How to Use Dr. Gary Chapman's "5 Love Languages" in the Workplace | By Julia Menard

3 colleagues appreciating each other

Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it's empty, we feel awful. Tom Rath

Psychologist-anthropologist Dr. Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages outlines the five "languages" people use to "speak" their love. And Chapman argues that people are much happier when we connect with someone in their "love language".

But this doesn't just apply to our romantic relationships, but also our families and friends. As a coach it can help us connect to our clients. And it can even, as we discuss here, apply to our colleagues and teams.

"Recognition" is one of those office buzzwords that's thrown around a lot, but it doesn't always lead to action. Most managers and leaders know that recognition is important in the workplace, but we can all use an occasional reminder and tips on how to do it well.

So, one way to offer recognition is to use The Five Love Languages: How do your employees, co-workers, key clients and supporters enjoy being recognized? Are you offering recognition in a "language" that the recipient connects with?

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One of the most powerful ways you can make an impact on the lives of those in your work life is to pay attention to the unique ways your employees, co-workers, key clients and supporters like to be appreciated.

What love language do the people around you at work speak?

Here is a short and sweet summary of the Five "Love Languages"

See if these help raise your awareness of what motivates you, and those around you.

1) Words of affirmation

A classic—tried and true! The language of "words of affirmation" is the language of specific, meaningful praise.

And although this seems obvious, it's not easy, or done often enough. Especially in the workplace.

To recognize and connect with people who "speak" this love language, give them specific praise. Approach them with the intention of wanting to connect and strengthen their sense of self, and you are on your way!

Want more help with this? You may find this article with tips on how to give heartfelt praise helpful (from our sister company Fierce Kindness).

2) Quality time

For some people, just having you stop and take "quality time" to be with them is the perfect act of recognition and validation.

For example, you might give someone more responsibility and then take the time to coach them up to their new potential. Or you could take a few moments each day to personally check in—and do so completely mindfully.

To recognize and connect with people who "speak" this love language, make quality time without distractions and be available!

3) Gifts

It is universal in human cultures to give gifts.

So to recognize someone who speaks the language of "gifts" could take the form of an annual raise, a Christmas bonus or some other financial reward. But someone who appreciates this love language might respond more to a thoughtful (or possibly expensive!) gift.

4) Acts of service

Some people derive energy and satisfaction from serving others. People who speak the language of "acts of service" will appreciate you letting them know how their efforts serve a higher vision.

Other ways to recognize and connect with people who "speak" this love language could mean doing small things (acts of service) for them as a way to say "Thank you" and "I appreciate you!"

5) Physical touch

Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer at Yahoo! and author of Love Is the Killer App, advocates being a "lovecat." He is single-handedly making the word "love" an acceptable four-letters in the business world. He can sense if someone might be needing that hug, pat on the back or touch on the arm.

But while some people appreciate physical touch, it can also turn some people right off. You need to be careful with this one.

Not only that, but we need to very careful in this day and age using touch in the workplace. We must remember that even if we think the other person is OK with being touched, and even if we ask for permission, that when there is a power dynamic people may not feel they can say "No".

In terms of recognition, use physical touch with care: be mindful, considerate and ensure you have a good understanding with that person. If you're not sure of yourself, let them take the lead or settle for words of affirmation.

Filling up the tank

Whether you're dealing with friends and family or seeking to provide recognition in the workplace, the best way to fill another's "love tank" is to express your appreciation in their "love language".

Love is something we do for someone else. Dr. Gary Chapman.

If you liked this article by Julia Menard on the "5 Love Languages", you may also like:

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Contributing Author:

This article was written by Julia Menard, PCC, M.Ed. and Professional Certified Coach. Julia has a Masters in Educational Psychology specializing in Leadership. She helps Leaders Transform Workplace Conflict through Coaching, Mediation and Training. To learn more about Julia and her work, please check out her website And if you're interested in communicating better and staying calm during conflicts be sure to check out Julia's great ecourses on how to have tough conversations and how to stay cool during conflict. Lastly, join other collaborative leaders receiving regular conflict guidance by signing-up for my newsletter here.

Learn more about Julia & see all their articles here >>

Image of Colleagues appreciating each other by GaudiLab via Shutterstock

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