Many years ago, on a plane ride to somewhere (what great times … ), as I was reading Gary Chapman’s best seller The Five Languages of Love, I was intrigued by the idea that each of us has a certain language, a certain code through which we receive love messages from the ones around us. And, more importantly, the idea that, when we don’t take the time to understand and learn to speak the languages of the ones we are connecting with, there is a breakdown in communication that can lead to so much unhappiness. We may all be striving to do the right thing and we might think we are truly putting our best foot forward in showing the other we love them but if we are speaking in Chinese and the person in front of us only speaks Dutch, our chances to succeed in our connection are zero. It may have been just me but this sounded groundbreaking … . And pushed me into paying attention.
I noticed about myself that my language of being valued and appreciated is not receiving words of praise. Words of praise make me uncomfortable, I don’t know how to react to them, so I quickly dismiss them and move on to the next thing I have to do. There are a few things however that, without explicitly using the words “we appreciate and value you”, send me a message about this that sinks in so much deeper. My five languages of appreciation are:
Asking for my opinion when it matters and involving me in important decision making – the message this sends to me is that I am truly valued. If I am involved in important matters, I must matter as well.
Listening to me – like, eye contact, real time feedback, no interruption listening to me. The greatest gift someone can give me is time out of their lives. Listening offers just that and shows me that I truly matter.
Presuming the positive – especially when I am at my worst. I am dumbfounded at people who tell me they appreciate me, that I am a great person, a good friend, and the moment they witness me at my worst, they conclude I am just a bitch and either cut all ties or retort with judgment that buries me further. The language of real appreciation, in this case, is a question: what is going on with you?
Checking in. For real – not asking how I am as a prompt to tell me how they are. Asking, waiting for the answer and truly receiving the answer. Checking in and not constantly waiting for me to do it. Holding space. We are all so, so busy …. this journey through life feels so much more like a crazy rollercoaster these days than at any time. This is what makes stopping and checking in such an amazing gift and a true sign that I matter.
Being thoughtful – those moments when someone offers me a a gift of any kind which they concluded I might like just by paying attention to me leave me speechless. My heart fills with joy and I feel that I belong … this is very rare and I am privileged to have people in my life who do this. I am spoiled.
Of course, words like thank you, good job, I appreciate this are always going to be welcome. Especially if they are heart felt. But leaving it at that, without action to back up what is said, might be more detrimental than anything. When I hear: “I think you are awesome, you are doing a great job, I could not do it without you” and at the same time I notice that the people offering me these kind words never stop to actually listen to what I have to say, never check in for real or never include me in big decisions, the worst thing happens: words completely lose their power and, instead of feeling valued, I feel duped. Not only am I fed words that mean little to nothing but I start to feel taken for a ride as well, expected to gobble up anything in lieu of true appreciation.
What is your language of appreciation?