It's 2019 and one of the main forms of affectionate communication is tagging people in memes. While memes are great, it seems like maybe millennials sometimes have trouble conveying their love more meaningfully. But how do we learn to do this? Believe it or not, there does exist some specific and helpful methodology. The five languages of love is a concept developed by Gary Chapman that categorizes the ways that we express and accept love. According to Chapman, the five ways to show love are through words of affirmation, gifts, acts of services, quality time, and physical touch.
You've probably heard people on campus chat about love languages in passing, but the idea is much more systematic (and helpful) than you might think. Chapman writes that each person has one major and one secondary way of showing love, and that being attuned to what the other person’s main love languages are can help one better express their feelings. While his advice seems to be targeted toward couples, these concepts are also applicable to friends and family—so if you're single and ready to mingle, you should listen up too.
Words of Affirmation
Chapman describes this as “using words to build up the other person.” Many people believe that this is part of the foundation of a strong relationship. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, kind words can be a powerful way to show love and support. We’re all so preoccupied with striving forward and overcoming challenges, it’s easy to forget that we have people around us who care and wish us the best. Whether it’s congratulatory or comforting, telling someone you love them and believe in them is more meaningful than you may realize.
It's not breaking news that everyone likes receiving gifts (this is partially why we love celebrations, no?). Still, there's a big reason for this: It’s a meaningful way to tell someone that you’re thinking about them, that they’re important to you, and that you went out of your way to show your appreciation for them. The magnitude of the gift doesn’t necessarily correlate with how much love you feel for a person—as we always say, it's the thought that counts. Small gifts, like bringing your friend something sweet in the middle of a tough week or buying your significant other a mini bouquet, can be just as thoughtful and well–meaning as something more expensive. A little goes a long way.
Acts of Service
This is another language that most people will appreciate—it’s a feel–good thing when someone helps you out or wants to pamper you. Acts of service can be something extravagant, or something mundane, like “cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming floors,” for your significant other, family member, or friend. Any act of service will portray your thoughtfulness and willingness to take the time to assist someone. After all, we could all use a little help sometimes.
It seems like people are so busy now—always on their phones, planning the next meeting or appointment or checking their horrifyingly full Google calendars. Especially in college, when there’s always so much going on with classes, clubs, and socials, it’s hard to spend time with someone for the sole purpose of just, as Chapman puts it, “talking and listening.” Taking time out of your busy day to be with someone shows that you enjoy their company and care about them. Show the people you love that they are a priority, and it'll almost always pay off.
Physical touch is really important in forming connections with other people (maybe this is why we shake hands the first time we meet someone), and sometimes tactile signals can be better understood than verbal ones. It can be hard to find the right words when someone is going through a difficult time, but a hug—which can release oxytocin, a hormone that helps lower stress hormone levels—can be an alternative way of telling them that you’re here for them. Something as small as a congratulatory slap on the back or a spontaneous kiss on the forehead can mean so much in the right moment.
No matter which languages suit you and your close ones most, try to speak them even louder this Valentine's Day. If you’re interested in finding out which love language you’re most attuned to, check out this quiz!