Quote: "Words, in my world, are a window into the inner workings of people, a fascinating and revealing way to think about language and its links to the world around us all." [p. 17, pos. 367]
Abstract: The renown social psycholgist, James W. Pennebaker, analyzes the use of function words (prounouns, articles and conjunctions) in relation to different personalities, status, power and leadership. "By looking more carefully at the ways people convey their thoughts in language we can begin to get a sense of their personalities, emotions, and connections with others." [p. 3, pos. 133]
Key-Words: personal prononouns, function words, language of status, power and leadership, language style matching
Definition of Leadership: "Attaining a leadership position is different from being an effective leader. (...) An effective leader is someone who works and interacts with others, who makes decisions that others will agree with." [p. 193, pos. 3199]
- the language of status, power and leadership
People of high status/power speak more loudly, tend to interrupt and seek physical closeness with a more open body orientation. They look at their audience while speaking, but look away while listening.
They tend to use more active language, especially revealing are function words, particularly pronouns: the more dominant people in a situation use ´we`- and´you`- words. "Most people if thrust into a high-status leadership position will likely start to talk like a leader." [p.191, pos. 3159]
- the Meaning Extraction Method
It allows to find language patterns and furthermore allows to draw conclusions concerning personality/behaviour patterns.
- the Method of Language Style Matching
Critique: Pennebakers's "The Secret Life of Pronouns" isn't exactly a book about political leadership but it gives us an insight into the use of language and how it relates to personality.
In so far it is an interesting read for students of political leadership.
Assessment: recommended complementary reading
Link to Author`s Site: including exercises and lots of videos