How to Show Gratitude to People You Love, Based on Their Love Language

Thanksgiving: a day in which we get to stuff our stomachs with food and our hearts with gratitude. As November 28th approaches, I have been reflecting on how #blessed I am in the family and friends department. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it serves as a special reminder to tell and show your people how much you love them (not to mention an excuse to ~feast~). This past year, I have gained a new perspective on demonstrations of love after reading about Gary Chapman’s five proposed love languages. Chapman explains that each person prefers to give and receive love in distinct ways, so feelings of emotional distance between partners or friends could be a result of expressing love in a way to which the other person is not receptive. With this said, I want to outline different ways to communicate thankfulness that will be effectively received by your loved ones, according to their love language. 

Words of Affirmation

As a writer, I have to admit I am definitely partial to this expression style. Words of affirmation, my highest scored love language, is when a person feels most loved when receiving verbal or written compliments, acknowledgements, and sentiments. In short: words speak louder than actions for these people. To make someone who responds to words of affirmation understand your gratitude this Thanksgiving, I suggest conveying it through a simple text, a written note, or face-to-face. The important thing to remember is that the content of the message is more important than simply sending it. Words of affirmation lovers crave the revelation of true feelings and thoughts. So, use your words to compliment them on something they have accomplished or something you admire about them. Tell them how much you value their presence in your life. Send them some song lyrics that make you think of them. Anything that demonstrates a concrete, explicit expression of your genuine feelings will melt a words of affirmationer’s heart.

Gifts

Although admitting that you feel loved when receiving gifts can feel incredibly superficial at first, there is more attached to receiving a gift than just the gift itself. When I took Chapman’s online assessment, I was surprised to see gifts was my second highest love language. However, when I reflected on past times I have received little presents, I understood why gifts was ranked so high. The reason one may feel loved after receiving a gift is because of the thought that went into it. Not only is there thought that goes into deciding to buy a particular person a present, but getting someone a good gift underscores a true understanding of a person’s likes and interests. With this said, thoughtful gifts are received best by gift lovers. They don’t simply crave material items, they adore the intention and consideration that goes into purchasing a present. So, if there is a person in your life that best responds to gifts, think about what he or she likes to do, eat, or watch. Maybe reflect on times that special someone mentioned their favorite restaurant or something that they needed or wanted. As long as your gift is thoughtful, it doesn’t matter its size or cost—it can be anything from their favorite coffee order at Starbucks to tickets to their favorite artist’s concert to new shower shoes just because they needed some; it’s really the thought that counts.

Quality Time

Someone who prefers to receive love through quality time craves the uninterrupted, undivided attention of their loved one. Quality time is not staring at your phone the whole time, or even the majority of the time, you are with someone. All these people want is to do something with a loved one without distractions from the outside world. Similar to the prior love languages, quality timers value the content of an encounter rather than its duration. They are neither asking you to commit a whole day to pouring your heart out without technology nor begging for an extravagant night on the town; all they want is to spend a little time talking and laughing with someone they love. To show gratitude to these people, you could schedule time over Thanksgiving break to get coffee, take a walk, or just hang out on your bedroom floor with him or her.

Acts of Service

Acts of servicers feel most loved when their loved one does something for them without having to ask him or her. These people are typically caring, proactive individuals, and they feel loved when someone lightens their load. In part, it is a relief for them to have one less thing off of their plates, but in a greater sense, helping out with a task shows an understanding and appreciation for what acts of servicers do. By recognizing their heavy load and choosing to alleviate some of their stress, a loved one can make the act of servicer feel valued and cared for, which is especially meaningful when they are known for always taking care of others. To show your appreciation for someone with this love language, fill their gas for them, take out the trash, do the laundry—something that you weren’t asked to do first. Extra points can be earned if the task you perform for them is a part of their weekly/daily routine that they dislike or if they mentioned before that they were stressed about having to get the task done. Doing those chores would demonstrate attentiveness and sensitivity to their needs.

Physical Touch

Last, and least for me, is physical touch. On Chapman’s online quiz, my score in the physical touch category was approximately zero. Although I am someone who gets next to nothing out of physical touch, many people in my life rank this as their top love language. Those who respond to physical touch feel most loved when a person embraces them, whether it be a pat on the back or a kiss. Intimacy, both physical and emotional, is at the root of this love language. People value being touched by others because they desire closeness and comfort that can be best illustrated through physical contact. Showing gratitude to a physical touch lover could look like: gently scratching their back while watching TV, giving them a warm hug, or gingerly squeezing their hand. 

I think around this time of year, it is important to understand how to best love other people. The holidays are a warm and fuzzy time of year, and people should feel that tender glow inside of themselves as well. Understanding your loved ones’ love languages is an effective way to ensure the proliferation of these cheerful feelings. As mentioned before, I respond best to words of affirmation, and as a default, I edify those around me through complimentary words. Although I can spew compliments until I’m blue in the face, if words of affirmation is not the recipient’s love language, this style of expression will not make them feel any more loved or appreciated. For example, one of my best friends is incredibly attuned to physical touch, and she always asks for her back to be scratched when watching a movie or just hanging out. At first, I didn’t understand the value of doing this because I don’t get anything out of having my back scratched. However, after learning more about love languages, I understood that she needed physical affection to feel emotionally fulfilled. So, although a particular language may not speak to you, it is worth trying to convey your feelings of gratitude through languages to which your loved ones are receptive. And remember: whatever love language you speak, speak it from the heart—you can’t go wrong with that.