Chris Blattman

How your language changes with your power status

Pennebaker pointed to some of his own email, a batch written long before he began studying status.

First he shares an email written by one of his undergraduate students, a woman named Pam:

Dear Dr. Pennebaker:
I was part of your Introductory Psychology class last semester. I have enjoyed your lectures and I’ve learned so much. I received an email from you about doing some research with you. Would there be a time for me to come by and talk about this?

Now consider Pennebaker’s response:

Dear Pam –
This would be great. This week isn’t good because of a trip. How about next Tuesday between 9 and 10:30. It will be good to see you.
Jamie Pennebaker

Pam, the lowly undergraduate, used “I” many times, while Pennebaker didn’t use it at all.

Now consider this email Pennebaker wrote to a famous professor.

Dear Famous Professor:
The reason I’m writing is that I’m helping to put together a conference on [a particular topic]. I have been contacting a large group of people and many have specifically asked if you were attending. I would absolutely love it if you could come… I really hope you can make it.
Jamie Pennebaker

And the return email from Famous Professor:

Dear Jamie –
Good to hear from you. Congratulations on the conference. The idea of a reunion is a nice one … and the conference idea will provide us with a semiformal way of catching up with one another’s current research…. Isn’t there any way to get the university to dig up a few thousand dollars to defray travel expenses for the conference?
With all best regards,
Famous Professor

Pennebaker says that when he encountered these emails he was shocked to find that he himself obeyed this rule.

The full post is fascinating.

Or should I say “I think the full post is fascinating”?

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