Forget a mutual love of How I Met Your Mother or your eerily similar workout playlists; new research suggests that there's a better way to determine if you're soul mates, and it has to do with the way you speak. People who use the same function words—like pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and quantifiers—are more likely to couple up and stay together, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.
Researchers at Texas Tech University had a hunch that speech was related to romance (dirty talk aside), so they conducted two studies on language style matching (LSM). LSM measures how much two people in a conversation subtly match each other's speaking or writing style, focusing on words like "I," "she," "those," "in," "about," "tons," "never," "very," "quite," "while," "because," and "can," among others. And even though we hardly ever realise we're saying words like these, researchers say they reveal a lot about our personalities.
For the first study, the researchers analysed speed dates between 40 men and 40 women. Surprisingly, the people who used similar function words were more likely to report being into each other at the end of the date. In the second study, researchers analysed instant message conversations between 86 couples, looking again at language patterns. They asked about relationship satisfaction on the first day, then checked in three months later to see if the couple had lasted. And get this: Couples who used more similar function words were about twice as likely to be together three months later.
Shockingly, LSM was a better predictor of romantic interest and relationship stability than self-reports. Even if someone thought they meshed with a date or were convinced they'd stick with their partner forever, the LSM knew better.
Obviously, this doesn't mean that you should start changing up your lingo during your next OkCupid date—you would probably sound ridiculous. (What are you going to do, keep saying "quite" for the rest of your life when you never used to?) But the researchers suggest we might already be subconsciously changing our speaking patterns to match someone else's when we're really engaged in the conversation, which could explain why it's so darn good at predicting a bond. Sure, it's a weird way to see if you might be a match—but it's definitely something to look out for on your next date.