It is so important to know that you are speaking a “common language” in your business since misunderstandings can be many and can blossom into lawsuits as confusion becomes fear, which then becomes anger.
Defining terms and coming to agreement on what you are discussing and how you are discussing it are always good steps, and yet in our relationships with our families, we rarely do that very simple thing.
Many years ago my husband and I were invited to be leaders in a small breakout group of an AGAPE Parenting Class at our church. It was on Sunday mornings while the girls were in Sunday School and afterward we would all go to church service together. We were a little baffled as to why we were asked to lead a group, but it soon became apparent that as parents of high school aged children at the time, we were perceived to be somewhat authoritative on middle school age children.
Seriously though, the book we were using was “The Five Love Languages of Teenagers” by Gary Chapman and it came with a video that the whole group watched together, workbooks and practically every crutch known to man, so we thought, “What the heck! How badly could we mess this up?”
It was an extremely enlightening experience on a variety of levels. First, we got to know some folks at the church better and were able to share some insights and strategies that many of them said they found helpful.
More importantly, we learned about love languages and how many people don’t always perceive love or give love in the way you do.
It doesn’t make it wrong or less valid, just different, and the more you are able to understand the favored love language of your spouse, children, even parents, the more successful you are likely to be in giving them love in a way that is truly meaningful to them. And to forgive when they give you love in their language and not necessarily in yours.
The author used a metaphor that stuck with me. He said that if we persisted in giving a child love in a way that was not truly meaningful to him or her, the child gradually ran out of gas because deep down they did not feel loved, even though they “knew they should feel that way.”
Ouch! I had heard that language used when people talked about anorexia, bulimia and cutting and other self-abusive disorders.
We wanted to know our children’s love languages very much. We suspected we knew already, but I have to tell you after they took the very short little quiz in the book, we found that we were only partly right.
- Daughter 1 (as we had already guessed) perceived love through words of affirmation and through touch (a lot like her mom there) but we had no idea she was also very moved by gifts. This is not a greed issue, but it meant she treasured a well thought out gift that really took into consideration her likes, something she had said or some inside joke much more than we had suspected. Her love language in giving love was through words of affirmation and touch as well, but not through gifts. She will sometimes do a very nice job with that, but sometimes it will just be on the fly. It isn’t her true way of saying she loves you. Her love comes out spontaneously, sometimes dramatically, and is always articulate. We often get surprise “I Love You” messages and truly memorable notes.
- Daughter 2 was a little trickier. We knew she was a servant and a gift giver, so we suspected that these were her love languages, and they were to a great degree. On the receiving side, she does not generally enjoy being touched, with one big exception…a really good head scratch always says, “I love you!” She is good at giving words of affirmation, particularly if she knows they are your love language, but praise is not given lightly by her. She perceives love when people give her gifts of service, when they make the effort to spend quality time with her, and when they respect her need for space and introspection. She perceives love when she is truly listened to. In return, you will get the most thoughtful, original and wonderful presents for any given occasion, warm and sweet hugs whenever she senses you need one, and she will also write you a note from time to time that brings you to tears.
Why am I telling you this? Why is it so important?
Because you might not know what your child’s love language is. You might have guessed incorrectly or you may be giving him or her what you need and not what he or she needs at all. Your child might not be old enough to take the love languages test yet, but he or she can answer basic questions about what makes them feel loved. Ask and listen. Try it and watch. Modify as you see what really seems to fill up your child’s love tank and as they grow, share your love languages with them as well. It will help them to know what really means “I Love You” to you, too!
PS: Taking the test with your spouse or partner is extremely enlightening, as well!