What Language Do You Speak?

And now for something completely different:

A few years ago, my wife and I participated in a session, along with other couples from our church, on Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages”. The gist of the concept is that people in a relationship primarily express their love (and need love expressed to them) in one of five ways – words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch.* While we all need and use all five languages, one of the five is typically our primary language – we need it above all others. If your primary “love language” is quality time, all the gifts in the world aren’t going to be enough. If your primary language is physical touch, acts of service just aren’t going to cut it for you.

My primary language, far and away, is words of affirmation. Mark Twain once said “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” I can’t last nearly that long. This isn’t based on a sense of insecurity; rather, I think it is grounded in an appreciation for the power of words. I have always found words, particularly sincere words of affirmation (or condemnation) to be exceedingly powerful. I’m as guilty as anyone of dashing off a flippant comment or engaging in inane small talk, but if I pay someone a compliment, it’s sincere. And, I receive compliments (and condemnation), rightly or wrongly, in the same fashion.

The challenge, of course, is in making sure that you are using the right language for the right person. For example, my wife and I speak different “languages” – she thrives on acts of service, while I need words of affirmation. The compliments that I pay her are frequent and heartfelt, but they may be received as just “words” if unaccompanied by action. Similarly, I know of no one who “does” for others like my wife – whether it be for me, our kids, friends, the PTO, or whoever else she may come in contact with – she has a well-deserved reputation for going above and beyond. If the recipients’ primary language is something other than acts of service, however, they may not recognize the meaning behind the action.

So why am I writing about this? Mainly as a reminder to myself. But, I think it’s worth sharing as well. Here’s a quiz if you want to see what makes you tick.

*With the possible exception of physical touch, I believe the “love languages” idea extends beyond “love” relationships – it’s valid for our communications with friends and co-workers as well.

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