Love languages, not be confused with romance languages like French, Italian, and Spanish, are an important part of your communication and interaction with others. There’s a very well-known book called The Five Love Languages, which explains the ways in which people like to give and receive love from their partners, and how you can make each type of person feel the most loved and appreciated.

Strange as it may be to associate your work life with your love life, there are a fair number of parallels. Honestly, we often spend more time in the office than we do outside of it. So it makes sense that the same advice for our love lives can also be applied at the office.

The main theme of the aforementioned book is that there is no fool proof, one-size-fits-all method to show someone that you care. The same concept is true when attempting to land a new job, bond with your co-workers, or improve a client relationship.

Now, don’t panic… You don’t have to prefer the same love language as your romantic partner or business associates to make things work and have a successful relationship. However, it can help to be aware of the ways in which the other person feels most appreciated. For example, receiving gifts may really float your boat. However, if your partner prefers quality time and you buy a nice gift for them, but aren’t able to spend their birthday with them, don’t be surprised if they aren’t over the moon about your gesture.

The same is true with your boss. If you appreciate words of affirmation, but they are all about acts of service, wires could get crossed when they aren’t impressed by you talking about your ambitious goals, and you aren’t thrilled with an under the radar promotion without the verbal kudos.

Here’s a breakdown of the five ways that people feel loved—and how you can apply this knowledge to your advantage in the workplace.

Gifts

You don’t have to break the bank on these types of people. Just as someone who is courting a potential partner may send flowers or give chocolates, you can give a gift-loving client or boss a small present. I’m not referring to kickbacks or bribes, or anything against company policy that can get you into trouble.

Workplace gifts can come in the form of shared information, like sending a colleague or boss an article relevant to your company. Promo or swag items are also appropriate during the holidays or for another special occasion.

I personally LOVE corporate swag, especially types that you can eat, or practical items like water bottles or portable chargers. The point of giving a gift is to ensure that the person knows that you’re thinking about them.

Quality time

For many, quality face time is the the preferred method of communication. Especially when working with new clients or when starting a new role. For quality time lovers, sending an email every few weeks won’t suffice. Instead, they will be much more appreciative if you take them out to lunch or dinner, or if you come to their office for a face to face meeting. This face time should be kept up regularly!

To make the best judgement, it is wise to really get to know your office culture. In environments where after hour work events and general visibility in the office are important, you probably shouldn’t skip out of the office right at 5pm or roll in at 10am to start your day.

In remote work environments, this can be a bit tricky. Try to keep yourself available for Google Hangout/Skype meetings and always be online when your boss needs you.

Words of affirmation

Many couples will exchange words to show their support for each other, and professional relationships can also benefit in the same fashion. It never hurts to send a thank you note after an interview or purchase, that’s just basic manners. Those folks whose love language are words will certainly appreciate that handwritten note or email thanking them for working with you. These words can be written or spoken.

Colleagues and bosses alike also appreciate hearing a “great job!” sentiment every now and again. Vocalizing your appreciation can speak volumes about your professionalism and positive attitude.

tips for improving work relationships

Acts of service

Acts of service doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. For some people, the epitome of service is when their significant other goes out of their way to do an everyday task like wash the dishes, go grocery shopping, or brew the coffee in the morning. Similarly, for some clients, the extra service goes a long way. As is true in romantic relationships, the act doesn’t have to be a big deal. Simple things like hand delivery, discounting/waiving fees, or saving your client time by making their travel arrangements can go a long way to make them feel appreciated.

Going above and beyond your typical job description is also a great way to also impress your boss and co-workers. If your colleague is having a particularly busy week and you have some free time, offer to assist, or see if there’s something you can take off your boss’ plate. Volunteering to do the office coffee run is also sure to earn you brownie points!

Physical touch

No, I’m not talking about that kind. I’m certainly not suggesting anything that will land you a complaint with HR! In romantic relationships, people who speak this love language like holding hands, hugs, or other forms of PDA.

In the professional world, this can translate to handshake styles. A firm, yet natural shake is always best. A “I’m sticking my hand out to shake but really I wish you would kiss my hand to worship me like the princess I am” extended limp hand is just as bad as a “I’m going to break your fingers to show you that I am important” handshake. Both options guarantee an awkward first impression with a boss, colleague, or client, and should be avoided at all costs. Not confident on your handshake yet? Practice on a friend, partner, or family member until you get it right.

How to tell which type you’re dealing with:

Take note of how the person in question treats you. Chances are, they will act upon whichever gestures they appreciate the most. Reciprocate in the same style. If they are hard to gage, experiment with several different styles to show your appreciate, and pay careful attention to how they react to each. If you can’t narrow down their particular favored love language, find out their birthday and use this guide based on their sign! When in doubt, trust your gut. It is always a good idea to keep the lines of communication open in the workplace, regardless of your preferred love language!

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