How Using the Five “Love Languages” Will Make You More Successful at Work
You may have heard of the five languages of romantic love, but here’s how the same concepts can help you succeed professionally as well.
You’ve probably heard of the five “love languages’’ of romantic love, developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. Each of us feels love in different ways, and it behooves a romantic partner to know how their person feels love the most in order to create the most satisfying relationship.
But guess what? These same languages not only make romance smoother, they make it easier to communicate and connect with anyone! Being fluent in love languages makes it so much easier to show appreciation for your boss and colleagues in a way that will be truly receptive and motivating.
Using love languages at work will help you get promoted (if you’re an employee) or help your business succeed with a happy team (if you’re a leader or business owner).
“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” Mother Teresa
Here’s a breakdown of each language and how it can be used to create real results at work.
Words of Affirmation:
Sharing words of encouragement, appreciation and empathy.
How to use it at work: Send an email or handwritten note to someone on your team (or the whole team) unexpectedly! Tell them you appreciated their input on the spreadsheet, presentation or project. And let them know the results of that contribution. For example: “Thanks for your problem-solving on the budget. Because of you, I was able to present our plans to the CEO and she was impressed and approved our budget this year. You make our team strong!” A quick text, note or email praising someone goes a long way to making someone feel heard, and motivates them to work harder, which will be a great reflection on you.
This also works upwards. When you notice your boss handling something really well or you’ve learned something from them, let them know. For example, “I saw you were put in a difficult position with a challenging client, and I appreciated how compassionate you were. Thank you for your support, it helped me show up better for my team.”
Using your body / body language to communicate appreciation.
How to use it at work: Hey now, I’m a 15+ year human resources professional, I’m not suggesting any inappropriate physicality at work! For this love language to be used in your job, it is centered around the concept of non-verbal body language. Think about your gestures and the way you sit during meetings. Are you crossing your arms? *Stop, keep your arms welcoming. Do you have a table in between you? *Don’t, sit near to your colleague without obstructions. Are you smiling openly, offering a handshake or fist bump or high five for a job well done? *Definitely Do! Are you looking in your colleague’s eyes as they share an idea? *Yes!
You can use body language to communicate excitement for an idea by clapping, doing a little dance or a thumbs up.
Especially in the age of virtual meetings and hangouts, you can easily incorporate positive body language to appreciate and motivate those around you.
Tangible items of appreciation given to a person you want to recognize.
How to use it at work: Pay attention to what people mention or prefer, and pick that item up for them to make them feel appreciated. If you know someone’s favorite coffee drink or that they’re obsessed with kombucha or smoothies, pick one up for them next time you’re there. Ask someone you want to appreciate what they want from the lunch spot you’re going to. Or, if you’re making lunch at home and remember one of your coworkers loves tuna salad and that’s what you’re making, make an extra tuna salad sandwich for them. Just maybe don’t sit right next to them at the all-hands meeting that day (cuz, well, tuna breath, ew).
Alternatively to grabbing a gift for a single person, treat a group to bagels or donuts and coffee one morning.
The goal of this is not to be a Betty Brown Noser, and it’s not to manipulate, it’s to recognize someone in the style they feel the most. And being recognized with a thoughtful, tangible gift like an extra phone charger for their desk when they keep forgetting theirs at home or a dinosaur stuffy when you know your cube-mate’s child is obsessed with them, can be super impactful for making a colleague feel valued.
Remote workers can also take advantage of this through e-certificates or sending a gift box or a little something in the mail.
Acts of Service:
Doing a favor for someone you appreciate by pitching in.
How to use it at work: Is one of your colleagues struggling on a deadline and you have some free time? Offer to help, even if it’s not your job. Help proofread a document, make copies, help carry materials to their car, collate presentations, offer your extra charging cable if they forgot theirs, answer the front desk phone when you see the receptionist tied up. Or simply ask your teammate: Is there anything I can do to support you and help you? What would make life easier for you?
One powerful act of service is, if you’re in charge of this, paid time off. Remind them it’s getting late and they need to go home to their family, give them a day off after you noticed they worked until midnight getting you those analytics.
Spending non-work hours bonding.
How to use it at work: Bonding outside of work can bring more trust and hard work inside of work! That’s what all those goofy company retreat campout themes are trying to do. You can laugh, but they work! When you want to acknowledge and appreciate someone or your team at work, try having a lunch break together outside the office, ask them to take a mid-day walk for some coffee (hit two languages with one stone there: gift of coffee and quality time!) Resist the urge to talk about work. Ask about their hobbies, their family, their personal goals. Go to happy hour after work together if your teammate enjoys that. For remote workers, ask someone to have lunch with you virtually, or FaceTime during a walk in nature!
How do you know what your colleagues’ love languages are?
One way to get to know your team’s love languages is when someone onboards. Add questions to your new-hire onboarding questionnaire. Ask: How do you like to be appreciated at work? I did this for a recent client and the results were extremely interesting. Of nearly 30 new hires I surveyed:
60% said they enjoyed consistent verbal and written affirmation
47% preferred monetary rewards
30% liked receiving gifts
34% reported enjoying public acknowledgement in front of peers
Some wrote in these other ways they feel appreciated:
Extra time off
Direct personal words of affirmation
A team meal
Lifting up all team members if one does well
Nice dinner/ bottle of wine
And many said, “all of the above,” which brings me to my last point:
“The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to the appreciated.” William James
You don’t have to stress about tracking each person’s specific language, as long as you’re using some of them!
Especially for large companies and teams, this knowledge isn’t meant to put more on your plate or add more spreadsheets to your life tracking each person’s preferences for appreciation. As you go about your days at work, just observe and it will come naturally.
Everyone usually enjoys any of the languages — any level of intention whether it’s words or acts of service is going to appreciated. It’s just when you know someone is a words person, you’ll know hitting them with a note will hit them more deeply than a gift. But it all matters. Appreciation is critical to a positive, hard-working culture!
How using love languages at work gets you promoted
Behold, the cycle of appreciation. By appreciating your colleagues, team and boss, you build trust. You build good relationships and communication. And when your team performs better, there will be more success!
You’ll skyrocket higher if you identify and contribute and articulate your appreciation.
Showing appreciation shows good leadership, and good leaders get noticed! Word circulates whether in conversation or in your company reviews and feedback process. Your boss will here: “my boss is so great, they give me great words of encouragement,
Showing appreciation using love languages at work won’t just help you be successful in your current gig, but establishing strong professional connections will help down the road, when you apply for a new job both in networking and references.
Show some appreciation today!