Gary Chapman has written a very successful and well-known series of books about love in marriage and families. The first, The Five Love Languages, introduced the concept that people give and experience love in one of five distinct ways. Although people may use and enjoy them all, most people speak with one preferred love language and often feel most valued when others speak their language. Chapman encourages people to discover their loved ones’ languages and learn to speak to them in those preferred languages.

The five love languages, as outlined by Chapman, are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. He has adapted the book for kids, teenagers, and more, but so far he has not brought his ideas about love languages into the business world.

Some of the languages translate easily for work. That words of affirmation can be used at work is the most obvious to me.

People who enjoy experiencing love expressed through words of affirmation will appreciate—or perhaps even depend on —hearing words of praise from their supervisors. Or, people who speak love most easily through words may be those people who at work who are always encouraging others with words, both spoken and written.

Within the confines of professional appropriateness, some of the other love languages work also.

  • Is there someone at your office who is always bringing in baked goods or who keeps a jar of candy or gum to share? She may express affection most easily through gifts. Or, someone who seems extra motivated by work incentives/rewards may prefer the love language of receiving gifts. “Hey – I don’t care what the boss says as long as I get my bonus.”
  • Do you have an employee who always wants to schedule time to talk with you? He may prefer quality time.
  • Are you the person who shows up at work early, preparing for the day: the one who cleans up the kitchen, takes out the trash, or offers to clean up after a lunch meeting? You may speak the language of acts of service.

Speaking the language of physical touch seems problematic at work. Some people may enjoy a hug, fist bump, high five, pat on the back, or hand squeeze (I do!) but some for some people, it’s just not welcome. And some others may misinterpret physical affection.

Overall, though, I think Gary Chapman’s love languages are a helpful paradigm for leaders who want to relate more effectively to their employees. Understanding a person’s preferred style for giving and receiving affection will help a leader relate in way that build relationships more quickly.

Tell me something! Do you think the love languages can be translated for professional settings? What works? What doesn’t? How have you seen these concepts applied at work? What benefits would you see to integrating these ideas at work.

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I will be returning our ongoing series, “Increasing your Influence as a Blogger” very soon. However, the idea from this post came from a recent visit to my new team in Indianapolis. While traveling, I thought a lot about how love is expressed in professional settings. I saw love expressed on our team in a variety of ways and I very much appreciate this new opportunity to work with such warm, inviting, and affirming people.