Do you know your love language?
If you’ve ever read any of Gary Chapman’s Love Languages books 1, you know what I’m referring to. Mr. Chapman believes that different people express and receive love best in different ways. He’s categorized these ways of showing/receiving love into five categories:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
He teaches that every individual has at least one language that they prefer above the others. When others use that language to express love, the individual feels more loved than if others were used. For example, someone with the love language, ‘Quality Time’ would feel more loved doing something with a loved one, whereas someone with the love language, ‘Receiving Gifts’, would feel more loved receiving something material from them.
Knowing someone’s love language can really help with understanding how to make him or her feel loved. Because of that, I wish it was more common-place to ask someone their love language, just like asking their favorite color, or food. Each love language is so different that, to me, the change it makes in showing someone they’re appreciated is drastic.
And although every person is unique and – thankfully! -too complex to fit into a mold perfectly, I do believe that everyone prefers being shown love in specific ways. Maybe they don’t even realize it. I didn’t, until I read the explanations for each love language the first time, and recognized myself in some far more than others.
Recently, while helping with an activity for my church’s youth group, I took a Love Languages quiz 1. No surprise – my results were exactly what I’d realized through reading the book.
My primary love language is ‘Words of Affirmation’, with ‘Physical Touch’ taking second place.
Originally, I thought I might write a series of posts explaining how best to love someone with each love language. But the more I thought about it, the more unqualified I felt. ‘Gifts’, ‘Acts of Service’, or ‘Quality Time’ aren’t my primary love languages, so how can I write an accurate post about how best to love someone with any of those?
Short of making educated guesses based from what I’ve seen in loved ones, I really can’t. So instead, I’ve decided to focus on the love language I know best: ‘Words of Affirmation’.
Maybe you share that language with me. In that case, I hope you might be encouraged by knowing you’re not alone, and I’d love to hear how it manifests in your life, as well.
And if that’s not your primary love language, I hope you find some insight for loving the people in your life that do especially appreciate ‘Words of Affirmation’. It may seem intimidating, but it’s really not complicated.
‘Words of Affirmation’ is exactly what it sounds like. It’s feeling loved most when others use words to convey their fondness – instead of through things like gifts, or help with projects. I’m not going to get into the science of it, because others have covered that far better than I could. Instead, I’m going to focus on what being loved through words may look like, and how it influences my life.
For example, I remember thoughtful and encouraging words far better than I remember other kind things. I still recall exact wording of the most fleeting meaningful comments from years ago. Whole conversations where I felt especially loved are also still stowed in my mind, tucked away until I feel discouraged, and then I rummage them up again.
When someone takes the time to compliment me, praise me, or tell me they appreciate me, it makes my day. I’ll replay those words in my head over and over, and it lifts my mood each and every time. If someone goes further, and tells me why they appreciate me, it’s very difficult to pull me down from the clouds.
For me, it doesn’t make much difference whether the encouraging words are in person, or written down. What matters most is that the words are honest. And as I said above, while words as simple as “You mean a lot to me,” or “I love you,” make my day, it really communicates that someone is sincere when they take the time to explain why, or to be specific. It shows me that they really mean it, and aren’t just making it up to appease me.
One difficult thing is that, as much as I love hearing kind words, I’m horrible at receiving them gracefully. I can almost never find a good way to show how grateful I am. I’m better at it with something like a text, or a note, where I have time to articulate my thoughts, but especially in person, I tend to freeze, or repeat a simple, “Thank you,”.
That grieves me. Sometimes I worry that others will think I don’t appreciate what they said, but I do! I just usually don’t have the words to thank them properly until I’ve had a little while to mull their words over, and come down from the high of receiving their kindness.
As someone who appreciates ‘Words of Affirmation’, words have a lot of power to me. Encouraging and loving words keep me going – and discouraging or hateful words can ruin my entire day. The better I know the person, the worse it hurts, but even harsh, little comments from strangers can bring tears.
Being a writer, and needing critiques on my work is one of these tricky areas. Even the smallest of comments can cause me to doubt whether I should even be writing the book, and something big – like their disliking a character I meant to be lovable – is devastating. At the same time, I need to know those things so I can fix anything that requires it, and also learn from my mistakes. Being so sensitive to words is both a blessing and a curse.
I’ve had to work very hard to develop a thicker skin for negative words, and to remember that, ultimately, it’s not what everyone else says that truly matters, but what God says. Thankfully, we have an entire book of encouraging and loving things He’s said. No one knows the right things to say better than our Savior does.
Over the years, I’ve gotten better at recognizing which remarks are helpful for me to dwell on, and which I can and should cast aside – and I’m very glad. Life’s too short to agonize over every little comment. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken so long for me to realize that.
If someone in your life recognizes love best through ‘Words of Affirmation’, I would urge you to be extra intentional with your words. Not to the point where you’re too nervous to say something wrong and don’t say anything at all, but mainly just remember to use them. A simple compliment spoken is infinitely better than an eloquent one left unspoken.
If you think they look nice, say so! If you appreciate what they’ve done for you, tell them! And if you want to make their day, think of specific fond memories you have with them, or specific ways you love them, and let them know! Trust me, it will touch them deeply.
When giving gifts – such as for birthdays or a holiday – why not include a meaningful card? Again, the message inside doesn’t have to be poetic or eloquent. Just make it honest and express what they mean to you.
Remind them that you love them. That you’re glad for their friendship. That they’re talented, special, and smart. Make a habit of giving them a compliment every time you see them, or pointing out another thing you love about them. Show you care for them by simply opening your mouth and telling them! In private, in public…anywhere and everywhere.
If you’re not accustomed to being verbal with your affection, it will probably take some getting used to. But I promise it will be worth it. The joy you bring to your family member or friend will be so much greater than any awkwardness on your part. Really.
Obviously, even within one love language, not everyone thinks and feels exactly the same way. These are some ways that ‘Words of Affirmation’ impact my life, but if that love language manifests differently in your life, I’d love to hear about it. Please chat with me in the comments, and share some ways ‘Words of Affirmation’ impact you!
The main thing to remember about someone with the ‘Words of Affirmation’ love language is simply that they need to hear your words to feel affirmed, loved, and appreciated.
So why not start today? Go tell them you’re glad for their presence in your life, and watch their face light up.
Chances are, they’ll remember your words for years to come.
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold
in a setting of silver.
(Proverbs 25:11 ESV)
1. Love Languages books, resources, and quizzes can be found here.