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Perhaps you’ve heard of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The first edition was published in 1992 with a revised edition in 2015. Chapman listed five categories of “love languages” that he found in his counseling practice as ways people give and receive love. The premise is that we have a primary and secondary way that we experience being loved and cared for so that is also the way that we express love and caring for others.

The love languages he identified are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

Problems arise in relationships when the way in which we express caring does not match the way the other person receives it. Makes sense doesn’t it? If you feel cared for when someone does something for you (Act of Service), then you will likely show your love for them by doing things for them. But if they feel loved by having quality time, then no matter how much you do, they don’t feel loved.

Resentments fester, communication falters and the relationship cracks.

Like any relationship construct, it is not perfect and it doesn’t fix everything that might be broken in a relationship. Still, I’ve used his concept hundreds of times in my psychology practice and almost 20 years after the first printing, it can still change relationships for the better, healing wounds and helping people get back on track.

Can you take these five love languages and apply them in the workplace?

Of course you need to be extremely cautious with physical touch, but the other four translate fairly easily don’t you think? Imagine the effect on your work culture if people feel appreciated in the ways they most readily receive it.

Some of your people are craving to hear “Great job on that!” Others like a gift signifying completion of a project. Someone else wants more time with you as the leader. And others simply want a literal pat on the back or perhaps help with a minor issue.

In 2011, Chapman co-authored The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Paul White, applying the 5 Love Languages concepts to work-based relationships, one of several offshoots of the same basic idea. I confess I have not read this one, so I can’t give it an endorsement but maybe it would be a place to look for ideas.

Over to you. how might this apply in your leadership, at work or at home?


Dr. Jeff


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