Love Languages Part 2: Words of Affirmation

Mark Twain once said, “I can live two months on a good compliment.” pg 39

Love Languages Book CoverWords are important. We can cut people to the bone with a sharp word and we can lift them up with a word of praise. Words of Affirmation is the first of the Five Love Languages that Chapman discusses. Compliments, words of appreciation, words of encouragement are all excellent ways to communicate your love to someone. “Oh my god, you did such a great job cooking dinner! YUM!” or “Wow, you look amazing in that dress!” Even something as simple as, “Thank you for folding the laundry. I really appreciate it.” You may think “but I ate everything on my plate and even had seconds! Of course I thought it was yummy! Why should I need to say it out loud?” It’s because words are important. Maybe you were just super hungry and would have eaten 2 full plates of cardboard. Taking a moment to say it out loud removes any possible ambiguity and shows the other person that you care.

If “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” maybe a compliment a day will keep the counselor away.” pg 55

Chapman only talks about tone a small amount, but I think it deserves a lot more attention. Your words need to match your intent. “I would love to help you clean the living room” can be a loving statement or a sarcastic tone could imply that you really meant “I worked hard all day and am incredibly tired, but apparently that’s not enough for you, so I will help you clean the living room even though I don’t think I should.” Providing the positive is just as important as avoiding the negative. If you are tired and really don’t want to help it is still important to understand that your partner is asking for help for a reason. I’d suggest a good compromise might be, “I’m really tired tonight because I had a very long day. How about if I help on Saturday and we’ll give it a good cleaning together then?” Asking your partner for something can easily go wrong if you aren’t careful. It is important that you ask instead of demand, but be careful because a demand can still be phrased as a question. The separation between request and demand is the willingness to accept any answer.

Love makes requests, not demands. When I demand things from my spouse, I become the parent and she the child. pg 48 A request introduces the element of choice. Your mate may choose to respond to your request or to deny it, because love is always a choice. That’s what makes it meaningful. pg 49

You provide the other person the space to answer. It shows love on your part. They might not do as you ask at first, but as their love tank fills you’ll see the change! It makes it meaningful when they choose to act without coercion. It shows love! Encouraging words are a strong way to affirm your love. Perhaps your partner desires to accomplish something but is insecure about their ability to succeed. A few encouraging words might be all they need to take that first step and accomplish great things! When I was contemplating leaving the state to help with the Obama campaign I was worried I wouldn’t be able to survive 14 hour days for a month straight. Encouraging words from my then-friend-now-girlfriend really helped me! She said, “You are a good executor. Some random state would be lucky to have you.” Very simple and yet very powerful! Thank you, Theresa! You really helped me survive some tough times and I will always have those amazing memories.

With verbal encouragement, we are trying to communicate, “I know. I care. I’m with you. How can I help?” pg 45

There is, however, a fine line between offering encouragement and exerting pressure. You can only encourage something they are already interested in doing.

For example, some husbands pressure their wives to lose weight. The husband says, “I am encouraging her,” but to the wife it sounds like condemnation. Only when a person wants to lose weight can you give her encouragement. … If, however, your spouse says, “I think I would like to enroll in weight-loss program this fall,” then you have opportunity to give words of encouragement. Encouraging words would sound like this. “If you decide to do that, I can tell you one thing. You will be a success. That’s one of the things I like about you. …” pg 44

A couple more personal examples of words in my life. When I was in high school I got a report card with 5 As and a B+ in Honors Chemistry. The first words from my mother were “Why didn’t you get an A?” It cut me deeply and I carried that scar for years. I had tried hard to make her proud but her words assaulted instead affirming. My grades slipped further and further because my work was unappreciated. Use your words with care because they can kill. My birthday was just a couple of weeks ago. My friend, Phil, couldn’t make it to the party. He called me that night during the party and said something to the effect of, “Hey man, I’m sorry I can’t make it to the party tonight but I just wanted to call to wish you a Happy Birthday. Let’s grab some lunch sometime next week and we’ll hang out.” Perfect! Of course I would love to see him at the party, but I was totally happy because I knew that he cared enough to offer his words. This entry ended up longer than anticipated and I’ve really only scratched the surface. There is a lot more information in the book and I’m going to continue to recommend getting a copy and reading it for yourself. 🙂 He ends each chapter with a list of practical actions that you can take to help express this Love Language to your significant other. Words are Important!

You may also want to try giving indirect words of affirmation, that is, saying positive things about your spouse when he or she is not present. Eventually, someone will tell your spouse, and you will get full credit for love. pg 50

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