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  • Writer's pictureLinda Milun

What are the five love languages and why should you as a leader know them?

Does this sound familiar: You put so much effort in relationships and invest yourself a lot, but somehow the other person doesn’t show you the same kind of love or appreciation? Well, here is something that can shift things into a different perspective for you and those people around you!

As you need to learn a new language in order to have a good communication - when you move to a country where your mothertounge is not spoken, so will you need to learn the love language of e.g. your partner to be able to understand them and express yourself well.

That’s why we will have a look at the “Five Love Languages” together.

At first a brief introduction of the love languages:

  1. Words of affirmation: Supporting, appreciating, uplifting and encouraging someone else through words in written or spoke form. The intention and emotions of the speaker matter. People who have this love language often do it without even knowing that not everyone is also seeing the greatness of others all the time.

  2. Quality time It is all about togetherness. Any device or distraction kept away. Undivided attention. Being really present and genuinely interested. That's the way to go if you want to make the person feel loved.

  3. Physical Touch This love language can be things like a hug, laying the hand on the arm of the partner, etc. It is about intimacy, showing closeness and connection through "touch". All of us need some amount of physical touch in our very close relationships, but for people who have this as their main love language it is more essential.

  4. Receiving gifts Feeling love through all the (thoughtful) gifts of the other person! This love language seems to many people rather materialistic. However, this is usually not the case. These gifts can be even just a favorite sweet or a flower from a field. What matters is, that the person thought of the other person and wanted to show that, through the gesture/gift. The gift needs to have meaning. Often people who have this love language see everywhere small gifts for someone they care about.

  5. Acts of service Through the actions you do, you show or speak the love! It can be as simple as doing the dishes. Relevant is that these acts should be actions which the other person did not have to ask for in the first place. Furthermore, it should also not just be a standard required act of help. If you anyhow do the dishes, because it's your task at home, than the other person will not necessarily take it as the spoken love language "acts of service" but simply see it as "you did what you were supposed to do". So, try to do something for the other person that he/she doesn't expect of you.

Originally Gary Chapman wrote in his book the “Five Love Languages” about the five main ways how couples express their love. This caused a big shift in the thinking of many. Over the past 20 years these five love languages were not just used to improve couple relationships, but in addition to that other interconnections for instance parent-child-relationships, friendships, etc. First, we will look at it in the couple-context:

Your partner may express his love through helping you with tasks and so on. He thinks the whole time that you hear him saying “I love you! I love you!”, when he does these acts of services for you. He seems unaware of your actual love language: “Quality time”. Instead of hearing “I love you!”, you might be thinking “It’s nice that he helps, but it feels like he is always keeping busy and doesn’t like spending time with me.”

Here is a clear communication issue that is based on the different languages you speak. What can be done? Well, like you would put some effort to learn a new language, so you need to put some effort to learn the love language of your significant other.

A hot tip: Ask your partner “how” to speak the new language, both of you should not expect of one another to be able to read the other person’s mind. Therefore, talk about one anothers needs and wishes. Plus, when both of you learn one anothers love language, it will also help you hear “I love you” even when your partner says it in his "native" love language.

To be very clear: you can have more than one native love language, but there will most likely still be a primary one.

It doesn’t stop with the love languages just hear! As mentioned before, it is not just for intimate relationships useful! I would go to the extend saying that love languages or how you show affection matters in work environments too. Why? Let’s say you are the leader of a team. You want to create and live a healthy and positive work environment. Therefore, you need to ensure that your appreaciation of your team is communicated well. You might be thinking now “but how?

Here just an idea:

  1. Words of affirmation – Praise your team! Not only when they accomplished a big deal! On a regular basis appreaciate them and their faitful work and effort!

  2. Quality time – Even if you have an HR who takes care of the member care, make sure, that you make yourself approachable! Make it a point to meet your team during the week to just be around for some non-work-related conversations! Show interest!

  3. Physical Touch - Depending on the culture and keeping the personal boundaries of the team members in my implement things like a good hand shake! To some people in some cultures this IS really important. This is obviously a tricky one, so keep it pretty basic and make sure not to overstep boundaries! We don’t want this to slid into inappropriate ways! Alternatives to handshakes are fist bumps, high fives, the friendly pad on the shoulder. Even a friendly smile can do the trick! Respecting personal boundaries and ethical work culture are key here!

  4. Gifts - Promotions, pay-raise, bonuses, a small gift on birthdays, etc. There are so many options, you just need to try it out and see what works best for you and your team!

  5. Acts of Services – Again: Be approachable! Someone has a question take (if possible) a few minutes to help that person and if it’s just asking the team member the right questions to get him/her to find the right solution. Big projects are going on? Check in on them how they are doing. You see someone struggling with a printer, and you can spare two minutes? Help them.

Do I have to learn the love language of every team member and treat them all differently”? Yes and no!

To some extend you need to pay attention to how your team members will see and feel the “value” they have for you. Depending on the size of the team it could be a very difficult task, but here you can connect with the HR or the Sub-Team Leaders and as a Leadership or Member Care Team you can create an environment that promotes appreciation and care!

Maybe you know already what your primary love language is. Maybe you don’t know, because you never heard about this before. Don’t worry you can find it out through a bit of self-observation.

1. Which of these five ways do you easily do? What comes naturally to you? e.g. Where ever you go you see things you could gift to X or Y or Z…? Or you love to create things for others (e.g. baking a cake) and give it to others? You love language could quiet possibly be: Gifts! 2. Observe yourself for sometime! You know now the different love languages, which of these do you receive with excitement? e.g. When someone helps you, you feel loved and cherished? That is most likely your primary love languages! Often the way you receive and give love is the same, but at times it may vary and you have two equally strong love languages.

The more you understand how you express and receive love most and how others around you do, the more it will open doors for you to build stronger connections, avoid unneccessary conflicts or misunderstandings and to help others to network better. It will be a win-win for everyone.

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