Speaking your Loved One’s Language

Sometimes it is the person closest to us who must travel
the furthest distance to be our friend.

Robert Brault

It’s one thing to love someone and another to say it in a way they can hear. You have to speak their language.

Mayan shamans, before harvesting a plant for food or medicine, always ask permission. They do this by showering the plant with praises. In other words, they court the plant. They court the plant because they believe that there is a living spirit behind it, one that is fed by expressions of appreciation as much as the plant feeds us.

The plant, in response, never says no. It either says yes or try again. When our loved ones can’t hear that we love them, we need to try again. We need to try another way.

To truly love someone, say the Mayans, you have to know them well. You have to know what they love. It takes time and attention to learn what another loves, what helps them to feel loved.

In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman lists five ways that people get the message that someone loves them. People can certainly speak more than one love language, and there are surely other ways to show that we care. But with all communication, it’s the thought that counts. There are different ways to express love, but none replace it. There is no substitute for true caring, the foundation of deep, lasting relationship.

Once you know you truly love someone, i.e., that you want what's best for them, here are five ways to express it. See what works and what doesn’t. You can also let others know what works for you. Just remember that love means trying, not getting it right every time!

1. Words of Affirmation

Some people need to hear, in words, that you love them. No matter how much you do for them or give to them, they still need to hear it. And that goes for all occasions for appreciation, from the dinner they prepared to how beautiful they are to you.
If you’re a “doer” more than a “talker,” this may be hard to understand. Imagine if you kept giving paintings to someone who was blind. If you really want to please them, you might try poetry instead.

2. Quality Time

For some, love means spending time together, doing things together. Others want to say to our partner, “don’t just do something, sit there!” To them, showing them that you love them means giving them your full, undivided attention. It means patiently listening. If there’s a problem, it means not trying to fix it but simply empathizing. This kind of listening says, often with no need for words, “I see what you’re going through and I’m here for you.”

Literally being with someone says you’re there for them in a way that no words or gifts can prove. Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather” expresses this.

3. Gifts

For those of us focused on just getting by, we really need to go out of our way to come up with a thoughtful gift. It’s really something “extra,” and that’s precisely what some of us love about it. For some, marking special occasions with a gift is what’s important. For others, it’s the everyday, unscheduled expressions of appreciation, like a flower on our desk, that make such pleasant surprises.
Far from being simply material, gifts are like art. For many, art takes life beyond survival: it’s what make life worth living.

4. Acts of Service

Walk your talk. If you love me, you’ll do things for me. You’ll help me out. That’s what people who need to see action are thinking, if only unconsciously. Really contributing to their lives is where rubber meets the road.

5. Physical Touch

How many times have you had a long conversation when all you really needed was a hug? To physically affectionate people, contact is what is reassuring. It speaks to us on a primal level. Imagine being an infant: no words, gifts, or favors will do. There’s no substitute for being held.

They say love is a universal language; but if so, it has at least five words! To express your love for another, learn what they love. To love yourself, learn what makes you happy. Let the joy of giving be the joy of discovery, as you grow closer to making life more wonderful every day.