Good communication at work is essential, it can help people work better together and achieve better results. But how can communication be improved and is there anything to be learnt from the way romantic partners communicate?
There is a 1992 book written by Gary Chapman called ‘The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate’. It outlines five general ways that romantic partners express and experience love, which Chapman calls “love languages”. They are words of affirmation, quality time, gift-giving and acts of service and physical touch[i].
Chapman suggests that to discover another person’s love language, one must observe the way they express love to others and analyse what they complain about most often and what they request from their significant other most often.
He theorises that people tend to naturally give love in the way they prefer to receive love, and better communication between couples can be accomplished when one can demonstrate caring to the other person in the love language the recipient understands.
A web site called Career Contessa, a trusted resource to help women be more fulfilled, healthy and successful at work suggests these love languages can be used in the workplace to improve communication between employees[ii].
They say that by communicating workplace love languages—and by recognising their colleagues’ professional love languages, workplace relationships, motivation and job satisfaction could be improved.
They have reworked Gary Chapman’s love languages to fit within the office—according to what a team might need to succeed in the long-term and they came up with the workplace love languages below.
Each point is a suggestion of how someone using this work love language might act in the workplace, which can help identify the primary workplace love language colleagues tend to use to communicate.
Words of Affirmation = Feedback + Mentorship
- Workplace appreciation in a public setting (e.g., a meeting) to tell someone what a great job they’re doing
- Verbal acknowledgment of the boss’ great leadership
- Creating a spot at the top of the team meeting where everyone shares a high (and maybe a low, to keep it balanced)
- Directing some words of affirmation at yourself by creating a smile file
Quality Time = Workplace Bonding
- Taking the team to lunch at the end of a big project
- Celebrating workplace anniversaries with a small celebration
- Encouraging team members to take mental health days
- Creating space to give undivided attention to a specific co-worker (within reason, of course)
Receiving Gifts = New Opportunities + Challenges
- An actual gift on a work anniversary or upon gaining a new, important client
- A celebratory day off
- Giving a higher-level opportunity to someone who has excelled recently
- Offering mentorship or advice to a newer employee
Acts of Service = Support
- A “just checking in” email with a co-worker who is struggling
- Emailing a helpful resource or a tip that helps someone streamline their work
- Helping a co-worker who is clearly overworked when they have free space
- Bringing in donuts on a day where everyone is overworked
Physical Touch = Encouraging Touchpoints
- A well-timed fist bump to celebrate a big win
- Making eye contact and smiling when doling out praise in front of others
- Words of appreciation when someone gets a promotion, a raise, or another milestone
- Regular 1:1 meetings to check in and speak about real-life things, outside of work
Understanding how colleagues work and communicate using these work love languages can be useful and a little bit of fun! Why not try to work out which work love language your colleagues speak too? They can provide a starting point for improving communication within teams and helping people understand the benefits of communicating in a certain way. As Career Contessa says “by recognising everyone’s workplace love language, you’ll be effectively enacting The Platinum Rule—to treat others as they would like to be treated”.