Your best friend sends a bouquet of flowers for your birthday.

“Nice,” you think to yourself, “But I would have appreciated a phone call so much more.”

Your partner leaves a handwritten note on your pillow that says, I love you.

“So sweet,” you think to yourself, “If only he’d vacuum or fill my car with gas once in a while! Nowthat would really feel like love to me.”

When an expression of love leaves you feeling kind of “flat,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an “ungrateful” or “unappreciative” person.

Often, it means that the people around you are not speaking your primary “Love Language.”

People might be trying to show you how much they appreciate you daily! But they’re not expressing their appreciation in a way that your brain is wired to understand it.
(Kind of like speaking Chinese to someone who only speaks Russian. It’s not going to work!)

That’s the big takeaway that I got from Dr. Gary Chapman’s simple, classic guidebook:
The 5 Love Languages.

Here’s the basic premise:

Human beings like to express and receive love in different ways.

We’re not all wired the exact same way.

The problem? We often forget that we all have different preferences and needs. We tend to assume that other people want… exactly what we want! This leads to a lot of misunderstanding, wasted effort, and unnecessary friction between partners, colleagues and friends. This leads to stress… not healthy!

According to Dr. Chapman’s research, there are five primary Love Languages — five ways that people like to receive love, appreciation, and affection.

      Words of Affirmation
      Acts of Service
      Receiving Gifts
      Quality Time
      Physical Touch

(You can take a free quiz here to identify your primary Love Language.)

Most people have one language that is noticeably stronger than the others. Some people (like me!) have two that are “tied” for first place.

Once you know your language? You can invite other people to speak it.

Once you know someone else’s language? You can speak it to them!

In this way, everyone feels more loved and appreciated.

The concept is so simple to grasp, yet so powerful — and not just for romantically-entwined couples.

Now that I understood the Love Language principle, I will start paying closer attention to my colleagues at work — trying to pinpoint each person’s Love Language so that I can say “Thank you!” and “I appreciate your hard work” in a way that will really resonate for each individual.

Some of my employees are “Words of Affirmation” lovers. For these folks? A handwritten note filled with gratitude can change the entire course of their day!

But other team members are “Quality Time” people. For them? Words are pretty meaningless. But a heartfelt conversation or a 1-on-1 lunch date? Now that means something.

So, the next time you’re feeling a bit unloved, undervalued, or underappreciated, take action! Speak up. Instead of silently wishing that other people would behave differently — or read your mind! — express what you want and need.

Say, “This is so wonderful, and you know what? My absolute favorite way to [receive praise for good work / get rewarded / feel your love] is ___________. In the future, that’s what would make me so happy.”

Be on the look-out to identify other people’s Love Languages, too. Make an effort to “speak” the ideal language to your friends, family and co-workers as often as you can.

Imagine a world where everyone feels deeply understood and appreciated, every day. We would be happier and healthier. Clinics and hospitals would be quieter.

Here’s your Love Challenge:

Choose one person who might need some extra love today. Do your best to figure out their primary Love Language. Then speak it. See what happens.

There’s always room for more love, every day, all year!

~ Dr. Sue