Out of synchronicity as I was about to write on the love languages (based on Gary Chapman’s best seller), I fell upon this wonderful quote taken from Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s search for meaning’: « A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into the song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers ? The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and only love ».
This was the revelation Frankl had in the darkest hours of his life when he was a prisoner at Auschwitz… Salvation is through love and only love. A powerful message even as we move away from the inimaginable horrors of concentration camps. Love is the ultimate goal.
If we go back in time, Greek philosophers divide love into three different categories Eros, Philia and Agape. While Eros addresses passion, philia and agape symbolize kindness, the care for others and generosity.
Moving forward through time and closer to our present it seems that – more than ever – philia and agape are the key to successful relationships whether they take place in our personal environments or our professional worlds. In his book, Chapman tells us there are five different langages to communicate love:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of services
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
According to him we all have our own representation on how love should be given and received. In other words, love is a langage as is English, French, Spanish or Mandarin. For example someone expecting recognition through words of affirmation (so attentive and sensitive to verbal compliments and encouragements) may not fully appreciate the acts of services (i.e. doing things for the people you care about) from a partner, a close friend, or a colleague thus creating a space of incomprehension.
For Chapman one first needs to understand his own primary love language before he/she understands that others may operate in life through other primary languages.
In fact two factors may help people communicate better :
- Flexibility to assess the different love languages and use them to communicate better in various contexts with various people. Flexibility is a means to show consideration for others as would be the case of someone making an effort to say words in a foreign language while giving a speech in front of an overseas audience.
- Intention: as in Non Violent Communication, intention is key. We all know that relationships may turn sour when the going gets tough and the words we use reveal the dark side of our force. One way of addressing this issue is to reflect on our intention before we say anything. Do we intend to blame or do we intend to solve ? When we operate with an open heart to find a solution we may hear and be heard by others.
In fact where this is critical for couples it is also essential in organizations where pressure may generate tremendous agitation for team members. One of the ways out of agitation may be to help people account for the langage they speak come shine … or come rain. This requires curiosity and of course love for people you work and interact with. This does not mean people should only exchange positive feedback to show their love to others. Constructive feedback and even criticism may be expressed out of love when aiming at helping others grow in their roles. Telling things as you see, think or feel them may also be an act of love. Indeed your side of the story may help others when thoughts and feelings come not from a place of defense but from a place of kindness and vulnerability. Love is all of that, and in that sense a good manager and a good leader is without a question empathetic, people-oriented and understands that there is more than one language for love.
Transactional analysis uses the rather visual concept of « strokes » to describe a unit of recognition (Eric Berne) or attention (Woollams & Brown) which we need since our birth and babyhood to feel recognized, liked and in essence … Loved. This develops over time and turns into a need to exchange signs of love (such as compliments, smiles) to feel acknowledged, accounted for, appreciated and included not only in our personal environment but also in the workplace. As a stroke, love is a formidable source of energy and of motivation for collaborators and as such I strongly recommend its use in organizations. And where seminars on recognition have largely been organized in the past years to help managers work with each others and with their teams we should now set up seminars on … Love.
And if ‘Love is in the air’, love is everywhere – not only amongst couples and friends but also in organizations. Love may come in many forms. It may be given, solicited, it may even be cultivated as we keep track of the exchanges of the love signs we send and receive through emails, text messages, WhatsApp etc… It may take different forms as in Chapman’s book. Whatever the way, love should be heavily prescribed in these times of sanitary crisis as a means to cure pressure, agitation and anxiety It keeps people happy, loyal, engaged, more productive and certainly turns them into great ambassadors of their organizations. Because as Roger Glover has it « Love is all, well, love is all ».
By Laurent Chouraqui, Associate Partner – TPC Leadership France