How your love language affects your leadership style

Professional relationships are some of the most powerful relationships to have. And believe it or not, your love language affects how you communicate with co-workers, higher-ups, and employees. You may be confused: you don’t ‘love’ people at work, so how can this be? But just as you can have misunderstandings with your partner or family based on different love languages, the very same things can happen in other, less intimate situations, too.

Love languages reflect deeply on how you communicate, value others, and value yourself, all things that arise frequently in work or business relationships. Your leadership style and communication techniques can vary wildly depending on your love language, which affects both how you treat others and your reflection of how others treat you.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this article will dig into how you can be an efficient communicator and leader regardless of your love language, helping you to grow both emotionally and professionally, as well as garnering additional respect within the workplace.

But first, what are the five love languages?

The five love languages are based on the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. In this particular book, the author digs deep into how humans show love based on their language(s), mainly focusing on intimate, family, and friend relationships.

You may already know your love language, but if you don’t, you can take this quiz to find out. The results may not be cut and dry, you may have a few love languages instead of one primary love language, or at least one that you definitely don’t have. These are the languages:

  • Words of affirmation: Verbal statements affirming love or appreciation

  • Physical touch: Holding hands, hugging, etc

  • Acts of service: Doing helpful errands or helping out

  • Quality time: Uninterrupted and focused time

  • Gifts: Tokens of gifts of appreciation and thoughtfulness

How to spot these love languages in the workplace

Obviously, just by understanding the meaning of each love language and recognizing your own, you may be able to make some interpretations about what could help you out as a leader or in a more professional environment.

This day in age, physical touch is likely not the most appropriate form of showing appreciation at work, but love languages can still be useful to understand whether or not employees value verbal statements like, “Great job with that report, Sarah,” or quality time, like one-on-one, focused meeting on how to meet quarterly goals. Acts of service could be things like making photocopies for a co-worker, while a nice gift could be taking baked goods into the office to show appreciation.

Being the best leader is often about recognizing others’ love languages

To best connect with your employees (or co-workers), understanding their language of love is almost more important than knowing your own. Obviously, understanding the way you best receive appreciation is important, but what’s even more important is how your team wants to receive it. Recognizing and catering to your employees’ love languages will ensure they work harder, respect you as a leader, and are happy at work. Everyone wants to feel appreciated at work, no matter what their love language is.

There are two main ways leaders can recognize the love language of their employees. The first one is simple: pay attention! See how a team member reacts when given a gift, or if their eyes light up after you’ve complimented their work. Do they work harder after a focused one-on-one? Or tend to perform better after a team-building lunch? Take these cues and store them away.

The second way is also simple: just ask! Have your team take the love language quiz and then discuss results over a team lunch. Go a step further into this personal development exercise by asking them how they can be better co-workers by recognizing their own love languages, as well as those of their co-workers. This can help you figure out who needs those focused one-on-ones, and who needs verbal praise or encouragement.

How leaders can best cater to employees’ love languages

Now that you know and understand the love languages your team speaks, here’s what you can do to be the best leader possible.

Word of affirmation: True leaders will take the time to verbally correct poor performance (always in a constructive way), compliment success, and encourage and educate their employees through words. Remember, many employees may be used to only receiving verbal cues when they’ve made a mistake. Change this by verbally noting improvements and achievements, too.

Physical touch: Leaders (actually, anyone in a workplace environment) need to be especially careful with this one. But, when appropriate, a handshake or high-five may be a good way to interpret this language within the workplace.

Acts of service: It goes without saying that leader should take on the biggest load (but also know when to delegate). If your entire team is staying late to finish a project, don’t cut out early. Offer help when needed, and make sure your team knows you are there for them. Help out whenever possible, especially when your employees are overwhelmed or busy.

Gift giving: Obviously, singling employees out with specific gifts may be a bit odd, but group gifts and events are the way to go. Buy the office lunch, host a pizza party, bring in bagels for that early morning meeting, or let your team leave early one Friday per month. Think about what might motivate a team or employee who loves thoughtful gifts, and adjust it to fit in with a workplace environment. If your team is remote, consider meeting-free Fridays, something many employees value as it allows them to avoid Zoom for a day, and finish up projects.

Quality time: One-on-one check-ins are key for employees with this love language. Try not to cancel them, either, which could workers feeling under appreciated or ignored. Try to speak to these employees more in person, versus a quick message, Slack ping, or a mass email whenever possible. Team-building events are another way to make these employees feel more valued. Whenever possible, give employees your undivided attention.

Note that practicing these different love languages may make something else clear: your very own leadership love language, or what manner of showing your appreciation comes most easily to you in the workplace. It may be different than the language you express love in other settings, or different than the language you prefer to receive love.

Bottom line

Catering towards individual employees’ love languages may take a little extra effort, at least at first. But a true leader will realize that the payoff is well worth it. Your team will work harder, respect you, and feel appreciated, therefore giving their professional life more meaning. And once you begin to further connect with your team, the results will positively affect the company’s ROI, but improve your effectiveness as a leader, too.

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