Have you ever wondered why, when you offered a gift to someone, they didn’t seem to care much about it? Or why, when you tried to give someone you love a hug, they pulled back from you?
More than 25 years ago, Gary Chapman provided us with some great insight in regard to how people best receive love in his book The Five Love Languages. And the underlying principle is that we each speak a primary love language, and while the all of them demonstrate love to us in some fashion, they aren’t as meaningful as our primary one.
So as we discern how to best show love and encouragement to our friends who are hurting, we would do well to pause and consider what their love language might be (and ours, too).
Step One: Learn About the Five Love Languages
Here are the five love languages and a quick summary of each:
- Words of Affirmation – using words to encourage and affirm
- Acts of Service – demonstrating love through action
- Quality Time – spending meaningful time together
- Gifts – receiving a special present
- Physical Touch – getting appropriate and caring touch
The important thing to remember is that one love language is not better than another; they are just different!
Learn more about the five love languages on Gary Chapman’s site.
Step Two: Consider Your Love Language
To better grasp what your friend’s love language might be, start with understanding your own. There’s a quiz you can take on Gary Chapman’s website that will help you identify which one is your primary love language and which ones are secondary. You can choose the Singles Quiz or the Couples Quiz (or, if you’re a teenager, the Teen Quiz).
You might also be able to figure it out on your own, based on your experiences and which language resonates the most with you. For example, if I were to ask you how you wanted to celebrate your birthday, would you respond with:
- a list of gifts you want (Gifts)
- saying, “a card will do just fine” (Words of Affirmation)
- naming people you wanted to see (Quality Time)
- identifying something you wanted to do or have done for you (Acts of Service)
- something like, “oh, I just need a hug, no gifts” (Physical Touch)
Your answer might very well indicate what your primary love language is.
Step Three: Discerning Your Friend’s Love Language
Though you can’t necessarily take the quiz on behalf of your friend, you can think about what you know about them and make a prayerful guess as to what speaks the most to them.
Think about the birthday situation above. What would they probably ask for? What have they asked for in the past?
Or, consider what they ask of you most often. Do they text a lot (Words of Affirmation)? Do they want to go out for coffee (Quality Time)? Perhaps they ask you to watch their kids for an hour (Acts of Service) or give you a big hug every time they see you (Physical Touch).
One more hint: if we don’t stop to think about it, we tend to naturally show our love for others using our own love language. So, if you think about ways they interact with you, you might be able to pinpoint theirs. For example, if they give you a lot of presents, chances are, their own love language is Gifts.
Step Four: Matching Your Encouragement to Their Love Language
Once you can determine what their love language probably is, you can start to brainstorm ways to reach out to them. You can use our list of 92 Ways to Encourage and Support Others to help you think of ideas.
For example, sending them a card or a letter are obviously ways to encourage someone whose love language is Words of Affirmation, but you could also text them a joke, email them your favorite memory of you two, or send them a voice message with a prayer.
Or if their love language is Acts of Service, you could offer to let them use your home for a sort of “day retreat” or cook them a meal or run errands for them.
Our list is just a starting point. Think about what would be meaningful to your friend based not just on their love language, but also on what their need is right now, and then try to meet them there. You may need to stretch a little bit, but you can do it! God will help you!
God’s Love Language
One more thing… After I learned about love languages (back when I was in college), I came across this verse in the Bible:
“If you love me, obey my commandments.”John 14:15 (NLT)
It appears to me as if God’s love language is obedience. We show Him our love when we follow His Word. It’s something worth thinking about for a while… How are we doing at showing God how much we love Him?