By Allison Nocita, MusicWorx Intern #164
The concept of the 5 Love Languages, developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, is best known in the context of romantic relationships. However, we all show and receive non-romantic love in the work setting in various ways. The 5 Love Languages approach can greatly enhance relationships with coworkers and supervisors in the music therapy workplace.
An Overview of the 5 Love Languages
“Nothing has more potential for enhancing one’s sense of well-being than effectively loving and being loved.” – Dr. Gary Chapman
First, let’s break down the term “love language.” Language can be defined as a system of communication within a community or culture. Love is more difficult to define, and comes in many forms. As humans, we experience love for family, friends, romantic partners… even pets! In the workplace, we may seek love in the form of appreciation or in successful relationships with colleagues. A love language, therefore, is our system of communicating appreciation, respect, affection, etc.
Dr. Chapman has developed an assessment tool to determine what an individual’s primary language of expressing/receiving love is. The quiz takes about 10-15 minutes to complete online, and you can take it now for free.
The website has more information about each language, but the graphic to the right provides a basic overview.
Taking the Love Languages…. to work?
“Speaking someone’s primary love language at work can build friendships and create a positive atmosphere in an environment that is often stressful.” – Dr. Gary Chapman
The first month of my internship was chaotic, exciting, and difficult to navigate. This was especially true when it came to team dynamics. Suddenly, I found myself having to learn from and work alongside four strangers. Although we all have a similar passion for music therapy, we have very different backgrounds, training, personalities, and communication styles. After a few weeks, we realized that we were struggling to function as a team, and this was causing unnecessary stress and confusion. In this internship, our team mentality must be strong for us to succeed.
We decided to have an “Intern Boot Camp” one day after work hours to try to improve our team dynamics. We took quizzes, such as communication and leadership styles, the 5 Love Languages, and even one titled “What kind of potato are you?” (I’m French fries, how about you?). After taking the quizzes, we shared our results and processed how these factors affect the way we work together. At left is a chart showing which love languages are represented in our team. I decided to include both our primary and secondary love languages, as these scores were often close together.
Why does it matter?
After taking the quiz, we recognized our common languages as well as our differences. Realizing that quality time is an important expression of love for everyone on our team has led to us spending more time together outside of work. We also make an effort to spend quality time with one another during work, such as eating lunch, taking short coffee breaks, or making music together. All of us share a love language, which is convenient, but this is not always the case.
The key to utilizing the 5 Love Languages is to recognize how you best receive/express love, while learning to accept and show love in each language. This does not always come naturally, but if you make an effort to understand and speak another’s love language, it can significantly improve a relationship in any context.
Take the time to figure out the primary love language of your colleagues and mentors. Here are some strategies for gathering this information:
- Observe expressions– does the person always greet with a hug or a pat on the back (physical touch)? Do they consistently praise others (words of affirmation)? Do they offer to help out with tasks (acts of service)?
- Notice complaints– listen for comments such as, “I need a little help around here” (acts of service), “I wish I had something to remind me of this occasion” (gifts), or “People are always on their phones and not making an effort to connect!” (quality time)
- Pay attention to requests– asking for feedback on work or their outfit (words of affirmation); asking for a souvenir from your vacation (gifts); asking permission to give a hug (physical touch)
It’s also okay to ask direct questions, such as “What do you need right now? What really makes you feel appreciated at work? What qualities do you most admire in a coworker?” Don’t forget to advocate for yourself! Tell your colleages and mentors, “I’m motivated when…. (I hear that I’m doing a good job), (someone pays attention to what I have to say), etc.”
“If you are going to request that someone make a change in their behavior, you are more likely to see that change if the person feels loved and appreciated by you.” – Dr. Gary Chapman
The 5 Love Languages approach is an effective way to address problems in the workplace in a manner that benefits everyone. Have a coworker that is driving you crazy day after day? Are you getting frustrated with others’ behaviors such as leaving a messy desk or being consistently off-task at work? Here are some steps to try:
- Spend some time paying attention to their expressions/complaints/requests as discussed earlier. Figure out their primary love language.
- Find a way to incorporate their primary love language into daily interactions. (Note: these do not have to be grand gestures. If their love language is gifts, grab them a coffee from the breakroom or perhaps an extra stack of post-it notes from your desk. Quality time can be as easy as having lunch together, or spending five minutes asking about their weekend on a Monday morning).
- After doing step 2 consistently for several days or weeks, make a request. (Example: “I notice that the kitchen gets pretty dirty by the end of the week, and I’m the only one cleaning it. It would help me out a lot if you could wipe down the counters once or twice a week.”
- Immediately after making a request, ask the person if they have any requests for you, and follow through to the best of your ability.
This strategy allows for the opportunity to strengthen workplace relationships and to resolve conflicts without animosity. Unlike manipulation, which involves altering behaviors via deception this process is rooted in mutual respect. As Dr. Chapman writes, “love creates a climate in which requests are more likely to be honored.”
Knowing the 5 Love Languages can be used to enhance workplace relationships.
- The love languages are present and relevant in every type of human relationship that we have. Transfer this knowledge to better inform your friendships and even your therapeutic relationships with clients/patients.
- Love languages are two-way streets. Know what works best for you, and definitely advocate for the languages that are meaningful to you, but don’t stop there! Keep pushing yourself to become more proficient in each language, and see how it strengthens the relationships in your life.
- The 5 Love Languages are a tool to overcome differences in the workplace and help teams function effectively. I love that each intern brings a unique perspective and style to our work, but it can be a challenge to get everyone on the same page. Understanding love languages helps me have empathy for my colleagues and teaches me how I can adapt for the benefit of the team.
Additional Resources for The 5 Love Languages: