Have you ever had the experience when you appreciated someone close to you, perhaps your significant other, and the next day, you hear them complain: “I don’t feel appreciated by you for all that I do around here.”?
Are they just impossible to please?
You clearly remember telling her or him what a fantastic job they did and how much it meant to you, and you did your best to articulate it well. You almost felt offended as they didn’t seem very touched by what you said, as if they didn’t understand or hear much of what you said. What if they genuinely didn’t? What if they speak a different “appreciation language” than you?
Why is it essential to understand different appreciation languages?
As mentioned in the example above, you may think you gave appreciation to someone, but you did nothing special to appreciate them from their perspective. Unless you investigate more where the breakdown in communication happened, you may risk alienating your beloved, or in the workplace – your team member or an employee.
Knowing and understanding the different ways of perceiving something as a sign of love, care, appreciation, and being valued – can improve not only the health of your relationships but also the health of your business.
Not recognizing the various appreciation languages can lead to high turnover in your company and unsatisfying personal relationships.
Who can benefit from being “appreciation languages” literate?
Whether you are CEO, a business owner, supervisor, coworker, student, or a stay at home parent, you can benefit.
I believe, especially in our current world, where there is a lot of fear being spread around, we also need to spread the message of care for others and desire to have harmonious relationships and share tools that can make that happen.
So, I invite you to join me, and let’s make a difference for our communities and businesses. Even for the world as it can become more emotionally intelligent (not just artificially intelligent) as a result, one person at a time.
Review the different appreciation languages
Dr. Gary Chapman developed the concept of love or appreciation languages almost 30 years ago. As a marriage counselor, he noticed that he heard the same complaints over and over. He asked himself a question: “When someone said, ‘I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what do they actually want?” and through reviewing years of session notes, he discovered that there are five main ways that people prefer giving and receiving love and appreciation. The concept of “5 Love Languages” was born and has improved millions of personal and professional relationships across the globe ever since.
So what are the five types of love or appreciation languages?
Words of Affirmation
When you speak the ‘Words of Affirmation’ language, you verbally acknowledge the person’s positive traits or characteristics.
If you neglect affirming someone who mainly speaks this language, even if you give them a raise, they may leave as they wouldn’t feel valued. For someone, more money is not a deal-breaker.
Just like in English, there are different dialects and accents, so there are slightly different ways people prefer receiving words of appreciation.
You can praise for an accomplishment, affirm their character, or praise their personality. Some enjoy being appreciated in front of the others; some would get deeply uncomfortable and prefer to receive your appreciation in private.
Is it getting too complicated? Just like learning a new language, the more you use it and learn about it, the better you get at it, and the more natural it becomes.
Don’t get discouraged if it seems overwhelming. Let’s keep it simple going forward – and at the end will share with you some additional resources that can help.
People who prefer “Quality Time” as their main appreciation or love language, as the name implies, thrive when they are given at least a few moments of undivided attention. When you do that, that’s when they feel seen, heard, valued, and appreciated. Don’t check your phone or watch it when you are with them! Be it your partner, or a business meeting.
“Managers who understand that people have different languages of appreciation will discover that some team members need individual time and attention to feel like they are an important part of the team.” (Chapman 58)
Acts of Service
Those who prefer “Acts of Service” as their primary love/appreciation language, might not care about what you say as much (unlike Words of Affirmation people); for them, what speaks volumes about how much you care is WHAT YOU DO to help them.
It could range from receiving a back massage from your partner in your personal life to helping with a short brainstorming session to resolve a challenge your team member is facing in your business. Avoid over-promising and under-delivering with people who value acts of service above words.
Even though this Tangible Gifts Language seems on the surface to be more materialistic, don’t get tricked by the looks of it.
It is not necessarily about the thing per se. It is more about the thought, care, and energy that you put into picking and obtaining the APPROPRIATE gift for THEM. It is about remembering when it’s their birthday or special occasion and celebrating it with something tangible that may help them remember the event better.
If you forget about their special event, they don’t feel special to you. (Yey Google calendar reminders!)
Those who prefer physical touch as their main love/appreciation language will not feel close to you if you keep your distance. This area is a bit tricky – so threat VERY lightly in the work environment.
Not just sexual harassment concerns are to be worried about. With COVID-19 pandemic raging for who knows how long, being physically close to someone may become double uncomfortable these days for some people. A new version of this language might develop soon.
Instead of shaking hands, perhaps in the future, what will be considered as “appropriate” will be just waving at each other or a soft “elbow bump.” Or a specific nod. Who knows?
Resources to learn more and APPLY
I’m guilty as charged of reading something, remembering maybe for a few days, or weeks, and unless I write about it, apply it somehow regularly, I forget.
That’s why I created a few pages of review and application questions for myself and anyone else who would like to join me in improving interpersonal skills, enhancing our emotional intelligence, and becoming a better communicator and leader as a result. Plus – enjoying more satisfying, harmonious, and fulfilling relationships – both personal and professional.
Are you in?
If so, here is a link to my free resource (Editable PDF) as a part of my CEO Week Challenge that I implemented for my clients and subscribers. And of course, HUGE credit goes to Dr. Gary Chapman for all his work and research that can help us improve our relationships, save marriages, or increase our team members’ motivation and performance.
For those of you who would like to learn even more, here is Gary Chapman’s and Dr. Paul White’s book on the application of the love languages in the workplace (including code to take an online test with suggestions specific to your industry): The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Northfield Publishing
What is your experience with love/appreciation languages? What is your favorite language you like to be appreciated by?