Revisit: The 5 Love Languages & How Yours Impacts Your Relationships

*From the dusty archives… I recently had a conversation with a friend about this book and it was a good reminder to revisit how understanding expressing love can help in all your relationships.

5-love-languagesI’m a believer that our personal lives and professional lives are intertwined and that it’s nearly impossible to separate or compartmentalize them.  So, when a manager or employee comes to me for advice, I try to look for clues to the big picture instead of just that situation.  Often when I’m assessing a situation, whether it is in my personal or professional life, I think back to a book I read ten years ago.  The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.   Dr. Chapman is a well-known and respected pastor, author, and speaker.  And, while this book was written to assess and address the language of love that is meaning to someone on an individual level, I”ve found that there are many business uses for the book.

The basic premise Dr. Chapman asserts is that there are five “languages” of love and that each one of us has a primary language.  If your partner speaks a different “language”, there is a good chance you will not feel loved.  So, the idea is to identify your primary love language and your partner’s, then work to use the language the other person responds to best.

The five love languages

  • Words of Affirmation- This person identifies most with compliments and other words that say you value them.  If you insult this person, it will affect them more deeply than other people.
  • Quality Time–  This person values your undivided attention.  If you miss a meeting or appointment  with this person, they will truly be hurt.
  • Receiving Gifts–  It’s not just the gift that is important to this person, but the thought behind it.  If you miss this person’s birthday or anniversary, they may be crushed.
  • Acts of Service- This person feels happiest when you are showing your love by helping them.  Whether it’s pitching in on a chore at home or helping with a big project at work, this person will feel valued and cared for.
  • Physical Touch- This is not a language just about sexual contact.  The person that speaks this language feels important when they are hugged, get a pat on the back, or your hand on the shoulder.  This one is harder to demonstrate at work due to sexual harassment laws, however, it can still be demonstrated in moderation.  The pat on the back, fist bump, shaking hands, or high five can fill in and still show this person they are valued by using physical contact.

If you think about the people you work with; your team members, colleagues and peers, subordinates, try to figure out which language seems to apply most to each person.

Let’s imagine you’re the type of leader who is very busy and recognizes performance only with money (pay increases, spot bonuses, etc.).   You are speaking the Receiving Gifts language.  But if I am the person who works for you and my primary language is Quality Time, I will not feel valued or cared for.  The one thing that would make my day is to have you show up for a meeting on time or meet with me one-on-one.  Or, if I feel valued when you notice that I’m carrying a heavy workload and you offer to pitch in and help me meet a big deadline, you’re speaking my language of Acts of Service.

There are many benefits of learning your own love language and how you can use the love languages model to communicate more effectively with people in your personal and professional life.  You will build stronger relationships and have more engagement with the people in your life.  To take a quiz to find out your own love language, click HERE.  Then, tell me what your love language is in the comments. For anyone who has met me or knows me from reading my blog, there will be no surprise to my results.

Mine is physical touch and words of affirmation almost equally.  Must explain why I’m a hugger who likes compliments!  :-)

Linked In or Linked Out? Etiquette of Growing Your Network

Have you ever walked up to someone you don’t know and thrown your business card at them then walked away?  What about seeing a stranger across the room and shouted your name and company name at them then just stood there?  No?

Of course you haven’t.  That would be rude and certainly would not make the recipient of your attention willing to start a business relationship with you.  So why on earth do some people think that you can go on LinkedIn and send a random invitation to connect to someone they don’t know and not include any greeting or information?

Sure, some people use the standard LinkedIn greeting that pre-populates when you start to craft the invitation, but that is pure laziness.  Let’s imagine saying those words out loud at a professional networking event as you see someone you don’t know:

You:  I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn.

Stranger:  Who ARE you?

You:  It doesn’t really matter.  Maybe I’m a former colleague or maybe we’ve never worked for the same company.  Either way, I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn.

Stranger:  Why?  What is the benefit of us connecting?

You:  Well, I don’t know.  I haven’t given it much thought.

Stranger:  Why don’t you go back to your table and give it some thought. Then, you can approach me for a conversation and tell me why this networking relationship will be mutually beneficial.

See what I mean?  If that was how your first encounter went with someone, it would not be likely that the stranger would want to connect.

The moral of the story…

The moral of this cautionary tale is to use LinkedIn with the same manners you would when attempting to connect in person with a business professional.  As more executives begin signing up for the service, it’s even more important to cultivate relationships and it starts with that first interaction.

What to do

  • First, make sure your own profile is 100% complete and use details.  This will give any potential future connection the foundation information they’ll need to determine if they are willing to connect with you.
  • If you met the person before, mention where and when in your greeting.
  • If you have never met the person but have mutual friends, mention them.
  • If you have never met the person and do not have mutual connections, mention how you think your backgrounds will benefit each other by making the connection.
  • Most importantly, don’t try to sell or beg for a job in the initial interaction.  Those questions should only come after you have established a relationship (even if just online) with the person you want to connect with.

What other advice would you give?  What is the worst way someone has tried to connect with you on LinkedIn?

Everyone Has Something

photo credit: J Bright

Writing as a form of expression helps people heal.  It can bring you closer to someone you know and  it can help you realize that things you experience are often experienced by others.  I find that through writing and sharing with you, I heal.  I recently read a blog post by Jason Seiden that said, “everyone has something….”.  That something is something difficult they are dealing with.  It could be a work issue, a health issue or even a death.

I have several close friends who have recently had to face the loss of a loved one or dear friend.  To them, I send my condolences and my offer of prayers.  By focusing on the positive impact they have had on us, we can go on.  I too have lost a loved one in the last week.  My aunt, Ruth Schlater Sterling.  She left us far too early.  Aunt Ruth was a tough, no-nonsense woman.  She taught me how to care for animals, how to appreciate antiques and maybe most importantly… to shave my legs!  I’ll never forget her.

In the grand scheme of things, only our personal relationships are important.  

If you have lost a loved one or just want to publicly show appreciation for someone, please feel free to do that in the comments today.  I’d love to hear about the people that are special to you.


Respect: The Answer To All The Questions

I’m going to give you the answer first, then all the questions.

The answer is RESPECT.

And now, the questions:

  • What is the key to success?
  • What motivates employees to come to work and really give it their all?
  • What is the one thing that managers can give that has no cost but is worth more than anything?
  • What is the one thing that when missing will cause employees to leave your company?

In business, we talk endlessly about how employees can be more productive.  We envision the ways that we can develop their skills, give them challenging projects, and turn them into the superstars of the team.  What we don’t talk enough about is respect.  Respect can have varying meanings to each of us, but basically it is the act of treating someone with esteem and holding them in high regard.

Here’s the challenge

I want you to think about respect today.

And tomorrow.

And the next day.

I want you to think about the tone of voice you use with your spouse or significant other, your children, your boss, your employee, your colleagues, and people you interact with in public.  I want you to just make an effort to really go out of your way to show respect.  Listen more, be attentive, be open to hearing someone else’s ideas, and instead of assuming the worst about someone, assume the best.

That’s what I’ll be doing with my time…won’t you join me?


How To Have A Successful Working Relationship With Your Boss

One of the first patterns you see when working in human resources and dealing with employee relation situations is that over half of the issues stem from employees not being satisfied with their working relationship with their boss.   Complaints range from dislike of micro-managers to working for someone who is so distant that a relationship never forms.  I’ve found that as I’ve worked with many executives over the last 16 years, one thing stands out…. if there is not a match in style between the leader and the subordinate, ultimately that working relationship will suffer.  Over time, either the employee will become dissatisfied and leave the company, the leader will not be satisfied with the employee and performance will suffer, or both people stay in the relationship and the department never reaches it’s full productivity potential.

While reading an article in Scientific American Mind on Attachment Theory, it struck me that although they were focusing on romantic relationships, the theory plays out in our work relationships as well.  Attachment Theory and the corresponding styles was first discovered by Mary Ainsworth, an American psychologist.  Her work with a British researcher, John Bowlby, resulted in the idea that people who have a strong attachment to others, specifically their caregivers, are more likely to survive.  The three types of attachment are:

  • Secure– This person has a solid base and is able to explore their environment.  They’re more likely to learn and thrive and are comfortable with intimacy.
  • Anxious–  This person is overly worried about where the other person (ie. parent, romantic partner or boss) is and what they are doing.  By being preoccupied with that, they are not easily able to focus their attention on the situation at hand.
  • Avoidant– This person believes that if they allow a close, trusting relationship to form, they will lose their independence.  They try to minimize closeness in their relationships and keep other people at arms length.

This can have a huge impact in the workplace.

If there is a mis-match of the boss’ attachment style and yours and you do not recognize it, your relationship may never see success. One or both of you will be disappointed in the other person.  This disappointment will cause friction over time if not addressed and eventually, something has to give. Recognizing your own attachment style can help you in your relationships because then you can make adjustments to aid in bridging the gap. According to the article authors, Amir Levine and Rachel S.F.Heller, “attachment principles teach us that most men and women are only as needy as their unmet needs.  When their emotional needs are met, they usually turn their attention outward.  This result is sometimes referred to in the literature as the ‘dependency paradox’: the more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more indpendent and creative they become.”

As we help leaders, or as we review our own leadership style, the message is clear.  We need to help stack the deck by working toward having a more secure and trusting relationship with our boss.  This is where HR can really help an employee focus efforts on strategies to reach that goal instead of focusing on all the problems in the working relationship.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these attachment styles and how you’ve seen relationships play out in the workplace.  What has worked and what hasn’t?


Does Being in Love Make You a Better Manager?

With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, I’ve been thinking about love.  In fact, this time of year, stories about being in love are all around.  As I was driving to work last week, there was a brief story on satellite radio that told about how people behave better when they are in love.  This sparked me thinking about whether or not being in love, or being loved in general, can make a person be a better manager.  So, I set out to find out.

I found study after study that tout the health and other benefits of being in love or being loved.  The key is not only physical, but mental.

People who are loved:

  • have lower stress levels
  • get better sleep
  • take fewer risks
  • practice more preventative health
  • have increased levels of Dopamine (which positively affects pleasure and motivation)

Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran an article on the health benefits of falling  and staying in love.  According to them, “Hugging and hand-holding have been found to release the hormone oxytocin, which lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood and increasing tolerance for pain, according to research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

So, I wonder, does being loved or in love make you a better manager?  I think it can.  If you are experiencing some of the benefits mentioned above on a regular basis, you are likely to bring a more positive attitude to work.  Theoretically, you should be able to better manage your responses to stressful situations.  And on the flip side, if you are going through personal relationship problems at home or if you are depressed, it will be much more challenging for you as a manger.  You will have to somehow overcompensate at work just to be able to motivate others.  Hard to do when you’re not feeling very motivated yourself.

In order to provide an environment that fosters employee engagement and coaching, HR needs to think outside the box.  Maybe the missing link is our ability to help support employees who are having personal relationship difficulties.  What do you think?

Hey, You’re Doing it Wrong

As my kids head back to school today to begin their first day of 1st grade, I’m reminded of that great scene from Mr. Mom.  You know, the one where Michael Keaton has to drop his kids off at school and he does it all wrong. He’s driving up the wrong side of the school drive and someone says, “Hi Jack.  You’re doing it wrong.”  Fast forward to later in the movie as Jack really embraces being Mr. Mom and now he’s not only NOT doing it wrong, he’s the guy out there directing the traffic as some new parents there are doing it wrong.

As I sat through orientation to send my kids to 1st grade, I heard a ton of reminders of how things are done.  Some make sense, some don’t, but the point was…..hey parents, we’ve been doing this a LONG time this way and if you don’t do it our way, you’re doing it wrong.  That’s cool.  I get it.  After all, not worth an argument over when a kid can step off the curb or that the school wants them to sell a bunch of junk to raise money for the PTO.  What bothered me is that so often in daily life, we’re told we’re doing it wrong.  What ever happened to learn about ways to communicate that are positive and that encourage people to be creative and innovative.  Maybe there is a better way.  Maybe.

I had a conversation with another HR blogger yesterday.  We talked in general about how people seem to fall into this online community in a myriad of ways.  I love that there isn’t a “right way” or a “wrong way” to do it.  It’s pretty simple:

  • If you want to have a blog- Set up a site and write. Period.
  • If you want to speak at a conference– Know your stuff, connect with conference organizers, volunteer.
  • If you want to network and make friends online– Be real, genuine, sincere, authentic.  All the things that people gravitate to.

And, if you don’t like those ideas, you know what?  I won’t stop you and say You’re Doing It Wrong.

Ways Fostering Your Own Engagement Pays Off

I was looking through some notes I made a couple months ago about Employee Engagement and what it looked like to me.  It wasn’t a long list, but one that shows the components I find important in keeping myself engaged.  As I look at the list this morning though, it also seems to be a summary of ways we can be a better team member, a way to make a department better, and even a way to address problems when you are not properly aligned with the expectations of a leader.  Here’s my list:

  • Volunteer to do more
  • Be more active (in the group, the topic, etc.)
  • Look for ways to improve, then implement them
  • Take ownership for what goes well and where you need to improve
  • Get “fired up” and use your passion
  • Be loyal
  • Build trusting relationships

I guess the take away for me, and maybe for you, is that many of the things we can do to foster our own engagement in a workplace or some other activity we pursue are the very things that will help us build relationships and work better with people.

What do you think?  What would you add to the list?