Know Thyself: Love Languages

I’ve never been anybody but me. Maybe you’ve encountered a magical wind that put you in the body of someone else, and you learned an unforgettable lesson about empathy and how to enjoy the life you’re living. But for me, that isn’t the case. (I haven’t visited enough magical Chinese restaurants yet, I guess.)


I don’t know how other people work. Sometimes I don’t even know how I work. Maybe if I did, it would be easier to take what I need from life . And maybe if I had more insight into other kinds of personalities, it would be much easier to help the other people in my life get what they need. Even if it’s -gasp!- different from me.


That’s why I’m so fascinated with personality type systems. No, none are absolute, but they can be a fun way to evaluate how you relate to others and the world around you. I’ve created the Know Thyself series to introduce you to some fun frameworks that can help put you in touch with the needs of yourself and others. We could all be better friends. Especially to ourselves.


Love Languages.



The Five Love Languages is a book written by Gary Chapman in 1995 that I haven’t read. But I should.


It talks about the ways we express our love and what particular acts mean the most to us. It’s divided up into five categories:


  1. Giving gifts

  2. Quality time

  3. Physical touch (hugs, kisses, cute lil touches on the shoulder, etc)

  4. Words of affirmation (like compliments, words of praise, “I love you”)

  5. Acts of service


This quiz can help you figure out which languages you most strongly identify with. (Be honest with yourself when you take the quiz, or else you won’t get results that will actually help you.)


The first thing I’d like to point out about each of these love languages is that none of these make you a better or worse person. It doesn’t make you a needy weirdo if snuggling means more to you than someone helping you move into your dorm. It doesn’t make you egotistical if receiving gifts is more meaningful to you than quality time. It’s just how you work, and all of them are fine. There’s a good, deeper reason for liking any of the five love languages. Everybody wants to be loved. Wanting to be loved doesn’t make you needy.


Second, you don’t only have one love language (though usually one dominates). According to the quiz, my main language is words of affirmation (so if you like this article, I’d love to hear it!). But I also really respond to quality time and physical touch. (As anyone who I’ve publicly snuggled can attest to.)


Now that you know how you like to be loved, you’ve got two big boy questions to answer.


How do I learn others’ love languages?


How do I communicate my love language to others?


I definitely wouldn’t approach the subject with a partner (especially a new one) or a friend by straight-up asking “So what’s your love language?” (Unless you know they’re into that kind of thing.) Instead, maybe try a more indirect approach. Something like-


Try a little bit of everything. It doesn’t hurt to show your love in multiple ways. Give them a hug, a gift, a compliment, some help. Then…


Listen to them. Pay attention to the ways they react to each method of affection. They’ll likely appreciate all of it, but pay close attention to what they talk about the most later- to you or other people in their life.


Watch how they love you. Unless your friend/loved one is a mind reader (or you’ve known each other for thirty years), they probably don’t know your love language. (It’s hard to figure out in another person. Trust me.) But they probably provide you with what they need themselves. If your love person is scheduling lots of quality time together, that’s probably what they like, too.


Cuddlers usually like to be cuddled. (I speak from experience.) Even if your friend who gives the most thoughtful gifts says they don’t need anything in return, there’s a chance they’d adore it. And next time you’re at your helpful friend’s messy apartment, pick up the living room before you go. They’ll appreciate it. (While we’re at it, I’d like to use this platform to say always clean up your friend’s apartment even if they don’t ask you to. My secondary love language is not having to dump half-empty water bottles out as soon as I wake up.)


And to show other people your love language, I’d advise the same thing. Put it out into the world with your actions. Don’t expect people to be hyper-attentive, but there’s a good chance that if you set a precedent, your loverbeing will learn from your example.


You could also just show them this article and share your love languages with each other. That would benefit all three of us.


Happy mindfulness, lovebirds!