In his now classic book, The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman, PhD, lays out five ways that people express and receive love: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.
According to Chapman’s analysis, my top language would be “acts of service,” followed in a near tie by “physical touch” and “quality time.”
Basically, this means that if you do something nice for me, give me a big hug, or hang out with me in some way I find pleasant, it’s probably going to mean more to me than if you buy me a present or tell me that you think I’m awesome.
Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t also like to get some thoughtful gifts and sweet compliments (love those, too!). It’s just that the other expressions tend to mean more and go deeper with me.
Chapman’s original Love Languages book was published in 1992. Over the years, Chapman expanded this work, which focused primarily on romantic partnerships, in order to address familial dynamics (The 5 Love Languages of Children; The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers) and professional interactions (The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace).
Both at home and at work, Chapman points out, our natural tendency is to try to “speak” our own preferred languages to others, even though they may not be the languages that speak to them. (If you don’t know your languages, you can take the quiz at www.5lovelanguages.com to find out, or read our article on the topic at “The 5 Love Languages“.)
The trouble is, if you’re a “Touch” person and constantly trying to express appreciation by offering public displays of affection or pats on the back to someone who is more the “Time,” “Gifts,” or “Words” type, your intended expression may never really land for the other person.
Bottom line: If you’re willing to learn the languages that significant people in your life hear and understand best, and willing to share which expressions of care mean the most to you, things tend to go a whole lot better.
Beyond taking Chapman’s Love Languages quiz, I think it can also be fun to notice — on a daily basis, as well as looking back over the last week, month, year, or even decade — which expressions of care, love, and kindness have meant the most to you.
Think about it: What were your peak life experiences during those periods, and who do you have to thank for supporting them, enriching them, or making them possible?
You’ll probably find that the things for which you are most grateful (and which you find most memorable) tend to fall right in line with your dominant love languages.
For example, looking back over the past few years, I remember the day I wrote all “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy.” My sister lent me her quiet little guesthouse so I wouldn’t be interrupted or distracted. My mom made me lunch. My team took the helm of the magazine so I could get closure on the project at hand. A friend and fellow editor looked over my work and reassured me that it made sense.
And then, of course, once I had all of the 101 Ways put together, a bunch of talented folks collaborated to refine, design, and program the whole thing into an amazing mobile app.
Now, nearly 200,000 downloads later, I look back at how many people’s acts of service and kindness went into that and the whole Revolutionary Act project, and it gives me even greater satisfaction for that reason.
Speaking of Revolutionary Act, it continues to grow, morph, and take on a life of its own. Today, in addition to RevolutionaryAct.com and the “101 Revolutionary Ways” mobile app, we have dedicated social profiles on Facebook and Twitter, and a Pinterest board.
We also recently launched our #MyRevAct campaign to encourage folks to celebrate the ways they are embracing healthy revolutionary acts in their daily lives. For this week’s challenge, check out RevolutionaryAct.com/myrevact. Then use #MyRevAct to share your own healthy-happy acts on the social platforms of your choice.
Remember, regardless of your preferred love language, every healthy act is, in a way, a demonstration of love and kindness — toward yourself and others. Because the healthier and happier you are, the more powerfully you can express all the good stuff you’ve got to give.