Words are my love language. Literally.
On New Year’s Day, I had friends over for brunch and as we whiled-away the afternoon, the subject of love languages came up (The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman). I’ve been familiar with the concept of love languages for a while, though I’d never really paid close attention to it. But the conversation piqued my interest so I checked out the website and took the on-line quiz. What my quiz score revealed will likely surprise no one: my love language is “Words of Affirmation” – meaning that I need people to use their words! I thrive on hearing kind and encouraging words that build me up. If you love me, sometimes I need to hear you say so (with as much specificity and detail as possible).
As I thought about how it makes me feel affirmed and supported, understood and cared for – just plain valued – when people say aloud the things we sometimes hold unspoken, I realized that I could do a much better job of verbalizing some things myself. Not just to make others feel valued, but also to express kindness, demonstrate generosity of spirit, soften the hard edges of bluntness. Some of the things I can do a better job of verbalizing don’t really have as much to do with “love languages” as they do with creating a more expansive life. Of course, I’ve come up with a list of things I’d like to say more often in 2015:
I’m going upstairs to take off my hat: In this season’s Downton Abbey opener, Lady Mary excuses herself from an awkward moment with this line and a slightly self-deprecating smile. Sometimes, what we want/need to say is just…less. This year, I want to practice removing myself from the temptation of adding to awkward or uncomfortable moments I’ve walked into by happenstance, rather than making them worse by barreling forward with too many uncomfortable observations. I’ll just mentally ask myself, “What would Lady Mary say/do?”
I’m proud of you: In the movie Pretty Woman, when Richard Gere’s character decides to work cooperatively with the man whose company he had been attempting to raid, the older gentleman tells him, “I want to say something that’s hard to say without sounding condescending, but I’m proud of you.” (or something along those lines). Sometimes, I feel self-conscious about telling people I’m proud of them because a small internal voice asks, “Who are you to be proud?” – as if being proud of others is reserved for parents and mentors.
That hurt me:
This is a particularly hard one for me. I absolutely hate revealing that I’ve been hurt. Pretending I’m impervious to hurt is a defense mechanism I developed early on and perfected through rigorous practice. The trouble is, intimacy between people doesn’t develop by sharing only the good stuff: happy thoughts, positive vibes, our superhero powers. Intimacy can only develop through a willingness to share the shadowy bits as well. It is not fun to expose your emotional injuries (nor is it a laugh riot to be on the receiving end), but it is an opportunity for greater intimacy and trust to develop. In other words, totally worth doing.
Would you like to….: Instead of sitting at home feeling like a wallflower, I’m going to find interesting things to do and invite others to join me. And if there are no takers, I’ll probably do it anyway!
My goal is…: When I’ve shared my goals, hopes and dreams with others, I’ve found lots of support, both emotional and material. There is accountability, and there is synchronicity as well. Achieving our goals, big and small, takes work. We all know this. But it is sometimes surprising how much we need the input and/or contributions of others to make it. Also, stating our intentions up front is a great way to cement our commitment.
Nailed it!: There has been a recent trend in which people attempt to recreate something they saw on Pinterest, fail miserably, yet post photos claiming to have “nailed it!” Aside from the laughter these posts have given me, they have also inspired me to cut myself a little slack. We so often think we need to achieve perfection to claim our accomplishments, but the reality is that we rarely manage perfect. More often, doing our very best falls somewhere between complete failure and gold-medal status. Why isn’t that worth celebrating? After all, we didn’t do nothing (which, face it, was an option). We did something: we tried. I definitely think that is worth claiming!
Thank you!: Good manners require thank yous. We know this. But we often forget to follow through – or worse, we forget that our accomplishments are rarely the result of our own efforts alone. We forget, in the blush of success, that others helped us along the way, offering every level of support and assistance. I think we should strive to become the Johnny Appleseeds of gratitude, tossing “thank you” in every direction and allowing it to take root in new places. Thank you for not hanging up on me when I called with my questions. Thank you for letting me pick your brain. Thank you for that cup of coffee three weeks ago when I was discouraged. Thank you for the funny text. Thank you for reconnecting when you felt that intuitive urge to reach out. Thank you for the cookie. Thank you for being kind. Thank you for wearing yellow today. Thank you for smiling. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for the nothing-special-just-hanging-out time. People like being appreciated. More to the point, though, we open our worlds and perspectives when we are grateful – it is as good for our health as taking deep breaths, drinking water, stretching.
In summary, while I don’t plan to bore the world to death by talking incessantly in 2015, I DO hope to say more of the kinds of things that strengthen relationships, resolve, and resilience. This year, I ‘m pledging to use my words for good – why not join me?
Afterward: In the midst of writing these thoughts, my sister synchronistically posted this Kid President video: