Lost in Translation: Are You Wasting Effort in Your Relationships?

Think of the last time you had a great time with a friend.

What was it that was so great?

You got to spend time with them doing something that you loved?

They make you feel special because of what they said?

You had a special little gift that you couldn’t wait to give them…something you found that you couldn’t wait to surprise them with?

Do you think that your friend valued the exact same thing about the interaction? Maybe. But are you sure?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages applies to friendships. It’s come up a lot in my coaching sessions with clients who are in the process of re-evaluating their priorities in life. They are seeking more meaningful connections with the people in their life.


A quick lesson in the 5 love languages.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five primary ways that we tend to acknowledge love (whether romantic or platonic) are:

  • Quality time spent together
  • Words of affirmation
  • Physical affection
  • Gifts
  • Acts of service

If you aren’t sure what your primary “love language” is, you can take a quick quiz on his website HERE. Understanding your love language helps you to be mindful of what you value most in your relationships.

The next step is to start paying attention to what other people in your life value the most when they interact with you.

For example, if my primary love language is spending quality time together, it’s easy for me to assume that when I go out for coffee with a buddy, she values quality time together just as much as I do. However, it’s possible that the kind words that I speak to her during our time together are what she cherishes the most.


Evaluating your friendships.

We want our friendships to feel easy.

So is it really necessary to pay attention to what others need from us? Isn’t just spending time together enough?

Yes—if both of your primary love languages is spending quality time together.

But if your friend cherishes acts of service, choosing to spend some of your quality time together running a few errands that your friend needed to get done can really let your friend know that you are tuned in to her needs.

It doesn’t have to be a major change, but your increased awareness will help you recognize when there are opportunities to truly let your friend know that you cherish him or her.

If you aren’t sure what your friend values the most, ask them!


Is it different for our romantic relationships?

Dr. Chapman explains that when we are in a new relationship, we accidentally speak the other person’s primary love language, because we are unconsciously using all five languages. So we tell ourselves, “He [or she] gets me!”

But our partner’s use of our love language is usually not deliberate. As time goes on, our partner’s ignorance becomes more and more obvious:

Why don’t we snuggle anymore?

I wish you would say “I Love You” more often.

Cleaning up the kitchen means so much to me…why can’t you understand that?

Do love languages apply at work?

I believe that they do.

I’m not necessarily saying that you need to understand how your co-worker interprets love, but increasing your awareness regarding how they prefer to be recognized is well worth the effort.

For example, do they prefer to hear, “Well done!” or do they prefer a small token of recognition?

Of course, for the sake of every manager and HR professional out there, please refrain from trying to discover if physical affection is important to them!


Your challenge for this week…

Over the next seven days, try to figure out the primary love language for five of the people you are close to.

Don’t turn this into a big To-Do list, just keep their responses in mind when you are interacting to them.

Life is short. Make sure that the people around you feel loved.

We all want to know that our effort to say I Love You has been heard loud and clear.


Pssst…want more tips for taking better care of yourself? Grab your free Secondhand Therapy eBook, Start Investing in Your Emotional Wellbeing: 25 Practical Tips for Moving Past Survival Mode. Just enter your info below…

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