Overrated:

Laura Rittenhouse, an unusual type of financial analyst, counts the number of times the word “I” occurs in annual letters to shareholders from corporate CEOs, contending that this and other evidence in the letters helps predict company performance (basic finding: Egomaniacs are bad news).

via Barking Up the Wrong Tree (1 2)