loveIn the last two days, the topic of understanding one’s preferred love language randomly came up three times while talking about Mother’s Day. First, it came up with a contractor, then my physical therapist, and finally with my friend and neighbor. When things show up in threes, I pay attention, which is why this week’s post is about love. More specifically, it’s about how each of us has specific ways in which we want and need to be loved; and how we typically default to our personal love language when expressing to others — whether they speak our language or not.

What I’m talking about, of course, is best-selling author Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” First published in 2004, this concept of preferred love language has become a part of everyday conversation for enhancing personal relationships.

According to Chapman, there are five primary ways in which people want to feel loved and appreciated. They are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch
  • Gifts

Chapman asserts, and I whole-heartedly agree, that understanding and using an individual’s primary love language(s) is the best way to meaningfully express the love you feel.

Here’s an example.

My primary love languages are acts of service and quality time, both getting equal billing. My family knows that when they really want me to feel loved, they simply ask, “What would you like to do today?” Or, “What would you like me to help you with?” These particular love languages make Mother’s Day sound something like this:

Me: Kids! Do you know how I would love for you to celebrate me on Mother’s Day?

Kids: (Wide-eyed with dread anticipation) How?

Me: Serg, I want you to mow the lawn. Nate, I want you to clean the serenity fountain and refill the bird feeder. Danielle, I’d love for you to clean the kitchen.

All those things were DONE, and I felt completely and totally loved and appreciated on Mother’s Day!

Even though gifts are nice, I’d much prefer to have my loved ones spend time with me and help me out with little chores around the house.

My Mother’s Day was extra special because three of the kids showered me with my dominate love languages — time and acts of service.

Back to the contractor I mentioned earlier — his wife was upset because she didn’t get a Mother’s Day card or gift. Her husband was a little put out because he had spent the entire day assembling a pool for the family. After we had talked about it, he realized he had defaulted to his preferred love language and expected that his “act of service” would make his wife happy. It didn’t make her happy, however, because she speaks a different language. Here’s the kicker, the contractor knew their love languages were different, which is why he’s in the doghouse, poor guy….

Interestingly, when I first learned about Chapman’s bestselling book in 2005, it was from an innovative human resources manager who realized that employees have preferred ways of being acknowledged as well. While it would be inappropriate to use Chapman’s five languages in the workplace, one can substitute the language with tokens of appreciation that typically appeal to employees, such as extra pay, paid time off, words of affirmation, a stretch project in a special area, mentorship, and the list goes on.

It’s no surprise that in 2012, Chapman released a book exclusively for workplace appreciation. The premise is, when employees feel appreciated, it not only reduces turnover, it increases productivity.

Whether considering how to enhance a personal relationship or a build employee engagement, the key factor is in understanding how the individual prefers to be acknowledged. The “five languages” have become such a wonderful tool for building and sustaining relationships that it’s become a brand all it’s own. These days, Chapman offers a collection of love language books from “The Five Love Languages of Teens” to “The Five Love Languages of Military.”

What is your preferred love language? Not sure? Take this free online test to find out! And if establishing and maintaining a relationship is important to you, don’t forget to find out how the receiver prefers to be appreciated. Not sure? Just ask!

Sheila Callaham is a best-selling author, motivational speaker, trainer, and success coach. She also appreciates words of affirmation, which you can shower upon her in the comment section below!

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