There is no doubt that this is a time of year for family and friends. If you haven’t read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, please do. Because reading a book all about loving the people in your life will honestly add to the joys of your season – as well as to theirs.
If you’ve read it, you’ll know that people generally have a preferred way of receiving love. Some people like gifts – something special that reminds them of you. A couple of my closest girlfriends would much rather meet for lunch and a laugh than do too much gift-swopping. Another of my girlfriends loves getting hand-written cards – something filled with words that make her feel special.
We’re all wired to connect differently, which is why Chapman writes about what he calls “five love languages”. They are:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Acts of service
3. Receiving gifts
4. Quality time
4. Physical touch
His view is that feeling connected is about giving and getting in a way that resonates. Your grandson might love hugs, and your granddaughter might prefer shopping with you. Think of the people in your life right now. Which category might you slot them into? What are your love languages?
(Click here for the online test.)
I read a recent article with practical ideas on “speaking” these languages. Here are my own suggestions to spark some creativity – and fun – for the festive season ahead.
Words: Give a loved one a jar filled with a month’s worth of pieces of paper, each with a written word or phrase with what you appreciate about them. This will appeal to both gift- and word-lovers. I went to a coffee shop recently that served milkshakes on pages of old books. While I’m not suggesting we destroy books, there was something special about a dining experience served – literally – on beautiful words. Use old magazines as gift wrap for a wordy person you know: they’ll love the thought. Or start a new tradition: at your next family birthday, go around the table and have each person say something special about the birthday boy or girl. Working words into your connecting can be a beautiful way of bringing people together.
Acts: If you have someone in your life who values what you do for them above what you say to them, then the challenge is on to work out what will be best. What about popping in with a homemade cake? Or having pizza delivered to their home? Keep an ear open for what needs “doing” in their lives. Anything from making a cup of tea to helping with a DIY chore to feeding a friend’s pets while they’re away shows love.
Gifts: If someone you love likes gifts, then make mental notes (or written ones on your smart phone) of the things they love. Your gifts don’t have to be expensive: sometimes a care pack with their favourite kind of tea and biscuits will feel like the most extravagant gift in the world. They also don’t need to be big. They can even be the opposite of big, in fact: a gift-lover loves opening gifts – that’s half the fun – so what about a box in which you have more smaller gifts beautifully wrapped, letting the special person in your life savour the gift-opening. Gifts are often about feeling known rather than feeling spoilt, so look out for ideas to help you literally share the love.
Time: You’ll spot the quality-timers: they linger at parties, happy to chat all night. The thing to do with your time when it comes to a loved one who loves quality time – is give it to them! Factor in face-to-face time with these people in your life. If your time is limited, why not tie in an activity you both love? Some kind of exercise or craft is a great idea. One or two meaningful engagements let special people know that they are loved.
Physical touch: Not everyone wants to be hugged tightly but for loved ones who respond to touch, something as simple as a pat on a shoulder or handshake can mean the world; a hug might light up someone’s day. Ever thought of giving a foot massage “voucher” to a loved one as a gift? Or painting someone’s nails? Don’t underestimate how transforming touch can be.
So, no pressure to celebrate the season for giving – a little differently, this time. And, if you do try to “speak” a new language this holiday, let me know how it goes.
Lots of love – all five kinds – to you then, over the holidays.