But in retrospect he says it makes sense. We use “I” more when we talk to someone with power because we’re more self-conscious. We are focused on ourselves — how we’re coming across — and our language reflects that.
So could we use these insights to change ourselves? Like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, could we bend our personalities by bending the words we use? Could we become stronger? More powerful? Healthier?
After 20 years of looking at this stuff, Pennebaker doubts it.
“The words reflect who we are more than [they] drive who we are,” he says.
You can’t, he believes, change who you are by changing your language; you can only change your language by changing who you are. He says that’s what his research indicates.