This passed Thanksgiving weekend was one of my favorites. I went the better part of four days without cooking a thing. I got caught up on movies. Completed a lot of prep for the TEDxWomen event I’m hosting, TEDxFremontEastWomen. But most importantly, I indulged my preferred love language – quality time.
If you are unfamiliar with Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, the premise is simple. Chapman posits that we each have a preferred way to receive love from our loved ones:
1. Words of Affirmation – Language that praises, comforts, encourages, and reinforces that one is in relationship with someone who adores her or him.
2. Quality Time – Enjoying conversation, activities, and most importantly the true focus of the person you are in relationship with.
3. Gifts -Receiving affection through…well, as the name suggests, gifts.
4. Acts of Service – Appreciating a loved one performing mundane tasks or chores you would otherwise have to do.
5. Physical Touch – Experiencing connection and intimacy through holding handles, arm tickles, cuddling, and so forth.
Although I took the quiz in Chapman’s book about a year ago to identify my love language, I have always known that quality time is integral to me sustaining a thriving marriage. Those who know me consider me one of the most scheduled people they know. And yet, when I’m not on the road, I strive to be home at least 3 nights per week by 6PM. My Sundays are sacrosanct – grocery shopping and board games with my husband trump social invites. I know that for me to feel like I’m in a mutually beneficial partnership, my guy and I don’t need a lot of time together – but we do need pockets of time where we can be 100 percent present to and for one another.
My problem with The 5 Love Languages is that it has primarily been applied to romantic relationships. And the truth is, my desire for quality time transcends my marriage. There’s nothing that woos me professionally like a prospective or satisfied client taking me out for a great meal with quality conversation. And based on my observation, the same is true for most people. We hunger to feel loved by everyone in our lives - our way.
When you can identify the way your people best receive heart-centered communication, it becomes easier for you to inspire and honor them the way they want to be inspired and honored. While you naturally want to be careful of physical touch in the workplace, (prioritizing a gift certificate for a massage over ‘touching’ an employee who speaks the love language of physical touch!), once you know that a colleague thrives from public recognition, a personalized gift, someone completing one of her or his least sexy tasks, etc., than you have the key tool for engagement.
One of the things that Chapman drives home in The 5 Love Languages is the importance of communicating how you want to be loved. Or in the case of your professional life, valued. So in addition to keeping your eyes peeled, and when in doubt, asking your people the language they prefer (remembering that the way they show you kindness often indicates how they want to receive it), get clear on how people can best communicate with you. And communicate that to them. There is nothing selfish about telling a colleague that you thrive from a thank you note after completing a significant project or relish an after hours meal to connect more deeply. It sets them up to give you what you desire. And just as importantly, it equips them with the knowledge for how to stay in your good graces.