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Speaking your loved one's language

How do we speak so that someone hears us? And I don't just mean how loudly. I'm referring to the ability to connect with others, and truly communicate our message. I have previously written about ways to enhance rapport and tune-in to another person's world. But once you're there, if you're speaking Danish and the other person's speaking Japanese, you may not recognise what each other are saying. Last week, looking at the value of appreciation, one of the suggestions was to show it in a way meaningful to the other person. This involves expressing yourself in the language they understand. You may be familiar the '5 languages concept', developed by author and marriage counsellor, Dr Gary Chapman. His best-selling book, 'The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts' (Northfield, 2010 edition) proves popular, championed by Oprah Winfrey among others. In it, Dr Chapman relates his theory, arrived at after years of relationship work, that we recognise and accept love (and also show it) in five distinct ways. These five 'love languages' are: * Words of affirmation: unsolicited compliments and words of encouragement, terms of endearment, 'I love you's and other verbal expressions of feeling. * Quality time: one's undivided attention (not just sitting beside them watching TV) — this could be sharing quality conversation or sharing activities of interest, with time devoted to one another. * Gifts: this is not about materialism but the thoughtfulness and effort behind the gifts given — the perfect gift or gesture being an expression that one is known, cared for, and prised. * Acts of service: doing things, helping and easing their burden of responsibility as a way of demonstrating love and commitment through effort. * Physical touch: hand-holding, kissing, hugs and comforting gestures of affection and connection are what are prised here. Physical presence and availability are as valued as the typical intimate expressions of the bedroom. Chapman suggests that, while we might offer love through a combination of these modes, we each have a primary love language: one of these five that most speaks to us, and through which we measure how much we are loved. We can appreciate the others but in lesser degrees in a ranking order. A clue is that our top language for receiving love is almost always the method through which we most show it. If you're curious, there's a personal profile questionnaire to discover your primary love language, available online at

www.5lovelanguages.com … and who doesn't enjoy a personality quiz? But what's so important about knowing which language we prefer? Chapman explains that after the initial flurry of intense emotion giving during the 'honeymoon' phase of a relationship, couples eventually tend to normalise into their regular habits. If then they are primarily showing and receiving love through a different language than their partner, while each may be doing their best to love in their style, the message might not be translating, and the partner may not perceive it. Danish vs Japanese. In time, this misimpression that they are giving love but it's not being reciprocated (which can be simultaneous for both parties) can lead to withdrawal from the other, resentment and relationship breakdown. Dr Chapman also introduces the idea of the 'love tank', our internal barometer of how loved we feel. He writes that once that tank has been depleted, our trust in the relationship is shaken and it becomes more difficult for us to perceive any love being shown to us, or extend ourselves to show it. The good news is that we can learn to speak the other languages, not only to recognise the efforts of others but also to better communicate our love in a way that best speaks to the recipient and refills their love tank. The book shares a multitude of examples of couples clawing their way back from the brink of divorce to create better-than-ever relationships. According to the author, his concept is not limited to romantic love. He has published further books explaining how we use these five languages in all our relationships: relating to our children, and even with friends and colleagues, highlighted in' The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People' (Northfield, 2011), a team effort with psychologist and business consultant, Dr Paul White. (Note: there are Christian references throughout his books as Dr Chapman is also a pastor, but considers his theory to be universal). Even in other situations, we communicate using the five 'languages' and a similar theory applies, however how we choose to express ourselves within each language changes according to the recipients and our 'primary language' can change depending on the context. For example, Appropriate Physical Touch ranks lowest for most as a primary language in the workplace but a congratulatory handshake or high-five can remain a recognised form of appreciation. How one expresses their appreciation, support or kindliness in the workplace is often an indicator of how they best receive it. One example: a professional was struggling to engage and connect with her 'particularly frosty colleague'. They had morning meeting scheduled, and picking up her usual coffee at the cafe, she picked up an extra cup for her co-worker. 'Well, you would have thought I'd brought her the moon'. Perhaps a speaker of 'Acts of Service' or 'Gifts', the colleague lit up: a simple gesture opened a pathway to a more open and communicative working relationship. If you are unsure which 'language' someone might speak, short of getting them to do a test, try offerings from each and look for signs, which may only be subtle at first, of which is making the greatest impact. Finding ourselves in a breakdown of communication or relationship, it can be helpful to know about these resources as options to consider. Being aware of our preferences and also being able to recognise the behaviour and efforts of others can bring us common ground and offer further avenues to explore when seeking solutions. Similarly, being proactive and learning to become 'multilingual' might stand us in good stead for our future relationships and interactions.

* Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner. For further information contact Julia on (441) 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com.