When you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’re probably looking at clues likes sense of humor, values, and interests and hobbies to get a sense of your compatibility. I mean, who hasn’t bonded over a shared love of bacon and Kevin Bacon?
But according to experts, we’re missing a major clue: it turns out that language style can predict our compatibility with someone much better than we can ourselves.
The research comes straight from dating hell—the speed date. 20 years ago, psychologist James Pennebaker took an interest in what we consider filler words: small words like “and” and “though” that string sentences and thoughts together. Together with his graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin, Pennebaker built a computer program to analyze language style.