Just when you thought you had figured out that person you adore so much, or a friend that you thought you really knew, then ‘Slam’, this person does not respond as you expected and behaves totally different from what you thought! Ah, so you are not alone in this, cos it’s a common thing in any relationship to discover new sides of a person. Whether it’s a friend, a romantic relationship or even your parents, everyone has a past that shapes them into the person that they are.
Why do we behave the way we do?
How we express our care and affection for another person is often influenced by what we observe in our family and people around us. Albert Bandura developed the term ‘social learning’ because he observed that we tend to model or follow after the behavior, attitudes and emotional reaction of important people in our lives. The behavior of these significant people in our lives can influence our own behavior, believes and expectations without us conciously knowing it. So for example, if we grow up in a family where our Dad and Mum are very expressive in their affection for each other, we will likely be expressive in our affection to the people that care about. We will also expect other people to behave in the same way. So, if we meet a friend who comes from a family where they do not show their feelings openly, we may think that this person does not appreciate us or like us.
Language of Love
So to understand better how another person expresses appreciation and show concern, we need to know their Language of love.
Gary Chapman wrote a book about the 5 languages of love. According to his theory each person has one primary and one secondary love language. The preferred love language shows the way a person would naturally give love and would like to receive love. We can observe a person’s love language from the way their express their care and concerns, and from the things they complain most about. Although the book was written mainly for couples, the 5 love languages can generally apply to most relationships. (Egbert, 2006)
The 5 love languages
Understanding your language of love
You can understand your own language of love by asking yourself which of the following actions make you feel most loved and appreciated. That would be your dominant language of love.
- Words of Affirmation – When that someone tell you what a wonderful person you are, it feels better than getting a really expensive gift.
- Recieving gifts – Chuck the sweet words, just give you that item you’ve been eyeing for the last 6 months and you are the happiest person on earth.
- Acts of Service – Maybe you’re the sort that really feels loved when people go the extra mile to do stuff for you.
- Quality Time – Some of us just like hanging out with people we like and that really makes us feel special.
- Physical Touch – When we are down some of us just need a big hug or a hand on our shoulder to know that other care for us.
Understanding someone else’s language of love
You can understand the language of love of other people by observing how they express concern for you or how they react when you display any of the above languages of love. If they appear awkward when you display any of the above languages to show care and appreciation, it could mean that’s not their language of love. So to build a relationship, try to use the same love language with the important people in your life.
Second guessing that a person prefers to be appreciated in a certain way can result in misunderstanding. A better way is really just to learn more about what growing up was like for that person. You may have heard stories about this person’s past, this time ask deeper more reflective questions.
Ask about childhood experiences such as:
- How did the family express their affection for one another.
- How did the parents communicate their appreciation for each other and the family.
- Were the parents expressive in showing different emotions, joy pain, hopes, fears.
- How did the kids communicate with the parents and each other.
- Did this person share thoughts and displayed a range of emotions to the parents and what was the response like.
- Did the parents show support and empathy when this person faced challenging times.
- What did they say and do that helped. And what did this person wished that the parents had said and done.
- When this person made mistakes, how did the parents react and how was that reaction recieved by this person.
- What were some of the taboo topics in the family.
Building a relationship and understanding that important person in your life can be a whole lot easier. We just need to show genuine interest in who they are as a person, listen more and reciprocate the same behavior.