In his book, The 5 Love Languages, author Gary Chapman explains that there are 5 primary “love languages”.  A love language is a way of expressing and interpreting love.  Whether it is a significant other, kids, or co-workers, each of us expresses and interprets emotions differently.  The 5 love languages Chapman identifies are:

1.  Words of affirmation

2.   Quality time

3.  Receiving gifts

4.  Acts of service

5.  Physical touch

(You can take the free quiz on his website to learn your love language.)

Similarly, in professional relationships, we want to be cared for differently.  I might think my boss really respects me because she tells me when I do a great job, whereas you might think your boss respects you if she leaves you alone because to you it means she trusts you are doing the right things.

The challenge we face is that most of us try to show we care the same way we want to be cared for.  If we’re lucky, we’ll be successful about 25% of the time.  Unfortunately, if you go up to your co-workers asking them their love language, they might look at you like you have two heads.

You can, however learn about their preferred method of communication and personal motivators by learning to identify their style.  Here are 7 questions to get you started:

1.  What’s their style? I talk a lot about behavior styles, because I think it is so fundamental to our success.  If we don’t know someone’s communication or behavior style, we approach them like we would like to be approached, and it is rarely effective.  There are four main styles:  Driver, Expressive, Amiable and Analytical.

2.  What’s their pace? You can generally tell if someone is slow-paced and patient or fast-paced and impatient, simply by observing them.  Do they walk slowly or briskly?  Do they multi-task or focus on one thing at a time?  Do they let you finish your sentences and then speak, or do they interrupt you?  Patient styles are Amiable and Analytical.  Impatient styles are Driver and Expressive.

3.  What’s their focus? Do they focus on things like tasks, facts, and results, or are they more focused on people, feelings, and emotions?  Task focused styles are Driver and Analytical and emotionally focused styles are Amiable and Expressive.

4.  How do they show they care? Remember, people are likely to show people they care in the same way they like to be cared for.  If you prefer people give you a lot of feedback and validation, chances are, you try to give it to others, even if it’s not their preference.

5.  Are they huggers? I’m one of those people who like to give great big hugs.  Sometimes I even get carried away, and I snuggle.  However, we all know the hand pat huggers.  You give them a hug, and they keep their distance while uncomfortably patting you on the back.  Huggers tend to be Amiable or Expressive.  Non-huggers are typically Drivers and Analyticals.

6.  How do they provide directions? Drivers will direct you to a link on a Google map.  Expressives will give you non-specific landmarks like, “It’s by the big tree and the red building”.  Amiables will most likely ask where you’re coming from so that they can make the directions as easy as possible for you, and Analyticals will be specific, telling you to travel northwest for two tenths of a mile.

7.  Will you tell me about yourself? It seems like a simple question, but it can be very telling.  Drivers will typically say something about their career or title.  Expressives start at birth and work their way to the present.  Amiables will say, “I don’t want to bore you.  Tell me about you”, and Analyticals will say, “What do you want to know?”

Keep in mind, these are all sweeping generalizations.  We all have some of each style, but we’re usually more dominant in one or two of them.  Knowing someone’s preferred method of communication, and modifying yours accordingly, is a great way to minimize conflict, grow relationships, and achieve win-win outcomes.

Next week we will explore ways to modify or flex for each style.  If you are interested in learning more, check out this e-learning module.

Now, go smile at someone or laugh at something (just don’t laugh AT someone), and make it a great week.


  1. wow, this is a powerful concept that never occurred to me. I am an analytical but my boss is a Driver. We don’t have complimentary work styles and this provides insight as to how to approach him differently. Thanks for introducing me to this concept!

  2. Hey Sylvia! At least the good news is that you both focus on results and don’t want a whole lot of coddling. Now, it’s just a matter of quality vs. efficiency. 🙂

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