We are all unique! There is no one exactly like us in the world. We are all wired with specific preferences, how we communicate, how we love, qualities we find attractive, foods we enjoy, things that make us laugh, and passions that fill our soul.
While we all may innately know that, we are surprised when we have conflicts that can’t be resolved without a screaming match, slamming doors as someone walks out of the room or couples going to bed angry with the silent treatment.
Such tactics cause a rift in our trust with others, which erodes our ability to give ourselves completely in a relationship and subsequently experience genuine intimacy. Intimacy is based on trust, and it is the fabric of our ability to communicate in a safe environment. It also has a profound impact on how we create physical intimacy.
By default, we all demonstrate and communicate love in the way we want/need to receive it. We often subconsciously make assumptions that everyone is “just like us” and we get baffled when our attempts to communicate affection fall on deaf ears.
When I was married, my husband and I had this struggle. We communicated in two entirely different ways; in two entirely different languages. While we felt like we were communicating clearly and effectively, our efforts went unnoticed. It left us feeling frustrated, rejected and lonely.
As humans, we have a longing to be accepted and known deeply by others, especially our mate, lover or partner. When we fail to communicate in a manner that offers a connection, we start losing the ability to build intimacy.
It is essential to recognize the differences in how you and your partner communicate if you want to build deep levels of intellectual and physical intimacy. One of my favorite relationship books, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, sheds light on how different we can be when it comes to communicating with those we care about the most. We all have a particular propensity to give and receive love in the way we are most comfortable. He has broken it down into five primary languages:
Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch. Dr. Chapman outlines how each of the five languages can be applied to first our personal life and then our professional working environments as well. While his book primarily focused on the personal relationship, Chapman also understood that communicating effectively in the workplace was equally important. Understanding how people wanted and needed to feel appreciated in professional settings was paramount to relationship building and making people feel valued. Let’s explore how each language is applied first personally and then professionally.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
When this is a person’s primary love language, they need encouraging words and affirmations from their partner. They have a deep longing to feel appreciated and that what they do matters. Saying, “I love you” is nice, but it’s not specific enough to touch their inner being. Try saying something like “I appreciate it when you make dinner each night. You take time to plan out delicious menus that make me feel loved and cared for, thank you.” These types of statements add value to your partner and make them feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. Speaking harshly, raising your voice or name-calling can be remarkably wounding to a person with this love language. While forgiveness may be offered the words and the hurt are not forgotten quickly.
In a workplace environment, this type of person equally feels appreciated by the words that you use. People have a need to be affirmed through positive and encouraging words. This type of interaction charges their battery and builds motivation to give more. People who feel valued are loyal. These words can come in the form of a conversation or a written card. Be aware that introverts and extroverts like to be affirmed in different ways. Take note if you’re accolades should be shared privately or publicly to keep the intended sentiments intact. Negative words can feel like a punch to the gut and entirely demotivate a person with this primary appreciation language. Be intentional about the words and tone you use when dealing with delicate situations.
ACTS of SERVICE
People who experience loving communication through this love language don’t care about your words. They are focused on your ability to see when they need help without them asking. Actions like washing dinner dishes, bathing and tucking the kids into bed, or picking up the dry cleaning on your way home from work speak volumes to them. Those simple actions communicate that you value their contributions to your relationship and how they make your life run more smoothly. Broken promises, making messes for them to clean up after, or thoughtless acts suck the air out of their sails and make them feel undervalued and taken advantage of.
In the office, those who fall under the umbrella of communicating by Acts of Service are always busy getting things done. As actions speak louder than words to this type of person, they show appreciation by always delivering project milestones on time, and they expect the same in return. Nothing makes them feel more undervalued than when someone wastes their time. If you make a commitment to someone with this appreciation language, don’t offend them by not following through.
Some people need something tangible to feel loved. Gifts make them feel appreciated and valued. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful to someone with this primary love language. Thoughtfulness goes a long way in communicating love to them. For people with this primary language, not having something tangible to touch and feel can cause them to doubt the connection. Bringing home flowers or tickets to the big ballgame says volumes to this person’s heart.
On the job, the person with this appreciation language is motivated by incentives. Winning tickets to the big game or a gift card for dinner when the team achieves a goal means more than words of praise for a job well done. Taking note of a job well done and rewarding it with a tangible item or experience will keep the fire in their belly burning.
This language focuses on action, not on words. Talk is cheap for people who speak this love language. Feeling like they are the center of your world brings about feelings of safety and comfort. Postponing dates, being distracted when you’re together or failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Being present when you’re with them is crucial to their sense of security.
At work, people who have quality time as their primary appreciation language want to spend time with you. They want to be noticed in meetings. They need to know they are valued, and that they are essential to the team or organization. When spending time with them, give them your undivided attention and avoid any interruptions. The time spent with these individuals does not have to belong, but it does need to be focused. Checking email or sending text messages can be hurtful and disheartening.
For this person, physical touch says it all. Everyday touching like hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, kissing and cuddling reaffirm affection. Non-sexual touch is just as affirming as physical touch in the bedroom. You don’t have to go overboard with public displays of affection to get their attention, but being touchy-feely every now and then makes them feel safe and secure in the relationship. Any threat or instance of physical abuse would be irreparable for this person.
In the work environment, you have to be careful that your touch isn’t misunderstood. Limit your contact to a firm handshake, a pat on the back or a side hug. Appropriate touch is essential for building connections and relationships with associates who have this primary appreciation language.
Dr. Chapman’s book effectively outlines how we may communicate in five different ways in our personal and professional lives. Identifying how we ourselves, our loved ones and work colleagues communicate is essential in establishing and building trust and genuine intimacy. Knowing and understanding how people in our circle want and need to be shown love and appreciation is critical to building lasting and meaningful relationships. Understanding that we all have different ways of giving and receiving love and appreciation makes us more effective communicators.
Making people feel valued and appreciated is our primary responsibility if we want to see the people in our lives blossom and reach their full potential. Being intentional about knowing how to motivate them will create lasting relationships, loyalty and a sense of belongingness we all crave. Together, we can always create more than we can alone. How are you building into the lives of people in your life?