Most of us grow up learning to express ourselves in the language of our parents, for good or bad, it’s what we know. Seldom do two people in a relationship of any kind speak exactly the same “language.” I’m not talking about English vs. Italian here – though we might as well be – we’re talking about the way we express and receive ideas and emotions.
In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains the five types of expression and perception that are the five “love languages.” According to Chapman, people feel loved, appreciated, connected when a partner or loved one expresses love in the language that is natural to the recipient. If not, the message isn’t received.
(If you’re interested in applying this in the workplace, you might want to read The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, also by Chapman.)
The Five Love Languages
1. Words of Affirmation – This is truly the verbal type of expression. Compliments, words of encouragement, appreciation or kindness are what’s most meaningful to the person who speaks and hears this kind of expression. Insults, undercutting and criticism are most damaging.
2. Quality Time – Attention is the name of the game; complete, focused attention. Truly being there and listening, connecting, spending time in conversation and activity. Eye contact and body language are also important.
3. Gifts – Not necessarily costly material gifts, though those are always nice. In this type of language it is truly the thought that counts, the effort, the consideration. A gift is a kind and thoughtful gesture that says you are valued. It is a symbol that represents appreciation, love, friendship or thanks.
4. Acts of Service – Doing something useful, helpful or considerate is the key here. Ease a burden, lend a helping hand; something as simple as vacuuming the floors, washing the dishes or running an errand at home, or getting the coffee, making the copies, or taking the difficult phone call at work.
5. Physical Touch (not in a sexual manner) – A hug, a pat on the back, holding hands, a touch on the arm. It’s physical connection and contact that this person speaks and responds to. This is especially important and can be particularly difficult for the person who did not grow up in an environment of physical affection.
Mini-Mission:Learning the language
There are two parts to this equation…What language do you speak? And what language does the other person respond to?
(It can also be a combination, but usually there is one more predominant than the others.)
How do you like to express love, appreciation, or kindness to others?
What makes you feel valued?
How does the other person express themselves?
Or what do they complain about not receiving or needing?
Get On the Same Wavelength
If one person expresses through “Acts of Service,” but the other needs “Quality Time,” they’ll both feel frustrated. Such is the case with my husband and I. He needs my time and attention, I need him to do the dishes. I show my affection in a way that he appreciates by sitting down and asking about his day. He shows affection in a way that I appreciate by making my coffee every morning. Little things that make a huge difference.
This week take some time to think about which type of “language” you and those you care about speak and respond to?