I grew up in the church. Sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone shares the same vernacular that I grew up with. After writing about “learning other people’s languages” last week, I decided that probably needed a bit more explanation.
There is a popular book written by Gary Chapman called “The Five Love Languages.” Although it was written more than 2 decades ago at this point, it’s still commonly discussed and referenced among many contemporary Christians.
The concepts of the book are applicable to everyone, regardless of your religious affiliation. The basic premise is that everyone has 1 of 5 main love languages – this is the way that they most easily give and receive love.
The 5 love languages are as follows:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Dr. Chapman argues that unless we learn to express our love to other people in a way that they understand, we will never truly communicate our feelings to them.
Think of it this way. Let’s say that my primary love language is quality time, but my husband’s is acts of service. In an effort to show his love to me, my husband spends his entire Saturday outside fixing up the house – doing yardwork, cleaning the gutters, fixing the mower, etc. By the end of the day he will have spent all day trying to express his love to me…and I will feel completely unloved, because all I wanted him to do was to come inside and spend some time with me.
The same concept applies to all relationships, not just romantic ones.
No matter how much you care about someone, if you are communicating your love in a way that they don’t understand you’re not going to get through.
My husband is a quiet, calm, reserved man who prefers to process internally before revealing his thoughts to others. I, on the other hand, am a loud and expressive external processor – I need to say things out loud before I understand what I think about them. Imagine the potential difficulties that has for communication between us.
I have an outburst of energy about a topic, waving my hands wildly and talking loudly, and then I’ve moved on to other things. Michael, however, thinks that I must be exceedingly upset to have warranted such an intense reaction, and I, on the other hand, assume that he just doesn’t care at all because he didn’t say anything about it.
Neither assumptions are true, but they are natural and understandable considering our own personal perspectives.
Frankly, when it comes to matters of communication, your intentions don’t really matter. What matters is how the other person is interpreting them.
This is why it is so important to learn how to speak other peoples’ love and communication languages. If you’re not speaking the same language, effective communication will never be had. You may have a nice long conversation, you may think that you’re understanding each other, but the fact of the matter is that every party involved is probably interpreting a much different conversation than you might think.
So try to learn to speak in other languages, to use behavior that may not be very natural to you. Don’t know where to start? Ask someone you’re close to what they would want from you more than anything else in the world. Find out what sorts of pet peeves they have that’ll get them steamed in a hurry. And pay attention to what they say. These will start to give you insight into who they are as a person and what makes them tick. From there, start making an effort to tailor your behavior in a way that is better suited to their personality. This is particularly critical during higher-stakes or more emotional interactions. You’ll be amazed at the different responses you may get from them!
Whose language are you going to try to learn today? What stories of success or frustration have you had in attempting to do this?
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