Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Now You're Speaking My Language

A few weeks back I mentioned in passing that I was taking a “Supervision 101” class at work. One day we had a guest lecturer who talked a bit about motivation, particularly motivating and inspiring the people you supervise. He used a variation on the concept of the The Five Love Languages. The idea of the Five Love Languages that there are 5 basic ways in which people express their love: through words, through acts of service, through gifts, through quality time, and through touch. The presenter’s variation was called the 4 Languages of Appreciation, which were basically the original five minus “touch,” since using that particular “language” would probably be grounds for legal action in our litigious society.

I was already a little familiar with the 5LL because Freezeout has talked about it a few times, explaining how reading the book had helped his marriage run a bit more smoothly, but I had never given much thought to it; the idea that the concepts could be useful in something other than a romantic situation, let alone in a work environment, was a bit of a revelation.

Now, like most theories involving personality types, there’s really not a huge border between each “language.” People tend to express love/appreciation in multiple ways, but there is generally one that stands out as a primary “language.” Of course, the big trick is not figuring out what your particular language is; no, it’s making sure that you firmly realize that not everyone speaks the same language you do. In other words, while you, being an “acts of service” person, might think that doing the dishes without being asked will warm the heart of your significant other, there’s every chance that they’re instead ticked off because you never compliment them like they, as a “words” person, compliment you. It’s all a symptom of the problem that plagues so many of us: the assumption that everyone else thinks the same way you do, a trap that I used to fall into on a frequent basis - - so frequent, in fact, that nowadays I’m actually surprised when I find someone who does think like me. Anyway, the idea is to recognize the languages of those around you and to shape your behavior towards them accordingly, which means not only speaking their language to them, but also not feeling slighted if they don’t speak your language back to you.

In case you’re wondering, according to the little “which language do YOU speak?” quiz we were given, I lean towards the “quality time” end of the continuum, which makes perfect sense: being invited to hang out with the gang is worth more to me than all of the kind words and well-intentioned gifts in the world . . . which, of course, makes my Cap’n Cellophane moments even worse for me than they might be for someone who isn’t so time-focused. It’s probably also part of why I’m often such a stickler for not inviting myself along: I think my “don’t want to be where I’m not wanted” paranoia probably mixes quite well with my “do want people to actively demonstrate that they want me around” neediness.

Ain’t pseudo-psychology grand?

Of course, having nailed down exactly what sort of behavior makes me feel loved and appreciated got me to wondering about my friends and family and what they consider their primary language. Some of them jumped out at me pretty readily, but others I’m not quite as confident in. So, I posit this question to you, my blog monkeys: which language do you speak? Words of praise? Acts of Service? Quality Time? Gifts? Touch? Please feel free to discuss below.

After all, here at CoIM, blog comments count as quality time.


Mrs. E said...

Heck, I'll take any of them. I do believe though that since my family never was much on the giving praise thing that I really appreciate it when someone comments on what I have done. Your dad has always been so good to do the little things like the dishes, and he tells me he loves me every day and has for 35 years so I can't complain too much. I do like it when students and co-workers give me a pat on the back. If my bosses had learned that over the years, they would probably be amazed at how much more they could have gotten out of me.
Love Mom

Flunky lover said...

This is a really interesting topic. In the 10 seconds thought I've given it so far I'm not sure what I am. I'm leaning towards the service one. I may have to pick up the book from the library.