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The 5 Languages of Communicating

Most of us will have heard about the five love languages, an idea popularised by Gary Chapman (a well-known author, speaker and counsellor). I’d suggest looking him up if you have not heard of him or his work.

Five Love Languages

  • Physical touch

  • Words of affirmation

  • Acts of service

  • Quality time

  • Receiving gifts

The concept delineates the ways people receive and express love in relationships. Each language represents distinct frameworks that aid individuals in understanding their own emotional communication type and others. The method aims to foster deeper connections with those you care for, and using awareness of this model, individuals can align their loved one preferred communication type with their expression of love and vice versa, enhancing mutual understanding and intimacy.

To expand on your understanding of these principles before moving on. Quality time is a demonstration of having your loved one's undivided attention, exampled by putting the phone down and focusing on a conversation about the person's day. Acts of service are carrying out actions that show love and consideration. Think of bringing someone a cup of tea in bed or running a bath if they have had a difficult day.

If you have gotten this far reading, you may be wondering what this has to do with verbal and non-verbal communication. Making 'Time to Talk' is important enough to have its own day each year, raising awareness of being able to speak more freely about mental health. However, speaking about mental health is something we should be open to discussing every day, working towards reducing stigma, connecting communities, and through the power of communication, an individual feels safe and encouraged to reach out for help from family, friends or healthcare professionals.

As far as I can tell, this is not a concept that exists widely on the internet. It's an idea that I felt compelled to discuss after listening to a speech about a personal trainer effectively communicating with trainees. It occurred to me that individualism, not only acknowledged as a concept in psychology, is something we actively pursue to set ourselves apart from others. This is evident in our choices of clothing, reading preferences, social circles, and the communities we identify with, such as being a Guardian reader or a fan of a particular football team. Striving for deference, it is not a leap to recognise that each person gives and receives communication in different ways. That is not to say that we cannot get by making exceptions for a poorly delivered point or a slightly off-tone - but you know the person ‘doesn’t mean it’! If we were to consider how you communicate and the other person's communication style but also which mode of communication, once you are aware there is a disconnect, what communication tool do you use to get the most from that person or situation?

Five communication languages

  • Direct

  • Encouragement

  • Active Listening

  • Analytical

  • Empathy

Direct: getting to the core of the matter without being over-detailed. For the receiver who prefers this style, interactions are to the point and efficient and clearly state the purpose and what you are planning to discuss. This communication style is not detail-oriented and would be less likely to engage in surface chit-chat.

Encouragement: leading with support and acknowledging challenges creates a motivating yet safe place to converse. Positive reinforcement allows the person raising the conversation to navigate how to best assist rather than focus on a person's shortcomings. This communication style would struggle with being communicated to in a direct and analytical way. They may find it too abrasive.

Active Listening: shows genuine interest and attempts to interpret others' emotions. It is a way for the person initiating the conversation to summarise back the other person’s disclosures. Acknowledging their emotions and illustrating understanding and compassion encourages a safe environment for a person to open up and share more of their perspective or feelings.

Analytical: could have some similarities to direct communication style but in addition, these types of communicators appreciate logical reasoning and data. They are evidence-based and rarely will make a decision or enter into a conversation or a debate without having prepared. This communicator style doesn’t generally respond well to having conversations sprung on them. This style is often seen in the workplace, particularly in more senior-level positions.

Empathy: some aspects present in the encouragement communication style. However, it is slightly different. Truly placing yourself in another's shoes, provides a safe place for them to be themselves and feel comfortable to share perspectives or feelings. This communication approach makes the other person feel validated and heard. This communication style would be less effective when dealing with someone with an analytical communication style tendencies.

It is not without merit considering both frameworks discussed in this article as a tool kit to improve communication with those around you. Understanding someone's communication style helps you to understand how you would approach communicating with a person once you have an understanding of their character, attitude and foibles. If you are unfamiliar with a person, you could take insights from hearing them in other conversations, giving you the necessary cues to apply the most effective approach. In established relationships, whether or not the interaction revolves around love, there tends to be a carryover of emotional communication styles observed in more familiar settings. For instance, recognising a colleague's preference for quality time, allows you, as their manager, to allocate dedicated time for interactions, potentially enhancing their performance. Conversely, when seeking visibility within a professional environment, observing and aligning your communication style with that of your manager may impact how you are perceived, potentially increasing your chances of standing out for desired projects or promotions.

The key takeaway here is that one size does not fit all. A fantastic starting point is being conscious of your own self and others’ communication styles. Challenge yourself in your immediate surroundings to deliberate with the person next to you about their emotional communication and communication style. Doing so, you have a 1 in 5 chance of improving your communication with the person within a few moments. You may even be able to see the shift in their responses. At worst, if your appraisal of the communication type is not correct, then you always have an opportunity to try another style at another point in time.

Good luck and happy communicating!


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