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 counselor...at 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!
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.