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Show Appreciation by Understanding Coworkers’ Love Languages

Benefits include stronger connections, better communications and improved productivity

You have probably heard of the “love languages” as popularized by Dr. Gary Chapman. You might know what your love language is, or your partner’s, or even your children’s. But what about your coworkers?

In his follow-up book Dr. Gary Chapman explores the five languages of appreciation in the workplace.

In November, gratitude is top of mind, so consider using love languages at work as a personalized way to express appreciation and show you care. As a bonus, it can improve communication, enhance productivity and foster stronger connections, which is especially important in our new hybrid ways of working.

Before we dive into the workplace application, let’s recap the five love/appreciation languages:

  1. Words of affirmation: This love language focuses on verbal praise and appreciation.
  2. Acts of service: Individuals who value acts of service feel loved when someone helps them or takes care of tasks.
  3. Receiving gifts: This love language involves thoughtful gift-giving and receiving.
  4. Quality time: Spending undivided attention with someone is key here.
  5. Physical touch: Gestures like hugs or handshakes communicates appreciation.

In the workplace, people may have varying preferences for how they like to receive gratitude, support and acknowledgment. Pay attention to your colleagues and listen to their cues.

Do they often compliment others? Do they sit a little straighter when you provide positive feedback on their efforts? They might appreciate words of affirmation. For these team members, recognize and praise your colleagues for their hard work and accomplishments. Be specific in your feedback, as this can have a more significant impact.

Are they perceptive when others are feeling overwhelmed? Are they the first to offer to help others? They might appreciate acts of services. Offer an extra resource when you notice a colleague is struggling with tasks. Or offer to have dinner delivered for the family one night when you can tell they have a lot going on.

Are they known for giving small tokens of appreciation? Do they light up when someone gives them something that made them think of them? They might appreciate gifts. Small tokens of appreciation, such as a thank you card or a cup of coffee, can go a long way in making someone feel valued.

Do they frequently seek one-on-one conversations? Do they always say yes to optional group activities? They might appreciate quality time. Determine if their style is one-on-one or community focused and create appropriate opportunities. Organize team-building activities, lunch gatherings, or one-on-one meetings to provide the quality time your colleagues may desire.

Are they comfortable with physical contact like handshakes or high fives? While physical touch may not be appropriate in all professional settings, a simple handshake or fist bump can convey support and camaraderie.

If you can’t tell what your colleague’s appreciation language is ask, observe and experiment!

Ask:

You can use tools like anonymous surveys to identify a menu of ideas for showing appreciation, and you can supplement with one-on-one discussions to explore the preferences of the individuals on your team.

Observe:

Pay attention to how your team members show appreciation to their peers. There is a good chance they are demonstrating gratitude in the way they would like to receive it. Watch for their reaction to various forms of appreciation.

Experiment:

Try showing appreciation in any of the five languages and see what seems to resonate the most with the individual. Experiment with more one-on-one methods as well as more public channels and see what makes team members feel most special and recognized in the work setting.

It’s worth the work. By speaking the right appreciation language, you can ensure your message is understood and received more positively. And when colleagues feel appreciated and valued in their preferred love language, it boosts team morale and fosters a sense of belonging. So, during this month of gratitude, take the time to learn and speak the love languages of your coworkers, and watch your professional relationships flourish.

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