By Kate Pauley – MFTC
We are living through some challenging times. Things are uncertain, our lives have been flipped upside down, and we have been forced to create a new normal. In this uneasy world, it can be difficult to remain positive. This is why it is more important than ever to support those around us and allow others to support us in return.
According to positive psychology, meaningful relationships are an important factor in boosting overall happiness. Maintaining strong relationships is correlated to high life satisfaction levels. Humans are social beings and collectively we thrive on physical and emotional interaction with other humans. Social connectedness is an important part of life that we cannot thrive without. We are hard-wired to crave intimate, loving, strong relationships, but during these times it can feel especially difficult to maintain our relationships.
We each have a “love language” that we speak, or a way that we like to love and be loved. To support friends, family, and peers most effectively, it is important to know their love language. This way, when they are feeling depleted, your efforts to support them will make a big impact.
And though it may seem counter-intuitive, sometimes when we feel most depleted, the thing that can actually improve our mood is performing an act of kindness for a friend (Layous, Nelson, Oberle, Schonert-Reichl, & Lyubomirsky, 2012). So, if you want to give your friend and your own self a positivity boost, do something nice for your friend by speaking their love language. You can have confidence that you are supporting your friend in the way that they truly appreciate which can also make you feel good. Happiness is indeed contagious (Fowler & Christakis, 2008).
What are the 5 love languages?
- Words of Affirmation – If this is your love language, you love a compliment or an expression of appreciation. Maybe you enjoy writing letters or offering encouraging words.
- Gift Giving – If this is your love language you love receiving a personal gift and probably love buying thoughtful gifts for others.
- Physical Touch – If this is your love language you love a good hug, probably love to (hugs, kisses, hand on knee, etc.)
- Acts of Service – If this is your love language you love doing something kind for your partner, freely giving, cleaning, etc.
- Spending Quality Time – If this is your love language being present, undivided attention, making eye contact, is very important.
Interested in learning your love language? Take this quiz to learn more: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/
How do we figure out the love language of a friend/spouse?
1. Pay attention to clues from your friends:
- When they go on trips do they bring you souvenirs (gifts)
- When they have dinner at your house do they help you with the dishes (acts of service)
- Do they give you a hug when they know you’re upset (physical touch)
- Are they always thinking up new ideas for you to spend time together (quality time)
- Do they make a point to compliment you when you wear something new or change your hair (words of affirmation)
2. Ask them!
By directly asking your friends how to best support and love them, they will be able to see how much you care. This is a great bonding topic to show how dedicated you are to the friendship. In this conversation be sure to share how you like to be loved so that you can be supported by them too!
Using the 5 Love Languages:
Once you know your friends love language, here are some ideas on how to best support them:
Words of affirmation:
- Express gratitude verbally when they do something that makes you feel loved/supported
- Genuinely compliment them
- Provide encouraging words when they are struggling. Ask them directly what you can do for them in a particular moment or situation
- Speak kindly to them to verbally lift them up when they are feeling down
- Verbally apologize if you do something that upsets them – the best kind of apology includes an acknowledgment of what you did wrong, the actual apology, and then what you will do differently going forward.
- Be sure not to criticize them as this can be especially damaging for someone whose love language is words of affirmation
- Give your friend undivided attention by putting your phone away the next time you are together.
- Set up a ritual, like getting together for coffee once a month
- Come up with a creative idea for how to spend time together, like going on a picnic
- Maintain eye contact, and track them in conversation to show them that you are paying attention
- Be sure to carve out time to talk about the things that are important to you to make the time together quality
- When you see something that reminds you of your friend, buy it for him/her (assuming that the price is reasonable and within your budget)
- Make something for a friend and give it to them just for fun
- Offer to buy a friend a coffee or dinner just because
- Consider sending a gift if a friend is going through a tough time to brighten their day
- Don’t worry about the cost of the item – even if the item costs a dollar, it is the thought that counts in the gift-giving relationship!
Acts of service:
- Offer to pick something up from the store for a friend
- Help a friend out by cooking dinner or bringing them coffee on a day where you know they really need it
- Help your friend out with the dishes after a dinner party
- Be there to support your friend by listening when they have something they need to talk about
Physical Touch (this is more difficult in the time of COVID-19, so you may have to rely on people’s secondary love language):
- Get a friend something soft that they can cuddle up with on the couch
- Bring a friend something warming to the body like chicken noodle soup or a hot cup of tea
- If your friend is in your “safe zone” of people – (a roommate that you live with or someone in your family) offer a hug as a form of support or an arm around their shoulders
- Be careful to keep your touch-friendly, as anything more than a heartfelt hug could suggest more than friendship