How to Use Love Languages to Be the Best Possible Friend to All the Vips in Your Life

Photo: Getty Images/bernardbobo
The concept of love languages isn't quite new, but I sincerely wish my school offered a course in it. I just recently learned mine (quality time, specifically quality activities), and it's revolutionized how I approach relationships—most surprisingly, my platonic ones. In his 1992 book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman offers the framework as a method for keeping love alive within marriage. Spin-off edition tackle other ways to purpose the love-languages, like The 5 Love Languages: Military Edition and The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition. But, based on my experience, it seems Chapman is sitting on yet another best-seller waiting to be written: the friendship edition.

The gist of the concept is that people don't receive love the same way, but rather via one or several love languages: quality time (conversations, activities, undivided attention); acts of service (folding laundry, making dinner, arranging a group birthday gift); receiving gifts (cards, treats, anything that communicates the other person wants to make you happy); words of affirmation (positive feedback, gassing, saying "I love you"); and physical touch (hugs, handshakes, pats on the back).

Basically, what makes you feel loved might not do the trick for you loved ones. “Knowing your own love language is a bit like knowing a chapter in your own owner’s manual,” says Rebecca Hendrix, LMFT, an integrative holistic psychotherapist. It can help you identify patterns that reveal what gives you emotional boosts—and the knowledge is theoretically applicable to all of your relationships.

“The better you know yourself, the better you can help others know you. And the more others know you, the more they are able to love you the way you want. That stands for everyone in your life, including friends.” —Rebecca Hendrix, LMFT

“The better you know yourself, the better you can help others know you. And the more others know you, the more they are able to love you the way you want,” Hendrix says. “That stands for everyone in your life, including friends.” Keep reading to learn more about how knowing your love language can make you a better friend. (Pro tip: Take the official love language assessment online.)

Tell your friends your love language…and try to learn theirs—here's why:

When two people have different love languages, miscommunication can ensue. Chapman compares it to trying to speak English with someone who doesn’t speak English. You can (usually) still communicate by, for instance, pointing at a menu option or giving a thumbs up, but it’s usually not a complex or meaningful exchange and may even leave you to feel misunderstood.

Learning my love language of quality time turned on my mental light bulb as to why some of my friendships were thriving while others were simply just okay. Every time I suggested going rock climbing or pole dancing or running or exploring when my pals preferred to binge-watch You, I felt hurt and not seen. The intel also helped me realize why I felt so fantastically un-moved when my #fitfam chipped in and bought me gym bag for my birthday last year. Different things appeal to each love language, so knowing yours—and your friends'—can help everyone love and feel loved so much more successfully.

How to show your friends you care, based on their love language

Ready to show your friends you care? Hendrix shares tips for maximizing the heart-eyes friendship effects, based on their love language.

Words of affirmation

Your main goal is just to gas your friend up. Try complimenting those good-looking and strangely popular Birkenstocks, acknowledging the long hours she's been putting in at work, or texting copious confetti and peach emojis when he PRs a back squat. If your words-of-affirmation friend is going through a rough time after, say, getting laid off, you might considering being extra-communicative about how available you are to them, that you care very much, and that you think they are super-smart and valuable to any workplace.

Acts of service

Don't worry—this doesn't translate to "become your bestie's servant." But it might mean offering to take out the trash after you both ate takeout at her house. Or stopping by his mailbox before ringing the doorbell. Or watching her dog while she flies to San Francisco for a job interview. You get the gist.

Receiving gifts

It's as easy as picking up an extra matcha latte when you're getting one for yourself or even just getting him a card on his birthday. If she's going through a tough time, you might bring cupcakes and flowers to her apartment to help ease the stress. It's less about the $$$ and more about the <3 <3.

Quality time

Your BFF simply wants your precious time and attention. Maybe she's like me and wants to do activities (@ my friends, please take me bowling, xox). Or maybe he prefers quality conversation, in which case, put your phone to airplane mode and turn your ears the eff on.

Physical touch

If your friend's love language is physical touch, she might like being hugged, or having her hair played with. Or maybe he likes having her elbow cupped or back rubbed. Whatever it is, make sure the touching (with consent) is in such a way they find comforting (as opposed to irritating).

Knowing your friend's love language comes down to being able to communicate that you care in the way they best value. So, get ready for more understanding, fewer conflicts, and a generally more fulfilling relationship.

Now that you’ve figured out your love language, find out your gut type (and how it’s affecting your health). And here’s why friendship is so important to our mental health.

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