Can something as small as a silly joke or as simple as a word of encouragement speak straight to the heart? You bet. My love language is words of affirmation; written words mean the world to me. A sweet dry-erase note on my mirror can last me forever. My husband thanked me for being a loving mother to our children and as Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.
Dr. Gary Chapman teaches that we love best when we understand each other. And how better to understand the people you love than to speak in a language they understand? This is the beauty of the 5 love languages.
The best way to learn how to speak in love languages is to start with your own. Discover what it is, get fluent in it, and then branch out to the rest. Try these with your friends, parents, children, spouses, teachers, students, neighbors, pastors, and even people you don’t like. They might surprise you.
Already familiar with the 5 languages? Here's a list of 101 Ways to say I Love You, in every love language.
The 5 Love Languages
1. Words of affirmation - written or spoken encouragement or praise
- Buy and mail a silly card, snail mail (go to the post office to choose a cool stamp)
- Pray for someone - swallow your fear and use real words and just do it. It matters.
- Text a clean and silly joke or cartoon
- Tell someone why you admire or value them
- Write a post-it or tuck a note under their windshield wiper
- Slip a card or note into someone’s lunch or purse, ninja-style
2. Quality time - time spent connecting with one another
- Call to wish someone luck with a big day or call afterwards to see how it went
- When you connect: Get to a quiet place. Hide in a closet if you need to. A quality time person will feel hurt if you’re distracted. (This is good manners anyway and we can all do better.)
- Spontaneously kidnap someone for 30 minutes for coffee
- Put your phone away. Nothing says "you're not my top priority" like your phone sitting out on the table or in your hand or lap.
- SHOW UP no matter what. Carve out time for someone who needs it.
3. Acts of service - serving someone with your time and help (great for your spouse/kids)
- Take a task off someone’s plate without being asked. Fold a load of laundry, put a load of dishes away, or run an errand. Leave a note that says: Because you do so much, I wanted to do something for you. Thanks for being special in my life.
- A free pass on a chore for your children, again with a note
- Cook/deliver a meal
- Fill up a gas tank (or give a gas card)
4. Physical touch
- Give a good, real hug (both arms, heart to heart)
- If they’re upset, don’t let them feel they're in that moment alone. Put your hand on their hand, shoulder, or elbow
- Physical touch can be a high-five, fist bump, shoulder rub, kitchen dance party, eskimo kisses, pat on the arm, a tickle fest, or holding hands. And of course the less-G-rated touches go a long way with your spouse too!
- When you meet for coffee or lunch, sit on the adjacent sides of the table rather than straight across. If you're with someone other than your spouse, know your audience; some people get totally wierded out by this but proximity is important when you’re connecting with people you care about.
A "gift" doesn’t have to be a purchased present. It’s the thoughtfulness of the gesture that speaks most.
- Drop off a coffee or iced tea at work with a happy face on it
- Fold up a cootie catcher with cute phrases/pictures (this is still fun for grownups)
- Wrap anything beautifully because the presentation is half the fun! You can make a box of tic-tacs fit for a queen when you package it right.
- Re-gift something funny or dumb. My mother and sister have passed a mummified Thanksgiving squash back and forth for years and it never gets old. The surprise is the best part!
Many of the home-runniest gifts I’ve given were less than $10. The cost was low but the thoughtfulness was high and the timing was right and that’s what people love and remember most. Did your spouse have a rotten day at work? Write the offender’s name on a sheet of paper, tape it to the backyard fence, and hand him a dozen eggs when he walks in the door. I once wrote an obscene phrase on a cake after one of Jack’s particularly pivotal real estate deals fell through; the bakery wouldn’t even write it for me. It didn’t fix his problem but it definitely brought a laugh and a bright spot in what was, up until that point, a really yucky day.
5 fun tips for speaking love languages
- Write important things in your calendar, plug them into your phone, and set reminders for the day of or the day before. Things Friends Remember: Birthdays, anniversaries, important dates like the anniversary of the passing of a parent or loved one, important deadlines, tough appointments, etc. Check in either before or after and just send a little encouragement their way. If you find out on Facebook first it’s okay – send sunshine anyway.
- Eliminate the obstacles and establish a “way” you give things. Do you like bags, boxes, tulle, ribbon, tissue paper? Post-its, Sharpies, gel pens, index cards? Order a set of those things and have them on hand so you’re never scrambling. I even keep a little set in my car – scissors, tape, a Sharpie, and tons of notecards. That way when a thoughtful idea runs across your mind, you can act on it and feel awesome instead of beating yourself up 2 days later wishing you would have done it.
- Take the time to make your spouse their morning coffee. It’s such a simple gesture that says a lot. It was a game-changer for us.
- Speak people’s names whenever you can. The sweetest sound in our ears is our own name. Hearing it makes us feel known and cared for.
Be intentional with love languages, but don't overthink this
When you have a thoughtful thought, act on it. Go with your instincts because they’re probably right. We miss so many opportunities to make people feel special because we've simply not set the intention to do so.
Seek out the good in people. Acknowledge what's lovely and right and admirable in them. You'll see them beam when you tell them what's remarkable about them. You'll see them do more of it. And you'll watch them become even more remarkable.
Most importantly – just show up for people. The best way to make someone feel important is to simply step into their world to “be with” them. See them in their victory moments and in their deepest hurt too. That's how love grows.
Click here for more on the 5 Love Languages, including resource materials by Dr. Gary Chapman and quizzes to discover your own love language.