LFCS Book Club: The 5 Love Languages

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be topical to review The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. A #1 New York Times Bestseller, this book boldly claims to hold ‘the secret to love that lasts forever’. Dr. Gary Chapman himself is a bestselling author, pastor, marriage counsellor and holds BA and MA degrees in anthropology.

I opened the book with an open mind and tried to quash the analytical, psychologist inside. I also started with my goal in mind:

How can we apply insights from The 5 Love Languages to human behaviour in the workplace?

baby pic

The Book in Review

The book is pitched at a very specific demographic: married couples. This is very clearly articulated throughout the book – everyone is referred to as ‘your spouse’. As an unmarried, twenty-something it takes a few pages of reading ‘spouse’ to get into the groove of the book. However, I was intrigued and had heard so much about this book that I ventured on! Dr. Gary Chapman takes us on a journey through the book with the intention of answering the following question:

What happens to love after the wedding?

Through years of marriage counselling and anthropology research, his answer comes in the form of the five love languages:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

What resonated with me?

  • I genuinely had a ‘light bulb’ moment!

While I read through the case studies that described the nature of each love language, I followed with mild interest and practiced some implicit diagnosis as I tried to identify the language of my better half and family. Then I stumbled upon one specific chapter that caught my attention – this chapter had accurately captured MY love language! This chapter resonated so profoundly that it built more credibility for the book. 

  • Language dialects.

I valued Dr. Gary Chapman's observation of the different ‘dialects’ of each love language. He was able to effectively communicate the importance of adapting your approach to different individuals when building and maintaining strong relationships. For me it relates so well to the misconception that a personality profile 'categorises' people, when it fact it reveals that individual's preferred style and assists us in understanding the different ways we can adapt our communication to suit their style.

  • The ‘love tank’ metaphor.

He spoke of this metaphor coined by Dr. Ross Campbell, a psychiatrist who specialised in the treatment of children and adolescents. It provides a great mental image/visual of the ‘emotional tank’ in humans. If we are not satisfied emotionally, we are 'running on empty'. We need to foster meaningful relationships to keep the tank 'full'.

  • Recommended actions.

I appreciated that the book outlines practical actions as they relate to each love language. For instance, if your loved one appears to respond to the ‘words of affirmation’ love language, one of the recommendations is to look for their strengths and verbalise your appreciation for these strengths. I genuinely believe the key to success for any book that sits in the 'self-help' genre is to include practical strategies to achieve a specific outcome. At LFCS we value practitioners who are able to effectively translate research into practical tools and action plans. 


So what?

I set out to understand: How can we apply insights from The 5 Love Languages to human behaviour in the workplace?

Just as Gary opened with a question, so will I by refining my original question further:

 ‘How can a leader ensure that their employee's job satisfaction tank is full?’

Although this book has a strong focus on romantic relationships, the underlying concept is easily applied to the workplace. As a leader it is so important to maintain your employees’ enthusiasm to succeed in their roles. People feel engaged and motivated when they feel they have been genuinely listened to. You will even find that people are more receptive to change or to an idea they disagree with when they feel their perspective has been heard.

The challenge is to understand what language you need to speak to ensure your employees feel this way. Do they feel appreciated when you praise them publicly or do they prefer monetary rewards? Perhaps they feel most appreciated and motivated when you dedicate time to one-on-one meetings with them?

Human psychological is a complex beast and trying to decipher the drivers of different individuals is a challenging task! This coupled with harsh reality of trying to get the actual job done can make it very overwhelming!

So now what?

To round out this book review, I want to suggest two activities to assist you in understanding your employees' language to enable you to replenish their job satisfaction tank.

1. Reflect:

Write the name of each team member on a piece of paper. Underneath each name, write down an example of a time when they ‘went the extra mile’ for you or responded really positively during one of your conversations together. Then think about your actions in the lead up to that event. What did you say or do that might have influenced their spike in engagement and motivation? You may just discover the language you need to speak to motivate and inspire each individual!


 2. Just ask!

There is no harm in asking a simple question, for example: 

  • What can I do to keep you engaged with this role? 
  • What do I need to do to get the best out of you? 
  • When do you feel most motivated? 

Some people may not have reflected on this before. You might like to share examples of when they have performed at their best and you can try to work it out together!

So concludes LFCSs first Book Club review.  Happy Reading!

Jessica Fraser, Senior Consultant Psychologist

{Image source: www.5lovelanguages.com}