What's Your Love Language (And What’s It Got To Do With Work?)

  • Have you sometimes felt as though you’re not important to someone - even though that person would probably say they show you appreciation all the time?

  • Are you a leader who believes that you constantly demonstrate to your team how much you value them yet they complain they’re not recognised?

  • Do you ever think that your partner, friends or boss simply don’t “get you” and what you need to feel recognised and appreciated by them?

If any of this rings true, then it may all be the down to the Love Languages you use to communicate.

The idea of "Love Languages"  comes from a book by Gary Chapman that was all the rage in the 90’s on how to communicate and express our love and appreciation in romantic relationships so that your partner feels valued.

Dr Chapman calls the ways we do this our Love Languages and found people “speak” in any of 5 different Love Languages. If the needs of your personal love language aren't being met then you're simply not going to feel satisfied or appreciated in the relationship no matter what.

So what are they? He identifies 5 love languages as follows;

  • Gift Giving: If this is your main love language then you will show and feel appreciation through the act of giving and receiving gifts, you respond best to actual “tokens of appreciation”. Note that this doesn’t make someone materialistic or trying to buy affection! It’s about the thought and care that goes into the gift rather than the gift itself usually.

  • Quality Time: If this is your preferred love language then being with someone and spending time with people matters to you and is critical to making you feel that you are important to them.  This is about quality of the time as well – so giving someone your undivided attention rather than being in attendance but not present! No mobile phone scrolling during a nice romantic date.

  • Physical Touch: This one is fairly self explanatory! Affection and appreciation is shown through physical touch and being physically close – hugs, holding hands, cuddles, lovemaking etc. If this is very important to someone then all the words of love or generous gifts won’t mean a thing.

  • Acts of Service: Think “actions speak louder than words” here. Doing things for that person to help them, to make their life easier and to lighten the load. This can be kind gestures like taking chores off people, cooking a nice meal, going out of your way to help them etc.

  • Words of Affirmation: People with words of affirmation as their main love language need you to tell them how much they mean to you. They need to hear compliments and positive feedback in order to feel valued and important. Equally, negative comments and a harsh word can really impact them and take them a long time to get over.

So how can we apply that to work? 

First up – Speaking to the Physical Touch love language is not recommended to be followed through in the workplace for obvious reasons!! If you need me to explain why then we probably should be having a bigger conversation! With this one, look for someone’s (or yours) secondary preference to express your appreciation to them.

Now that’s sorted we can move on to the others.

Imagine you're managing an employee who's main language is "Words of Affirmation" - you give them pay rise and a little bonus (gift giving), you take work off their plate when they seem stressed (acts of service) and you give them time in your diary on a regular basis (quality time). Yet you fail to give them what they really want ..... positive feedback. To HEAR that you think they're doing a good job. They become demotivated, underperform and they leave. With words of affirmation people need you to tell them plainly that you appreciate them, their work and their contribution in order for them to feel valued.

You might also be leading someone else who's main love language is Quality Time. You may not have a huge budget to give them bonuses or offer fancy gestures like the example above, but you are patient with them, you take time to explain things and to share with them knowledge that will help them. This person stays and is loyal because you're meeting them where they need to be. 

If you think that one of your colleagues feels most appreciated through Gift Giving then little random cards, thank you notes, sweet treats when you pop to the shop will be the perfect way to show them you value them. Again, with Gift giving, it’s not about materialism, it’s the thoughtfulness that went into the gift that makes the person feel important and cared about so it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a big budget – it’s the thought that counts.

And finally, Acts of Service in the workplace includes things like offering to take work off someone, helping them with jobs they don’t like or aren’t naturally inclined to do, taking care of difficult clients or conversations so they don’t have to. Rearranging your priorities to help them with theirs will go a huge way and engender massive loyalty and trust.

Is this starting to make sense? See how it can be useful?

And finally, now that you know what the Love Languages are are you curious to learn yours? If so take the free test here and I’d love you to let me know in the comments below what you found out!