You're giving me all the feels

Affirming words are the way to my heart. Gifts? Not so much.

Last week, I received the loveliest recommendation from a client. (Seriously, go check it out here on my LinkedIn profile — it gave me all the feels).

Later that same day, I received two different notes from people I trust and admire complimenting this newsletter, my insights, and my writing.

(Needless to say, that was a good day.)

Because I’m often my own worst critic and prone to bouts of imposter syndrome, it’s incredibly gratifying to know when I’ve managed to create a positive ripple in someone’s world. And since my lofty goal in life is to positively impact the lives of millions through my words, every time I hear that I’ve made one person’s life better, it reminds me that I’m on my way.

As I’ve said many times, words have power. For me, the highest compliment is when someone tells me that my words touched them.

So it probably will come as no surprise that my primary love language* is “Words of Affirmation.”

For those unfamiliar, Gary Chapman’s classic book, The 5 Love Languagessuggests that each of us has a preferred “love language” and can improve our relationships by knowing one another’s.

This concept is so universal that it was later adapted to the work environment, shifting from “love” to “appreciation.”

“Because we don’t normally think in terms of our co-workers loving us — the word appreciation fits much better — but it is meeting that deep need to feel that somebody cares about me, and somebody appreciates me,” says Chapman.

Chapman teamed up with Dr. Paul White to pen The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplacewhich aimed to improve workplace relationships simply by learning your co-workers’ language of appreciation.

“Every person is unique in the way that they feel love or express love in personal relationships, but it’s the same in how they feel appreciated and valued in work relationships,” explains White.

And when leaders, co-workers, and employees feel appreciated, says Chapman and White, you improve staff morale, create a positive workplace, and increase employee engagement.

Here’s a breakdown of the five languages of workplace appreciation, how to communicate effectively using them, actions you can take to support each style, and things to avoid.

1. Words of Affirmation (my personal fave)

How To Communicate

As this language’s name suggests, use words to affirm, encourage, and appreciate people. Employ empathy to understand your colleagues better and actively listen to them to signal your interest.

Actions To Take

Provide verbal praise in front of others—in a team meeting or when you’re with customers, for instance. Regularly send unexpected messages, emails, or texts of encouragement to foster closer work relationships.

Things To Avoid

Offering non-constructive criticism or failing to recognize your workmates’ efforts, which will leave others feeling frustrated and unappreciated.

2. Quality Time 

How To Communicate

The best way to use this language is to give others your undivided attention.

Actions To Take

Schedule time for one-on-one, uninterrupted, and focused conversations. Maintain eye contact. Arrange activities outside of the office to hang out together with colleagues. Each of these actions will build trust and deepen team relationships.

Things To Avoid

Four words: put away your phone!

3. Acts of Service 

How To Communicate

With this language, actions speak louder than words.

Actions To Take

Help alleviate a colleague’s workload by offering your assistance, and then perform the service in a way the recipient wants it done. Use phrases like “I’ll help...” to let them know you’re with them and be clear about how much time you have to assist.

Things To Avoid

Not following through on tasks you promised to take care of.

4. Tangible Gifts

How To Communicate

Despite its name, this language is less about the “gift’” and more about the thought behind it.

Actions To Take

Get to know what is important or valued by the recipient and ensure the gift reflects this knowledge. For example, a caffeine junkie would love a gift card to her favorite coffee house, and a team that’s been working around the clock might appreciate spa gift cards to unwind.

Things To Avoid

Forgetting special milestones or giving a generic gift with no link to its recipient.

5. Appropriate Physical Touch 

How To Communicate

This language uses appropriate physical touch to demonstrate appreciation.

Actions To Take

When acknowledging someone for a great job, offer a high five, handshake, fist bump, or a pat on the back. These spontaneous displays of celebration help build positive work-based relationships.

Things To Avoid

Personal boundaries are important to keep in mind with this language of appreciation, so avoid unwanted touch.

One word of caution about languages of appreciation: We often unconsciously give what we want to receive, so we need to be careful to keep others’ needs and preferences in mind; what works for one person may fall flat with another. For instance, lavishing praise (Words of Affirmation) on someone who would rather you help with her workload (Acts of Service) is nice but not as meaningful.

We all have preferences that color our world, stemming from our perspective. Your perspective is the lens through which you view yourself, others, your career, and the world. It affects the story you tell yourself and the story you tell others and impacts your potential. It influences your behavior, thoughts, and opinions and how (or if) you believe you can make an impact.

Perspective is often the difference between someone’s career soaring or sinking, but there’s good news for those who occupy the latter camp.

In my latest Forbes article, I share two encouraging truths about perspective.

Shine on,

Amy

P.S. Didja know I share fresh new content Monday-Friday across the interwebs? Get first dibs by following me on LinkedInTwitter, and Instagram, and on Forbes to get notified of my latest articles. (I’m also on Clubhouse if you dig that audio-only kind of thing.)

P.P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or reminiscing about long drives with my bestie, I’m a social media ghostwriter(Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders, entrepreneurs, and CXOs craft their stories to communicate and connect better by magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.

P.P.P.S. You, my coruscant friend, have great taste in newsletters—thanks for subscribing! Be sure to check out the archives to catch up on previous issues, and feel free to share this one with your friends. Or better yet, invite them to join our Illuminate Me tribe!


*Here’s how I’d rank my preferences: Words of Affirmation is my #1, followed by a tie between Quality Time and Physical Touch, then Acts of Service, and lastly, Gifts. It’s not to say that I wouldn’t appreciate something like a Peet’s Coffee gift card (because I 100% would), but what’s most meaningful to me are kind words and distraction-free time together. Oh, and I’m a hugger, so that’s good too.

Are you curious about your love/appreciation language(s)? Want to understand your friends, family, and colleagues better? For a fun and enlightening exercise, gather your tribe to take the quiz here and comment below with your findings. I’m confident it’ll provide you with a few helpful a-has.