Not everyone shows love or appreciation the same way. For example, you might like to buy your partner little gifts while you’re on a trip, while your partner might find it extremely romantic when you take out the trash. The difference? Your love language, a non-scientific term — coined by author Gary Chapman in 1992 — that's used to describe the way people like to show and receive love and appreciation in dating and relationships. (To figure out yours, you can take an easy online quiz.)
But here's the thing: Your love language doesn’t just pertain to romance. It can also be used in other areas of your life. So we turned to Logan Ury, director of relationship science at Hinge, to find out how knowing your love language can help at work, with friendships, and more.
Remind me. What are the five love languages?
Chapman established five basic ways people like to give and receive love: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. (More on each below.) And while the love languages are often discussed in the context of romantic relationships, they can also apply to platonic friendships, employees, and work friends.
Words of affirmation
You feel most loved and express your love for others through verbal expressions of love or praise. (Think: compliments and encouragement.) If the relationship is new, Ury suggested saying things like, “‘I noticed how relaxed I feel around you,’ or ‘My face hurt from laughing so much on our last date.’”
Not to be obvious, but spending quality, uninterrupted time with someone you care about. That can mean planning an experience-based date or giving your partner your undivided attention. It can also mean turning off your phones while you spend time together. “It decreases the quality of the conversation,” explained Ury. “People naturally tend to discuss more shallow topics because there’s a fear that at any moment the phone will interrupt them.”
Showing and receiving affection through physical touching. Think: hugging, kissing, or offering to give a massage — with consent, of course.
Acts of service
Doing tasks for someone else. Like taking on the chores (or running the errands) that your partner hates. Another suggestion, courtesy of Ury: “Invite them over for a home-cooked dinner date,” she said. “Cook them their favorite meal — and make sure to do the dishes, too.”
This is when you give and receive tangible tokens or mementos — of any size or cost — as a way to show appreciation or affection. It’s the thought that counts here, so it doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Think: Bring your partner a treat (like ice cream or flowers) just to make them happy.
“Remember that the intention is more meaningful than the gift itself,” said Ury. “Gifts also don’t always have to be physical — you could also surprise them with tickets to a local band or sporting event.”
How can I apply the five love languages to friendships?
To help your friendships stand the test of time, try implementing the love languages. This becomes even more powerful when life gets in the way of those relationships, said Ury. “The older people get, the busier they become. Friendships can sometimes take a back seat to work and romantic relationships.”
Here’s how you can apply each of the five love languages to your platonic relationships:
Words of affirmation: Tell your friend what you appreciate most about them, said Ury. “Is it the way they never fail to make you smile after a bad day? Is it their ride-or-die loyalty? Is it the fact that they helped you move when all your other friends were suddenly MIA?”
Quality time: Make sure to schedule and spend quality time together, like meeting for lunch or coffee. Even when you’re both busy. “My personal favorite is to do a weekend trip with a friend,” Ury said. “We spend the first night catching up and the rest of the weekend making new memories.”
Physical touch: Hug your friends, as long as they consent to it, said Ury. Or you could do each other’s hair before you go out together.
Acts of service: Offer to help out. “So many people struggle to ask for help,” Ury said. “One of the best ways to show up for your friends is to pay attention to their goals and help them achieve them. For example, if someone is looking for a new job, set up time to meet with them and review their resume.” Or if you know they want to start exercising more, you can plan a hike for the two of you.
Receiving gifts: “Maybe they’re ready to become a plant parent,” Ury said. “Buy them a beautiful watering pot or a few hard-to-kill succulents.” Or you could even just send a $5 Venmo with a note that says, “Coffee on me.”
How can I apply the five love languages to the workplace?
Incorporating love languages in the workplace can ease tension between staff and leadership. Plus, it can help employees and coworkers feel appreciated and valued. “I like to understand how my coworkers best like to receive feedback and validation,” said Ury. “Some people want to receive feedback in a formal one-on-one. Others are comfortable receiving it on the fly.”
Once you know your coworker’s love language, Ury suggested asking them what they’re comfortable with. (Important to note: You shouldn't assume everyone is just like you.) “Some people want to be publicly acknowledged, with the whole company cc’d,” she said. “Others turn a deep red from public announcements and would prefer a personal note.”
Words of affirmation: “Ask your coworker how they best like to receive congratulatory news,” Ury said. “Depending on their preferences, either send a broader note to the company or a personal note when they’ve done a great job in a big meeting.”
Quality time: Get to know your coworkers. “Schedule a coffee chat with the new person on your team or dedicate the first few minutes of team meetings to catching up on each person’s day,” said Ury. You could also plan a team activity. (If you don’t have the budget, Ury suggested planning an “in-office game.”)
Acts of service: Take a task or two off a coworker or employee’s plate, said Ury. “Like taking notes during a meeting or staying late to close up the store.”
Receiving gifts: Show a coworker appreciation with their favorite candy or snack. Or maybe play around with an inside joke. For example, Ury said, “If your team jokes about how similar you are to the characters on ‘The Office,’ get them matching mugs from the show.”
While personality tests like this shouldn’t be taken as scientific fact, the love languages can help you understand yourself a bit better. And they can serve as a blueprint for how your friend, partner, or coworker likes to show love, and receive affection and appreciation. Just don’t forget to let them know how you like to show and receive it, too.
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