Some experts think you are attracted to a person and begin to talk like them. Others say when someone talks like you, you are attracted to them.
It may be a bit of both, Pennebaker said. And he feels that paying attention to the other person plays in, as well.
The new research may actually help reduce nervousness for first-time daters, said Jeffrey Hancock, an associate professor of communication at Cornell University. Because you can't give someone instructions in how to have their subtle language style match another's, he said, the only advice is "be yourself."
And cut yourself some slack, perhaps. "If you interact the same way the other [person] interacts, you are going to be in good shape," Hancock said. "If you don't, it's not your fault."
He agrees that paying attention to the other person also counts and, like language style, comes naturally. "If I really like you, I am going to pay attention," he said.
The new study shows that "the words we choose in everyday interactions are related to the success of our relationships, including whether the relationship progresses from a casual meeting to a romantic relationship and whether we resolve conflicts," said Rachel Simmons, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
In her own research, she has found that couples who use more "I" and "we" words solve problems better than those who use more "you" words.
She, too, thinks the language matching works both ways. "The more a person matches your speech and behavior patterns, the more you like them. The more you like them, the more you match their speech and behavior."
Pennebaker is co-developer and owner of a text analysis program, and donates profits from sales of that program to the university.
All rights reserved