David Brooks looks at James Pennebaker’s new book, The Secret Life of Pronouns — which studies how people use words like “I,” “me,” and “mine” — and concludes that “when people are feeling confident, they are focused on the task at hand, not on themselves. High status, confident people use fewer ‘I’ words, not more.”
Pennebaker analyzed the Nixon tapes. Nixon used few ‘I’ words early in his presidency, but used many more after the Watergate scandal ravaged his self-confidence. Rudy Giuliani used few ‘I’ words through his mayoralty, but used many more later, during the two weeks when his cancer was diagnosed and his marriage dissolved. Barack Obama, a self-confident person, uses fewer ‘I’ words than any other modern president.
More from Brooks here.