AnnaMarie Houlis
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The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, a well-known and respected pastor, author and speaker, has been around for 25 years and has been a #1 New York Times bestseller for eight years running with over 11 million copies sold— and for good reason. The book identifies and ruminates on five love languages we use in romantic and personal relationships, but there are actually many business uses for the book, as well. 

The basic premise of Dr. Chapman's book is that, put simply, there are five "languages" of love and each one of us uses a primary language (of course, we dip into all of the languages at times, but we have one that we tend to use more than the others). If your partner speaks a different love language, then Dr. Chapmen explains that you may not feel loved. His argument, however, is that you're not unloved — you may just not know how to receive your partner's love language since you use a different one. The solution is to identify both you and your partner's primary love language and then work together to use each other's languages.

Of course, the five love languages don't only apply to intimate relationships. In fact, you can use this advice in the workplace to get ahead.


What are the 5 love languages?

According to the book, these are the five love languages and what they each mean:

  1. Words of Affirmation: "This language uses words to affirm other people."
    • Example: You shower your partner in verbal compliments and let them know how much you care about them through words.
  2. Quality Time: "This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention."
    • Example: You spend a lot of one-on-one time with the other person, whether you're going on dates or hanging out and cooking at home together.
  3. Receiving Gifts:  "For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift."
    • Example: You buy presents for the other person to show them that you were thinking of them and that you care.
  4. Acts of Service: "For these people, actions speak louder than words."
    • Example: You do things for the other person such as treating them to dinner or even picking up some of their errands to give them a break.
  5. Physical Touch: "To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch."
    • Example: You are physically intimate with the other person, though the physical touch love language does not have to be sexual. It could also mean that you touch them platonically, such as a pat on the back or a high five.

We all use some love languages more than others, and each of us tends to have a primary love language. Dr. Chapman's idea is that if you tend to want to spend a lot of quality time with your partner, but they feel that giving gifts when you do spend some time together to suffice, you may not understand each other's love. That's why understanding your love language (what you provide and what you hope for) and understanding your partner's love language (what they provide and what they hope for) is key to helping each other feel loved.

If you're not sure what your love language is, you can take this quiz to find out — as a single or as a couple.

How can you use the five love languages at work?

Of course, the five love languages can be applicable to the workplace, too. Now that you've taken the quiz and know what your own love language is, you can better determine your boss', coworkers' and teammates' love languages, as well, and work with them with a deeper understanding. Understanding the five love languages can help you build relationships with senior management and employees at your own level. Here are some examples of how to use each love language with your boss, coworker and team.

With Your Boss

1. Words of Affirmation

To use words of affirmation with your boss, you might consider letting your boss know when their feedback is helpful to you and telling your boss when they've done something that has proven beneficial for you. Open communication is key in any boss-employee relationship, and while a boss should be sharing words of affirmation with his or her employee (read: positive reinforcement), it's equally important to let your boss know when they're being a great boss.

2. Quality Time

Spending quality time with your boss doesn't need to be frequent, but you should be meeting one on one with your boss to discuss goals, ask questions and work together. Their success is often dependent on your success, so your boss should want to help clear up any inconsistencies, define goals and help you achieve those goals. One-on-one meetings might take place in the office if you have a more formal relationship, or they make take place over lunch. Either way, quality time is helpful to build rapport and work together to move forward.

3. Receiving Gifts

In relationships, you might give jewelry, dinners, flowers or another gift to your partner. Of course, those aren't appropriate gifts for your boss, however. Instead, the "receiving gifts" love language in the workplace will have to do with incentives. For example, your boss might offer you incentives (such as bonuses) for good work, and you might give your boss credit for successes you achieve — that credit will help your boss' boss understand their job well done, too, which is a gift in and of itself.

4. Acts of Service

Of course, you don't want to be anybody's doormat in the workplace, especially when you have your real responsibilities to handle. But if your boss needs help with a project, you may want to consider volunteering a hand. It will not only be an act of service that your boss will appreciate, but it could also propel your career for stepping up.

5. Physical Touch

Of course, the "physical touch" love language you may use with your partner has no place in the workplace. But respectfully shaking your boss' hand when you greet them is welcome and often appreciated.

With Your Coworker

1. Words of Affirmation

Just like you'd let your boss know when their feedback is helpful, it's good to let your coworkers know when their feedback is helpful. Likewise, coworkers will often be the ones whose work you rely on and who rely on your work — you might be doing a project together and, in order to fulfill your duties, you need them to finish theirs. For example, if you're writing an advertorial for a client, you might need your coworker in advertisement operations to secure the client and define the client's goals for the advertorial before you can get started. If they do that with time for you to meet your own deadlines, you might want to share words of affirmation with them. A "thank you" is always appreciated, especially if a coworker has gone out of their way for you.

2. Quality Time

Spending quality time with your coworkers builds workplace morale. Current research suggests that all types of relationships with coworkers play an increasingly significant role in job satisfaction. In fact, the secret to workplace productivity might even be workplace relationships. A study at Fierce, Inc. surveyed over a thousand individuals to gain insight into the impact of relationships between coworkers, and it found that nearly three quarters of those surveyed consider two or more coworkers friends and the most productive employees and workgroups have a best friend at work. To have more quality time with coworkers, you may consider going to happy hours and other outside work events.

3. Receiving Gifts

A gift for your coworker might be as simple as cupcakes on their birthday or sharing office supplies with them when they're running low. Workplace relationships aren't dependent on "gifts," but gifts don't have to be so traditional. You might also want to get a gift for coworkers around the holidays

4. Acts of Service

An act of service doesn't have to be much. Maybe you submit an assignment earlier than your deadline to give your coworker who you know is leaving for vacation soon some more time to contribute their part before they leave. Or maybe you help them by taking on tasks and filling in for them while they're away.

5. Physical Touch

Again, respectfully shaking your coworkers' hands when you greet them is a professional form of physical touch. Or maybe you high five when you reach a goal.

With Your Team

1. Words of Affirmation

Your team is dependent on one another to achieve mutual success. If one person does well, the team does well. Be sure to thank and give credit to your teammates for a job that benefits the team well. The fact is that many women don't often take credit for their own work, especially in team settings. Research shows that when women have other advocates touting their hard work, they'll get the credit they deserve more often.

2. Quality Time

The best way to show you’re a team player is to show up, all the time. Show up at team meetings. Show up at the office on time to get started on your projects. Don't skip out early. Show up for all things that are important to the development of a team project. Your team probably spends a lot of quality time together already working on projects. That said, you can spend time outside of the office doing team-building activities to boost communication, problem-solving skills and trust among each other. 

3. Receiving Gifts

To give a coworker on the team well-deserved credit is a gift, because it may mean that they're promoted or rewarded for their hard work from higher-ups later on. 

4. Acts of Service

Like acts of service for your coworkers, acts of service for teams don't need to be much. Acts of service among team members might include picking up tasks for a team member who's out sick or on vacation, for example.

5. Physical Touch

You may celebrate team successes with high fives and pats on the back.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.

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