Communication is both one of the most important components of relationships of all types, and one of the most challenging. Whether it is someone you interact with closely like your romantic partner, your family, our coworkers, or a more distant connection like your fellow shoppers, your coffeehouse barista, or the support staff at your doctor’s office. Each of these relationships contains within it the opportunity for communication and appreciation.
The ways in which we give and receive appreciation (or love) can vary and understanding that is an important step in communicating with others and showing compassion.
What is a Love Language? A term coined by Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Languages, the love languages are how we express and experience love and appreciation. The reality is that kind words may be your default expression to let someone know you care, but a meaningful gesture or some quality time spent together feels like more like appreciation when it is given to you.
It is not only important to be open about our own love languages with those close to us, but it is important to recognize that others may value different love languages from you and thus communicate differently. Recognizing and valuing this variety can be helpful in not making negative assumptions about those around us. Remember – we are all doing our best. And right now, during a global pandemic and much civil unrest and injustice, “our best” is really being tested.
What are the 5 Love Languages, or the 5 Languages of Appreciation?
Words of Affirmation
For some of us, hearing “I love you” or “I’m really impressed, great job!” can make all the difference in our day. Words can carry significant meaning, but others of us have learned through our pasts that words don’t mean everything. It’s ok to want, and to ask, to hear words of affirmation, and it’s also ok to have different appreciation needs.
Acts of Service
For one person, making their coworker coffee or filling their wife’s vehicle tank with gas may register for the receiver as being appreciated or loved. But for another, these acts may float past unrecognized as demonstrations of appreciation. Keeping an open heart and mind about those around you can help you recognize when others are opening their hearts to speak through actions.
Gift Giving is a typical expression of appreciation, especially in a consumerist culture. There is a reason we often think of these as “tokens of appreciation.” However, some of us don’t interpret tangible gifts as expressions of love or appreciation. Awareness of this, and communication with your recipient, can help to determine what or how you gift.
Time is money, and for some it is worth far more than that. Simply spending time with a loved one can feel like the best thing you can hope for, especially if this is a limited commodity if you are separated by distance, a heavy work schedule, or other factors. But if you live, work, and play together, this method may have lost its value in communicating appreciation.
During a global pandemic, this love languages is definitely a challenge. Hugs and high fives that were at one time such a well communicated signal of connection are now largely unavailable to us. It is important that we recognize this void that many of us are experiencing, because this deprivation of physical contact is very real for our species. It is also important to recognize that some of us don’t value this expression and are grateful to be keeping a distance – and that is ok too!
Have you thought about how you show appreciation? Have you thought about what expression of appreciation really resonates with you and makes you feel valued?
There are many different versions of the 5 Love Languages – for couples or for singles, for children or for teens, for the workplace or for those in the military and more. I encourage you to read any of these, as they all provide valuable insight into the different languages of appreciation, and the compassion we practice for ourselves and for others when we recognize our similarities and our differences.
Struggle, disagreement, and distrust are in ample supply in our communities these days. Love, appreciation and compassion are things of which we could all use a bit more. Contact your local bookstore for a copy of any of the 5 Love Languages books, or contact our office for a copy of the original.
And thank you. For the compassion and care you bring to our community. It takes a village to live a full and fulfilling life, and your contribution makes a difference.