Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Love Has Many Languages

Are you aware of how you prefer to express your love? Do you prefer to say it or show it? How about others in your life – how do they demonstrate love? Do you crave something they don’t seem to provide, or vice versa?

Everybody is different in how they like to give/receive love. A friend of mine and I were talking about our differences in this area, and she mentioned The 5 Love Languages, a book by marriage counselor Gary Chapman. The five languages are as follows:
Words – compliments; affirmations; “I love yous”
Time – full, undivided attention; carving out quality time
Gifts – thoughtful, heartfelt gestures
Acts – deeds and actions; doing a service for another
Touch – physical expressions of affection and caring
I found this concept fascinating, as I consider: who am I? I am a person who focuses more on time and words as my expression. I have a lot of people in my life, and only so many hours in the day. To top it off, I’m an introvert (an outgoing one!) that needs alone time to recharge my batteries. Therefore, I make an effort to create space in my calendar for people I care about – whether it’s seeing them face-to-face, having a conversation over the phone or instant messenger, or emailing/writing a letter to check in and share a bit of my life with them. This is my language of love.

Where the challenge comes in is when I feel like others don’t get my language, and do not honor my time or recognize the gift I’m giving by making space for them. However, I am guilty of doing this to others as well by not recognizing that perhaps their language is different than my own.

When I sit down and think about my family and friends, I can see distinct variations between our expressions. Some like to say “I love you,” while others put a lot of thought into carefully chosen gifts that really speak to my heart. I have friends who are affectionate and give the best hugs ever (the deep, soulful kind)…and others who quietly do things for me as their way of showing their love. Those who speak my language tend to carve out time for one another and honor it like I do.

The cool thing about realizing this is: I can now recognize that not everyone is alike in how they express themselves. I also realize not everyone will get my language of love – and I can at last not take it personally when they don’t show it in my “native tongue.” However, having this new “tool” will also allow me to consider when I might want to speak another’s language so that they can get the experience of feeling loved.

Consider for yourself: what is your love language and how is it similar to and different from the people in your life? By discovering this, you may actually feel greater appreciation for others’ expressions and reorient your expectations. As they say, expectations are premeditated disappointment. So, why not put energy into recognizing each other’s language as valid, versus wanting a native French speaker to communicate only in Japanese and being tripped up when they don’t or can’t?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've read Gary Chapman's books and they are very helpful. I've studied this 5 love language concept on 4 platforms, all very helpful:

-customer service strategy
-my marriage
-ways of expressing love to God

One of the most helpful thoughts was, how often do I judge others for how they love? If they don't love in my language, then I may criticize them for doing something "wrong". I see extending love in such different ways now.

With parenting, it affects your choice of discipline for you children. In business, it affects how you provide customer appreciation.

Thanks for reminding me of this practical idea for understanding a complex emotion!