Love Language - Not Just For Lovers. How This Famous Model Can Help Us All Show Our Appreciation!

leadership mental fitness performance enhancement Feb 15, 2021
Love and connection


Ahh, love is in the air.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. That day dedicated to bringing lovers together for a day (or night) of chemistry and connection. Or for those singles out there, a bunch of bourbon with the boys, rose' with the ladies, or an afternoon of swiping on Tinder.

Regardless, Valentine's Day is about is about coming together and taking deliberate time to reinforce and strengthen the relationship between one another.

And though I don't consider myself a couples all...I do peek around at psychological theories pertinent to human relationships. One such model that I have always been fond of for its simplicity and application is the "The Five Love Languages" identified and authored by Gary Chapman.

Though we will get into what each love language is, the basic premise is that there are five general ways that romantic partners express and experience love.

Sometimes partners speak the same language and sometimes they don't. When they do, it often leads to a more congruent relationship and helps the couple feel like they are on the same wavelength. However when they speak different love languages, the couple can feel disconnected.

As such, Gary suggests taking the initiative to identify one's own love language, the love language of their partner, and to purposefully try to "speak" the preferred language to each other.

Though the awareness and application of the love languages can help couples "get it on", it can also help managers, coaches, agents, and parents "get it right", by developing connections, albeit not romantic, with those employees, athletes, performers, and children that they interact with and care about.

Let's take a look at how.

Words Of Affirmation

The first of the love languages is "words of affirmation." Essentially individuals who prefer this style of expressing love enjoy saying and receiving nice comments. This love language is a particularly one that is easy to employ in a variety of non-romantic contexts. Essentially, just say nice shit to people!


  • Coach to Athlete - "Hey you had a hell of a practice're really getting a grasp of the offense. Keep up the great work."
  • Agent to Musician - "I've been hearing great things about your time in the studio, I'm excited to see what comes next."
  • Parent to Child - "Just wanted to let you know your mom and I are really proud of the way you're managing this online schooling."
  • Manager to Employee - "Great job on that presentation! You really demonstrated mastery of the content."

Pro tip: If you want the words of affirmation to really land, try to offer specific behavioral data that supports the positive words. For instance, rather than just saying "You're such a badass" instead say "You're such a badass. I'm amazed at how you're able to juggle so many tasks."

Physical Touch

Next up is physical touch. Not surprisingly, those who communicate via physical touch enjoy a holding of a hand, an arm around the shoulder, a kiss on the cheek, or cuddling on the sofa. Also not surprisingly is that many of these physical touch behaviors are not appropriate in certain situations. As such, you have to be very mindful of what is and what is not appropriate based on the context that you're in and the level of relationship you have with the other person.


  • Coach to Athlete - A hand on the shoulder after a tough loss.
  • Agent to Musician - A hug to celebrate a major signing.
  • Parent to Child - A hand hold while listening to a bad day.
  • Manager to Employee - A round of fist pumps to start a meeting.

Receiving Gifts

Individuals with the "receiving gifts" love language express love by giving gifts, and conversely experience love when they receive gifts. This is a pretty easy language to grasp, assuming you know the types of gifts that are relevant and appropriate. For instance, a coach can't give one of their players a car. So again, we need to be mindful of what types of gifts are "in bounds" given the context that you're in and the level of relationship that you have.


  • Coach to Athlete - Player of the Week Reward.
  • Agent to Musician - A cool knickknack celebrating 1 year of signing.
  • Parent to Child - Giving a little "walk around money" while the child is at college.
  • Manager to Employee - A promotion or new, well-deserved responsibility.

Quality Time

Some folks express love by simply agreeing to give their time and attention to another person. Here focused one-on-one devoted time communicates love and care.


  • Coach to Athlete - Having a conversation with a player as you walk off the field after practice.
  • Agent to Musician - Taking the musician out to dinner for dedicated discussion.
  • Parent to Child - Throwing the football in the back yard. Going shopping.
  • Manager to Employee - Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings.

Acts Of Service

The final love language, "acts of service" is all about expressing love by doing things for other people. Typically these things help lighten the other's load in some way.


  • Coach to Athlete - Come in early to watch practice tape with the athlete and offer feedback.
  • Agent to Musician - Taking a meeting with a public relations person so the artist doesn't have to.
  • Parent to Child - Doing a child's laundry or taking them to after-school activities.
  • Manager to Employee - Being willing to brainstorm a project or taking on additional work during a busy time of the year.

Final Thoughts:

As a result of reading the above hopefully you have a better understanding of the five love languages and how they can be applied in non-romantic contexts.

As you've gathered from my examples, the enactment of any of these love languages is not particularly difficult. In fact, simple things can go a long way.

The hard part is remembering. Especially if you happen to exercise a different love language, it can be difficult to start doing things that are outside of your preferred language.

So you have to be deliberate. You have to find out what makes the other people in your life tick. What makes them feel special and cared for. It's not particularly time-consuming but it does take some time. However, if you want to enhance your connections by leveraging your understanding and use of love languages, then I suggest the following next steps.

Next Steps:

  1. Find out your preferred love language. You can take a free quiz here.
  2. Identify ways that you can show "love" to the people in the context that you are in. Brainstorm some ideas by filling in the below matrix. 
  3. Discover the preferred love language of others by asking them. Think about or schedule upcoming meetings to learn a little more about how others like to be cared for.
  4. Start expanding your showing of "love" by matching your tactics to the person.
  5. Evaluate. Notice anything different about the connection between you and the other? What's going well? Where are there still some missed opportunities?


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