‘I’, ‘you’, ‘we’ – they seem like nothing more than filler words; a necessity when we speak. In actual fact, words such as these can reveal certain aspects of your personality without you even realising.

Research by social psychologist James Pennebaker found that an individual’s use of function words, such as ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘the’ or ‘and’, can reveal a lot about his or her personality.

Research states that the way in which people place such words in their content can reveal a lot about their emotional state, self-confidence and integrity. For example, the pronoun ‘I’ is more likely to be used by people who are self-focused. The same pronoun is also linked to individuals suffering from depression, who use the pronoun ‘I’ in 6.5% of their total words, compared to 4% in non-sufferers. On the other hand, those who are dishonest are likely to avoid using the pronoun ‘I’ in an attempt to avoid ownership and disassociate themselves from their words or the issue at hand.

Dr. Walter Weintraub, a professor in psychiatry agrees, arguing, “hidden messages are locked into grammar.” In an interesting case study, Dr Weintraub stated that the use of grammar of former US President Richard Nixon when commenting on the Watergate scandal, revealed disassociation, negativity and denial of reality.

The words you use can also reveal certain personality traits when you're looking for new job opportunities in Malta, specifically during a job interview. For example, using the word ‘we’ instead of ‘they’ when referring to your co-workers suggests that you are a team player. Research also suggests that if employees starts calling the organisation ‘the company’, they are dissociating themselves from it, suggesting they are unhappy and thinking of leaving their job.

It is often recommended to avoid using certain words during job interviews. For example, filler words such as ‘so’ or ‘like’ may suggest that you are unsure, unconfident or worse, dishonest.

Although research suggests that the choice of words used is important, other studies suggest that body language is much more influential. In his book [1], Dr Albert Mehrabian found that communication is made up of 55% body language and 38% tone of voice, whilst spoken words only make up 7% of overall communication. Therefore, it is clear that it is not just what words you use, but how you use them.

You might not be in the spotlight as much as Nixon was in the 70s, but it sure is wise to choose your words wisely.

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[1] Mehrabian A (1971), Silent Messages. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth