People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
–– Maya Angelou
Speaking at a convention of insurance agents in Las Vegas last year, I got a lot of nervous laughter from the crowd when I conveyed an offbeat idea: they should be sharing love with their agency staff members.
To be more specific, I said they should be speaking the love languages of their employees, except for physical touch, of course, which I crossed off on my slide.
This comes to mind because on February 14 here in the U.S. we will celebrate love in the annual, commercial tradition of Valentine’s Day.
As with all communication, in the language of love our actions often speak much louder than our words. We must understand our lover’s (or employee's) language in order to successfully express our love.
So, as you read the following about expressing love in your romantic relationship, I would urge you to think about how you might apply these principles to your business relationships as well.
One example: A female leader told me she had one night quickly hand-written a card of thanks to an employee. She said today, three years later, that card is still pinned on the person's cubicle wall.
Gary Chapman, marriage counselor for more than 30 years, is author of The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. First published in 1992, the book has been a New York Times Bestseller and published in 49 languages.
Chapman believes each of us has a primary love language, a way in which we are most emotionally satisfied to receive love from another person. Our lovers may find satisfaction from an entirely different love language.
The secret to communicating love, then, is to understand our partner’s language and act on that sincerely and consistently. “The one who chooses to love will find appropriate ways to express that decision every day,” Chapman says.
These are the five love languages identified by Chapman along with my thoughts:
1) Words of Affirmation
Kind, loving, supportive words that express appreciation. The tone and the intent of the words, of course, carry as much weight as the words themselves.
2) Acts of Service
The saying is “Actions speak louder than words” and for people who favor this language of love nothing could be more true. Simple acts of service will speak deeply to your love.
3) Receiving Gifts
Throughout all cultures and civilizations, the act of giving gifts has been seen as an expression of love and appreciation. Certainly the engagement ring is one powerful symbolic example. But speaking this language is not about expense. A small gift or thoughtful note sincerely given can mean far more than an expensive gift without thought.
4) Quality Time
In our hectic, over-scheduled lives, nothing is more valuable than our time. Giving someone undivided attention, being fully present in the moment, is one of the best ways of showing love. Sharing quality time has an impact on everyone but is enormously powerful to those who speak this love language.
5) Physical Touch
Human beings thrive on physical contact, from holding an infant, to consoling loss, to expressing appreciation. Research finds deep emotional and physical benefits of touch. If this is your partner’s primary love language, nothing will communicate more deeply than your touch.
Note: while I crossed out physical touch in the workplace, a warm handshake with sincere eye contact might be a solid substitute. ;-)
Questions for you:
What is your primary love language? Does your loved one know that?
More importantly, what is your lover’s primary love language? Are you speaking that language consistently and sincerely?
If you don't know, there's an easy way to find out: ask, and listen carefully.
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