I was recently introduced to another category of languages that I found to be universal and insightful. This category is called Love languages. The five love languages, as presented by Gary Chapman in The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (1995) expounds upon five ways to give and receive emotional love. They are: receiving gifts, physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation and quality time. Even though this book refers to couples, on a greater level it spoke to me about relationships. Relationships take the form of friendships, companionship as well as partnerships, which extend into business. While it speaks in terms of the word love, I heard “the golden rule”, how we want to be treated and how we treat others; how I am valued and how I value others. As leaders, founders and entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to assure our team that they are valued and add value. As Steven Schussler says in his book It’s A Jungle In There, “Make People Feel Special.” He suggests that we think of a time when we were remembered, recognized, or celebrated; capture that emotion and say you didn’t like. Of course you did. Just thinking about an instance right now makes you smile.
Understanding love languages help make people smile. Here is a snapshot of the languages from Focus on the Family:
- Receiving gifts- value through a visual expression or token that says you are thinking of me
- Physical touch-value through physical contact and proximity
- Acts of service- value through doing things for me
- Words of affirmation-value through words; compliments and showing appreciation
- Quality time-value through showing interest and giving your undivided attention
My primary love language is acts of service. When someone takes a task off my list, I feel so appreciated. I don’t need to be touched, to talk or for anyone tell me what a great job I am doing. I recall my staff when I was a financial center manager. I saw their primary love language and how it affected their performance and our ships. The head teller was acts of service. I recall one holiday season she had Gaither tickets and we were not able to get coverage. I ran the vault and a teller window so that she could attend. The ATM teller liked receiving gifts. A cupcake on a busy Friday, which was every Friday, made her day in the midst of longs endless lines. The customer service representative was words of affirmation and physical touch. Words of praise made her face shine, not to mention that it got brighter if I touched her shoulder at the same time. And the part-time teller was quality time. She liked my undivided attention at times because she was only there a few hours a day. All I knew is that I had a remarkable group of loyal employees. Knowing how people feel valued or loved ranks with knowing their strengths and weaknesses. How this knowledge translates into leadership is quite rewarding for everyone involved.
Acts of kindness extend beyond bonuses and promotions. Sometimes the money dries up and people stay until they retire. Knowing love languages and applying that knowledge in the workplace can increase moral, production and harmony among your staff. I encourage you to take the test at www.5lovelanguages.com and experience uncharted waters of success in your ships.