Updated: Apr 14
Each month as part of our Intentional Growth Club, we read a book and hold a discussion night to talk about our takeaways from the book.
This month, as part of our theme of “Leading from the Heart,” we read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
The book is a classic that has opened the eyes of millions around the world to the concept of “love languages.” The idea is essentially that not everyone expresses or wants to be loved in the same way. No matter how sincerely you may try to show your love, if you’re not speaking the right “language,” the other person just won’t get it.
The 5 love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. If you haven’t read the book, you can take an online quiz to help determine your love language.
While the book mainly has a focus on how to help couples improve their relationships, here are three key takeaways that I think are applicable to everyone.
1) Listen, Listen, Listen
In a relationship, it’s critical to listen to the other person to understand their wants and needs. Having an awareness of others helps us to realize the impact of our words and actions (or lack thereof).
It’s not always as simple as asking another person to take this quiz to determine their love language. They may not be interested, so it’s up to you to look for clues that might help you figure it out. Watch how they express love and that will give you a big hint as to what they would like themselves.
In the book, Chapman also suggests listening to what the other person complains about as a hint for determining what their needs are. If your significant other frequently complains that you never help around the house or that you never spend any time together, they are really asking you to step up and do those things.
You also need to listen to see how effective your expressions of love are being received. As you try different ideas to deepen the connection, you need to carefully listen and watch for feedback on how it’s working.
Listening to what is most important to another person applies in all relationships. Whether it’s your spouse, your friend, your sibling, or your roommate, truly listening with your undivided attention will help you better understand that person and you can grow your relationship from there. Many times, just providing an open and empathetic ear is a big help.
2) Relationships Are Hard Work
Relationships are hard work. As obvious as that may sound, it’s still good to get a reminder that you’re not “failing” because you’re having to work at the relationship. In one of the early chapters of the book, Chapman discusses how the “in-love” feeling usually fades after a year or two and then you must continue to choose to love the other person.
“Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving.” (The Five Love Languages, pg. 33)
Once the warm fuzzy feeling fades, you must be intentional with your acts of love. This is especially true if your love languages don’t match. You really have to think about how you can best show affection to the person you love in a way they will be receptive to. It may not come easily to you, but the work will be worth the effort when you see how much the other person appreciates it.
Show your intentionality by being fully present when you are expressing love. If your significant other prefers Quality Time, put the cell phone away and turn off the TV.
If your sister really appreciates Receiving Gifts, don’t just ship her an Amazon box to open - deliver it yourself if possible, or at least find a way to get it wrapped nicely.
If your coworker likes Words of Affirmation, don’t just give a half-hearted “thanks” when they drop off papers at your desk. Take a moment to stop what you’re doing, look at them, and say “Thank you for bringing these papers. I need them to finish up this report and you’ve really made my job easier by taking care of this.”
All of those examples take more time and effort, but if you’re serious about improving your relationship with someone and showing your love (or friendship, appreciation, etc.), the extra effort will pay off.
3) Apply the Concept to Any Relationship
As I've mentioned, the ideas in The 5 Love Languages can be applied to other relationships. Think about some of the other important relationships in your life - your parents, your siblings, your children, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, etc. Wouldn't you like to improve those relationships too?
Taking time to truly listen and act intentionally to build up the relationship will help you discover what love language the other person speaks. Every one has a specific way they want to be loved and shown affection, not just in a romantic way. Yes, it's extra work to decipher and keep track of everyone's love language, but you'll find the relationship really improves when you're "speaking their language" instead of treating everyone as if they're the same.
Chapman has written several different versions of The 5 Love Languages aimed at various groups, such as children, teenagers, single people, military members, and more. If you're interested in learning more about how to apply the concept specifically to someone other than your romantic partner, you should look into his other books.
I've also really enjoyed reading The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, co-authored by Chapman and Dr. Paul White. It has many good ideas of how to convert the love language concept into the work environment and keep your team and coworkers feeling motivated and appreciated for their work.
There are countless examples in the book about how the love languages have transformed relationships over the years. I hope that you will be able to experience the same transformation in your relationships, especially if you start truly listening to others and focus on intentional words and actions to deepen the bond.
By taking the quiz, I learned my Love Language is Words of Affirmation. What's your love language? Sign in or create an account to comment yours below!
Our Book Club book for March is Crucial Conversations by Kelly Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. Join us on March 29th for our discussion night!