Let's Get Personal

People Watching

You know why airports are one of my favorite places on Earth? People watching galore, and the fact that it’s a cornucopia of places and cultures all at once headed to various destinations around the world. Everyone is going somewhere.

Being the loner that I am, I have always loved people watching. And the more you watch, the more you understand. The more understand, the more you become aware of why people do what they do. Subtle hints of why people share/exhibit certain emotions and actions. This is partially why I am borderline obsessed with personality tests. I find them fascinating. The reasons behind our actions and understanding them affords us the opportunity to evolve into the best versions of ourselves and to add value to those around us. Also, in less eloquent terms, if you’re really watching and listening, you have the opportunity to help make someone’s shitty day a little less shitty.

You pick up on certain subtle insecurities people have as well. It’s easy to write people off as shitty, but there’s almost always a deeper underlying reason for their behavior. It’s not always pretty but it’s almost always true. But… you’re right, some people are just shitty at the end of the day. I digress.

So, in my people watching obsession, I think a lot about a lot. I notice things. People are complex, sometimes complicated — most often not knowing what they want or where they’re going, just kickin’ it in the general monotony of time and space. I think you can learn a lot about yourself by observing others and you can really bring value into your life and in the lives of those you care about by putting some of what you observe into practice.

With that in mind, over the past few months I’ve been super interested in figuring out what people’s love languages are. Now, we all know that some of our love languages may not be on the list I’m about to provide…like my secondary love languages are definitely coffee and naps… but bare with me. Perhaps you’ll be able to associate with one or two and maybe learn to love your people/person a little better.

The idea of love languages has been circling around the self/relationship improvement community for over a decade. If I’m not mistaken it revolved around this book written by Gary Chapman, a well renowned relationship counselor. But, the premise is that it’s not about marriage it’s about relationships in general… all relationships. Try not to get too bogged down in the overused “love” part… this applies to how you give and receive affection of any kind in various capacities of your life.

The Five Different Love Languages*:

Gifts — It’s not a  love of materialism. This person loves the thoughtfulness behind receiving a gift of any kind. Missed birthdays and lack of thought put into special days is particularly devastating for a person whose primary love language is receiving gifts.

Service — This person feels loved and cared for when you go out of your way to help them in some capacity. Help around the house, cooking dinner, putting together a piece of furniture are all examples of acts of service. This person would feel particularly unloved by laziness or apathy towards their requests or hints for help.

Physical Touch — This person likes to be in the presence of people. A hug, pats on the shoulder, holding hands, kissing or even sex are all ways in which this person feels loved and valued. For this person, lack of desire or neglect can be particularly devastating.

Words of Affirmation — For this person, words are equated with actions. This person not only needs to be shown they are loved and valued, they need to hear it. Being told they are of value to you or they are doing a good job are ways in which this person might receive affection. Compliments are also well received by this love language. Silence and lack of communication would devastate someone who needs words of affirmation.

Quality Time — This person likes to receive undivided attention. They love one on one time with their people. What would devastate this person is routinely canceled dates, exhausted use of busyness and not listening or being present when you are actually with them.

The idea is a  little cheesy but makes a lot of sense. Read a brief plug *here.

I found this particularly interesting when I looked at it under the microscope of my friend. A few years ago she was having a rough go at her marriage. She would routinely speak with me about how she didn’t know if she and her husband would survive the separation of a move to different states. She talked about how she felt unloved and unwanted and womp womp… how they weren’t having sex, like ever. More conversations and months went by (…and yes, I know way too much about their intimate life) and her whole demeanor would change if they had had sex. Then they were able to live together again. Things were grand. Two things about this should be abundantly clear: my friend’s primary love languages are physical touch and quality time, lack of both by either party was devastating to their relationship. But, by acknowledging that this is something she needed/wanted allowed her to ask for it and save their relationship.

Not just with romantic relationships. I know a plenty of people who need words of affirmation and quality time but had absentee parents growing up… that equates to a devastating feeling of being unloved and unwanted. Both feelings which perpetuate bad behavior in their relationships well into adulthood.

So what are my love languages, glad you asked…

My primary love language is words of affirmation, it ranks astoundingly higher than any other of my love languages combined. Which is strange because I’ve never been good at receiving compliments or anything of the sort, but it makes sense. I have a fondness for truth and words. I have an intense need to feel valued and appreciated. That’s why my main giving love language is acts of service and quality time. I’m keen on seeing what people need a filling the gap.

My Ranked receiving : words of affirmation, quality time, physical affection, service and then gifts

My Ranked giving: acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts and physical affection

I think the most important thing we can learn here is that people give and receive affection differently. They are flexible. You may need love in one way from your family and in another from a partner or friend. And the love language you may be putting out there might not be received by the person you’re giving it to.

Understanding where both needs should be met enables us to build better relationships while ensuring that there is no disparity on behalf of either party. I think we can all use a little help in learning to be a little less selfish and how to love others well.

Not only others, but ourselves too. Knowing how you receive affection will enable you to ask for what you want and practice a greater capacity of self-care. And realize that once you figure these things out, some people don’t have the capacity to give you what you need. In that moment of disparity, you then have the obligation to yourself to move on to someone who can. Never settle for less than you deserve. Love yourself well. Love others well. Be kind.

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