Have you ever expressed that you loved, cared, or appreciated someone only for them to not realize it at all?
Communication is hard. Expressing love, care, and appreciation that's truly received is often an even greater challenge. This exact difficulty is why Dr. Gary Chapman wrote and published what came to be a NY Times Best-Selling book: “The 5 Love Languages”. This book focuses on 5 ways people express and best understand that they are loved. The 5 love languages can help you move into deeper connection and understanding with those you care about most.
Let me share brief story with you. When I was a kid, there would be rare weekends I spent at my grandparents or even a friend’s house. One time I returned home, and found a note from my mother and with a Hershey’s (not an ad) kiss on my pillow.
The first time I found the treat and note, I remember feeling known, seen, and cared about by my mother in a special way. In fact, I looked for a note on my pillow every time thereafter. This warm fuzzy feeling I got came from a simple gesture and a little effort, but is a memory I’ll always have.
What does this have to do with the 5 love languages? Your loved ones have a natural value for how they express and receive the love from others. While you have natural methods of how you communicate your love for them.
When these two value systems don't align, misunderstandings can grow into frustration or confusion. Luckily my mother's expression of love happened to match my natural value and way of receiving her expression. Understanding the 5 Love Languages helps you grow into a richer and more vibrant life with family, community, and colleagues.
So what are the 5 love languages?
Words of Affirmation
Encouraging, thoughtful, active, and affirming words. At your core, you most likely desire to feel valued, loved and appreciated by those around you. A simple thoughtful word can go much deep than simply a good feeling.
Translates to undivided attention. As a manager this could be a 15-30 minute check-in with someone on your team or perhaps your boss. With family and friends, this goes beyond watching a movie or playing video games, and would look more like you undistracted attention and communication with the other individual.
Physical touch is one of the first ways we learn and grow in life. Obviously in a work environment be highly cautious. Perhaps a high-five with a congratulations for a job well done would be the extent. Romantically, "touch is crucial in creating and strengthening" a bond.
Acts of Service
Helpful communicated thoughts or actions. Dr. Rosser-Majors takes the thought beyond romantic relationships and into the realm of great leadership. Dr. Rosser-Majors says, “True leaders serve others before serving themselves. This level of unselfish service inspires people, as well as the communities and families they impact, to be greater, to go beyond, to aspire". These acts of service can motivate your team at work, foster deeper friendships, and build healthy family bonds.
Fairly straight-forward, giving gifts in a work environment could be a specific award of appreciation, a team lunch, or something customized specifically to what your co-workers or team care about. The key is not to give what you want but what would speak to them. Insight from Dr. Jeral Kirwan, former Program Chair of the Master of Arts in Psychology in the College of Health, Human Services, and Science at the University of Arizona Global Campus says, "Giving a gift increases feelings of satisfaction and helps to reinforce relationships by positively acknowledging each other".
As your (virtual) Life Coach, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect. In which of these 5 expressions have you understood that you were most loved by others? Now, think through which of the 5 love languages you most prefer to use. Finally, write these 2 lists down in the order of greatest to least. This brief exercise provides space to better know yourself and in doing so, others as well.
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