During my year of AmeriCorps service I took the Myers & Briggs personality test. I was an ENTJ and fascinated to think about what this meant for the work I did. But the most powerful portion of the test and workshop that followed was when the instructor flipped a common expression around. She said, “don’t treat people like you’d like to be treated, treat them like they’d like to be treated.” In the moment this was revolutionary for me. This idea came at a time when our group was working almost exclusively with low-income kids at schools. What I needed to exhibit was more empathy and think in terms of how people wanted to be helped.
Almost a decade later and this same idea comes up in The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman.
We all have different norms for different people. With my children I think in different terms than with my spouse. I know to give the former certain choices and the latter different ones. The former I correct and shape into better people, the latter I love for who she is.
I also act differently to people of different ages. My father and in-laws are all conservative and when I don’t agree with an angle they’ve taken I at least give weight to their life experiences and think about why they may have considered that.
Just this idea of considering how someone views the world and understanding that they may have something worthwhile to say lets me enter and leave each conversation contented.
In Dr. Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages, his theory is that we all have love tanks that need to be filled by the people in our lives. Those tanks are normally filled by one of these methods:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Giving gifts
- Acts of service
- Acts of touch
Within in languages Chapman describes various dialects exist as well. With gift giving you can give regular gifts or surprises which can be store bought or homemade. With words of affirmation some people want a cheerleader while others want a few words in a quiet moment.
The key is to communicate with your spouse – or anyone in your life – what your primary love language is. Because it was just on television, take Modern Family for example. In the TV show there is a gay couple, Cameron and Mitchell who seem to touch each other much more than the other couples in the show. Neither seems influenced by gifts but Cameron drifts towards needing words of affirmation more than Mitchell.
Not only a hypothetical but one of a scripted television show no less! But it demonstrates the point, we all need different things from the people we love in our lives.
The book is one that you could read any amount of and have it change your relationship. It’s all about figuring out what the other person needs.
Have you read The 5 Love Languages? Let me know what you thought, @MikeDariano.