I really enjoy encouraging people. And, I really enjoy it when people encourage me. For many years, I would encourage my wife, Ava. She would smile and say thank you, but it never seemed to rock her world the way I meant it. Maybe, I needed to make it extra-heavy encouragement, I thought. So, I’d pour it on even thicker. Not only did I not get the hoped-for response, but the reciprocal encouragement was almost non-existent. Instead, she would tell me how I didn’t load the dishwasher correctly. That’s not what I was going for.
Ava’s perspective would look a little different. Here’s what she would probably write:
We had six children and my world was wrapped up in taking care of them and David. I loved doing that. I loved finding ways to make life good for them. I loved making meals. I really loved planning our annual vacations to the beach. Here’s the thing about the dishwasher. When David and the kids didn’t put the dishes in the right way, they wouldn’t get clean and I had to do it again. And, when I tried to point that out, it wasn’t well-received. Instead, David would complain about how I wasn’t encouraging him enough.
This was not a good path to be on. And then I read Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages.” He lays out a very compelling argument that there are primarily five different ways that people show and feel love. Those five are: words of encouragement, physical touch, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. Typically, we each have a primary love language, and the other four aren’t as important or not important at all. After I read Dr. Chapman’s book, the lights went on.
Turns out my top love language is encouragement. You saw that coming, right? Ava’s primary love language is service and guess what’s at the bottom of the list for her? You probably saw that one coming too. Recognizing this changed the way I relate to her.
Once I understood this, I was able to really hear what she was saying. When I didn’t load the dishwasher correctly, it wasn’t simply about the dishwasher. It was about how I communicated love to her…or not. I was really saying she wasn’t worth the effort. I could tell her all-day long how great she is, but helping her through the day spoke far more loudly.
Knowing how Ava gives and receives love was a game-changer. I look for ways to serve her and I listen with different ears when she tells me the way I’m doing something is really creating more work for her. And, when she encourages me, it means even more now because I know how intentional it is for her to do it.
So….what’s your love language? And, more importantly, what’s the love language for the people most important in your world? Knowing those answers could very well change your relationships for the better.