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The 5 Professional Love Languages ​​to Improve Your Team’s Connection

Take time to get in touch with the emotional side of your team, and get to know them personally as well as their in-office persona.

On average, people spend 90,000 hours of their life at their job. It’s usually more time than you spend in your waking-life outside of work with family, friends, and loved ones. Given that, doesn’t it make sense that you’d want to maximize your relationships inside the office, just like you do outside?

The principal of love languages is simple: everyone has a way of communicating love that they both prefer to give and prefer to receive. One of the best things that you can do in a relationship that you value, is knowing what your own preferred love language is, as well as the preferred language of the person you’re relating to. It makes it easier to relate to other people and helps you instruct others on the ways that you like to be related to.

There are five “languages” in the original book, each of which mostly applies strongly to business relationships as well as personal ones:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

Okay, so, we don’t want to encourage all of our readers to go around touching their colleagues—but it’s good to touch base. Let’s break down some of the other ways that each of these languages applies themselves in the business world.

Words of affirmation

People love to be told that they are appreciated and, more specifically, why. Many companies have whole Slack channels like #shoutouts or #goodnews where people are encouraged to share things that their colleagues did really well. This is no different from a personal relationship.

However, in the business world, people also appreciate being told when they’re doing something wrong or being “called out” for things that are being done unkindly. In fact, for many, being given specific constructive feedback can even be more valuable than generally positive insights.

For example, instead of saying “Great job today, Ben!” saying something like “Wow, Ben, I really liked the way you championed that project. You did a great job working with other teams to make sure that everything got done on time. Great work!” will be much more meaningful.

Try infusing some words of affirmation for your team members into your day—it’ll build a stronger mutual relationship as well as serving to make them feel really good.

Acts of service

In a romantic relationship, acts of service usually present themselves as doing things like folding laundry, doing the dishes, or taking your partner’s car to get gas and, funnily enough, they present themselves the same way professionally. Have you ever had someone do a task that you’d scheduled yourself to do? Maybe making a spreadsheet, taking some extra tickets from your queue, or reaching out to a customer that you both knew needed help but you hadn’t gotten to yet? It feels good.

When someone does an act of service for you, it shows that they want to exert some of their own effort to give you space to do what you need to do. When someone volunteers to take over a project that might not be the most glamourous or exciting, it proves to the other people on their team that they’re willing to be a team player and they want everyone to have a piece of the pie. A good example of this would be someone creating a custom slack bot to make another team member’s day easier.

Conversely, if there’s a member of the team that never does the grunt work, and never volunteers to do the hard or heavy things, it can lead the rest of the team to feel like they don’t care.

Are there low-hanging-fruit jobs that you could take over for your teammates that would make their lives easier while not being a huge burden on you? Take them. Your other teammates will appreciate it.

Giving and receiving gifts

Alright, so, while it would be nice to be able to give everyone that you work with gifts all the time, that’s not really what we’re talking about here. Gifts, in the context of romantic love languages, symbolize that someone is thinking about you, to the point where when they saw something, they had to get it for you. Professionally, gifts can usually take the form of sharing interesting blog posts, giving tips and tricks on performance or granting demo/software licenses that might make someone’s job easier.

It shows that you care about your team members and that you know the things that are important to them. If you send a useful blog post that helps someone do their job better, it also sends the message that you care about their career development and their place on your team. Personal development is key to keeping your customer service team up to snuff and keeping your customer retention high. After all, how are you going to improve if you aren’t learning?

One last thing: remember that, just like in your personal life, sometimes the best gifts are the ones that don’t cost money.

Quality Time

Generally, humans enjoy spending time with the people that they care about. They appreciate being heard and listened to, and feeling like the people that they spend time with really understand them. Quality time does just this. In a relationship, it might look like putting your cellphone away for the duration of a meal, or going on a long walk together. In your professional life, it looks surprisingly similar: whenever you spend one-on-one dedicated time with another person, you are offering them quality time.

This could look like:

  • Pair programming with a more inexperienced engineer.
  • Taking time to review and go over a customer communication or blog post in person or over video.
  • Going out of your way to schedule a coffee run, walk or check-in.

It doesn’t have to be for a long time, or even particularly frequently, but when you take the time to try to have quality time make sure that you are devoting your full energy and effort to the task at hand. It won’t feel as valuable or meaningful to the other person if you’re constantly checking your phone, Slack or social media.

Along with spending time with your colleagues, this language could also present itself as just respecting your colleague’s time. For example, instead of asking for their involvement in a project that you could just do yourself, just do it yourself. Getting a little of your time back in a packed day always feels good for everyone.

Physical Touch or…get in touch

Alright, so…obviously you can’t touch your coworkers. But physical touch implies connection—and there are other ways to connect!

Something that is often overlooked when thinking about connections in business is understanding the person that you’re working with’s emotional state. Maybe even parts of their personal life. Do you know about your colleague’s hobbies? Do you know about their family? Do you regularly ask your team members how they are feeling?

Take time to get in touch with the emotional side of your team, and get to know them personally as well as their in-office persona.

If you’re a manager, one good way to do that is to ask, in every one-on-one, how people are feeling and what self-care they’ve done over the past week. If you aren’t a manager, a good way to do this would be to participate in off-topic chats: talk to your coworkers about music, video games or other hobbies.

Keep in touch with how your team members are feeling—they’ll feel more willing to talk to you in times of need, and you’ll feel more connected as a team.

Conclusion

When you have the potential to spend 90,000 hours of your life with a person or group of people, it’s important to build a meaningful relationship with them from the start. Use these 5 professional love languages to establish a good connection with the members of your team and even cross-functionally in your company.

Test out each language to see what is the most impactful one for your team members and then get going! You might even learn something about yourself in the process.


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Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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