I'm pretty sure that most of you are aware of what the five love languages are all about. We tend to touch on the topic quite a bit over this way (you can read a few articles here, here and here). Chances are, when you think of how to express your love to another person, it's usually as it relates to your romantic situations, not platonic ones. I get it. That's how it is for most folks.
But as I've been striving to be a better friend to the people in my world, I'm learning more and more about just how important it is to be fluent in their love languages too (by the way, author Dr. Gary Chapman wrote The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition too).
Take one of my closest girlfriends, for example. I'm a words of affirmation person all day long while she's all about quality time. It took us a couple of years to find our groove because she's not big on words (oh, she talks her fair share but she's not big on cards, emailing and stuff like that) and I'm not the biggest fan of trekking out to her house to do nothing but…sit on her couch. But again, because I thrive off of words and she's nurtured by quality time, we make the sacrifices. We value the friendship enough to do so.
I'm pretty sure you love your friends. If other than on their birthday, you've never really thought about how to express your feelings for them but you've got a few minutes, I have a few suggestions for how to incorporate love languages on the totally platonic tip.
Words of Affirmation
As a words of affirmation person myself, sometimes I wonder if folks get off easy with me. I say that because if you just shoot me an email talking about something you like or appreciate as it relates to me, I'm pretty good. No gifts or anything else are really necessary.
If you can totally relate to where I'm coming from, I will share something that I learned the hard way. Even if all you need is a Hallmark card or compliment to feel loved, make sure that the words your friends expressed are backed up with action. Meaning, if they say that they love you or that they have your back, no matter what, it's important that you can come up with examples that their words are true.
Oh, and if you happen to be someone with words of affirmation friends and you're wondering how to speak this language—the examples I've already shared are some good ones. It's also important to remember that, out of all of the love languages, we tend to be the most word and tone-sensitive ones out of the bunch, so it's not just about what you say but how you say it—whether it's good, bad or indifferent.
Like I said, one of my closest friends is a quality time person. If we can get in an hour phone call, a couple of times a week, she's good. However, what I have learned that what she prefers most is being able to get some one-on-one time in person and not really doing anything that distracts us from conversing like the movies or a live event. For her, although "technically" that qualifies as spending time together, she really hones in on time that is truly quality. She'd much rather walk in a park or hang out in a coffee shop; she'd also prefer the time to be without the distraction of a smartphone.
My experience has been that platonic quality time is best expressed when you plan something ahead of time that you and your buddy can do alone. It doesn't have to be pricey. What it should be is semi-quiet and without a ton of pressure to be on the clock too.
Acts of Service
Back in the day, Missouri license plates used to say "The Show Me State" on them. Whenever I think about my acts of service friends, that saying is what immediately comes to mind. These are the friends who are more oftentimes practical than sentimental and are moved by things that will make their lives easier than anything else. Babysitting, helping them with a project for work, bringing them lunch during a week when money is tight or they're on a deadline that prevents them from getting away—these are examples of how to speak this language.
If you're an acts of service individual, feel free to chime in, but my observation is that someone with this love language feels super duper loved when you see something in their world that needs to be handled and you just do it. Asking them a lot of questions or even waiting for them to ask for your help can sometimes be nothing more than more work on their end. Acts of service folks feel like really we see them when we're more proactive than reactive.
When it comes to one of my girlfriends, although I feel extremely loved by her, what I'm not gonna get is much physical affection. Not. At. All. We live in different states, so when I go to see her, I can pretty much bet that I'm gonna get one of those awkward church side hugs when she picks me up at the airport and then maybe (maybe even though it's not guaranteed) when she drops me back off to catch my flight.
But then I have another friend who is super touchy-feely. Whenever I see her, I'm gonna get hugged and maybe even a kiss on the cheek. If we're at the movies, she'll think nothing about putting her head on my shoulder and if we're walking in the mall, she might put her arm through mine. I've learned that when it comes to a lot of physical touch individuals, whether the relationship is platonic or romantic, they just like to be in personal physical space.
So, if you've got a friend who seems to always be a little too close for comfort, try and just brush it off. They don't mean any harm. They just enjoy being around you and in your energy field; as close as possible, if they can.
I really hate that people whose top love language is gifts oftentimes catch such a hard break because they honestly shouldn't. All this really boils down to is they like tangible expressions of love and intimacy. I have a couple of "gifts friends" and what I've learned is the price of a present doesn't really matter. What's important is that their special days—birthdays, anniversaries—are remembered and that I get them something that is specific to their personality. Something that's their favorite color. Something that they've casually mentioned in passing. Or something that lets them know that I see them; that I really and truly see them.
For instance, one of my friends told me one year that she was really into pink all of a sudden. One time, out of nowhere, I gifted her with some pink chandelier earrings. Another time, I bought a dozen pink roses to her job. Another time, I got her some pink sparkling juice that was packed in a pink wine bottle. There was no time when she was less excited than the other. Just so long as she was able to look at and hold something that she was into, she was happy.
When it comes to applying the five love languages to your friendships, I think what it all really boils down to is knowing which love language each person has, then thinking up ways to speak that language exclusively.
With my friends, most of them get major cool points just for caring enough to speak my language at all. Something tells me that when it comes to your true friends, the same bottom line applies.
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