We talk a lot about love languages in personal, intimate relationships, but love languages are present in the workplace as well, not because something scandalous is going on, but because love languages are the ways we both feel appreciated and show our appreciation to others.
According to Gary Chapman, who wrote “The 5 Love Languages,” each of us uses one of five strategies: words, time, gifts, service or touch. This month, when hearts and flowers appear everywhere, let’s take some time to figure out how we can best express care, concern, appreciation and yes, love, to those we work with by using their love languages.
Words: “Nice job.” “I like what you did there.” “Thanks.” Never underestimate the power of expressing appreciation verbally. You may assume that the janitor knows you appreciate her putting your wastebasket back in the exact same place each night, but have you taken the time to tell her that? Letting co-workers, even bosses, know you have noticed — and are grateful — for what they do for you can go a long way toward making the workplace a happier — and, yes, holier place.
Time: When someone comes into your office or cubicle, do you give him or her your full attention or do you half-listen while checking email? The gift of time doesn’t mean turning your schedule over to the whims of colleagues, but it does mean really being present during interactions. Put down the mouse and make eye contact when someone talks to you. Pay attention during meetings (no playing Angry Birds under the table!) If your co-worker responds best to the gift of time, your attention may make a huge difference in your relationship.
Gifts: We aren’t talking big, splashy displays that can be misinterpreted. But how about asking if you can refill a coffee cup when you get one for yourself? Or bringing in some doughnuts “just because”? For those who feel loved and appreciated through the giving and receiving of gifts, it really is the “thought that counts.”
Service: Like gifts, acts of service don’t have to be “big deals.” If you see a fax at the machine while you pass by, drop it off on the desk of the person it’s intended for. Offer to take their mail with yours when you go to the post box. Ask if you can help, even just for a few minutes, with some task like collating a report or getting the conference room ready for a big meeting. Easing a burden, even in a small way, means the world to service-oriented folks.
Touch: This is the trickiest in the workplace since physical contact can be misinterpreted and unwanted. But if you know that someone “needs a hug” and won’t be upset by the gesture, a discrete, non-invasive hug, touch on the arm or even a touch on the hand can make him or her feel more cared about and supported.
Most of us spend the majority of our lives in a working environment. Figuring out ways that we can show love to those we work with doesn’t just make our lives easier; it helps bring about the Kingdom of God in the here and now. It’s one way we can, as the commandment admonishes us, “Love our neighbor as ourselves.”