I’m late getting this post out because I spent my writing time having a firm conversation with my soon-to-be 12 year-old son. It was a conversation that almost all parents have at some point. I’ll call it the “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” talk. Often how we say things makes a greater impression than the words and points themselves. By the time we reach adulthood, we tend to be well aware of this fact. We may actively try to monitor things like tone, body language and facial expressions in hopes that our communications will be received more favorably. This is critically important because it’s almost impossible to serve others if we aren’t able to connect and communicate well.
I was passionate about explaining this to my son. I pointed out the visual cues that revealed his mixed emotions. And I explained how those visual cues created more hostility in me than his words alone warranted. But I’ve been thinking about it more since then and in hindsight I think I missed an opportunity to teach him something additional. Correcting his tone or body language is important when showing respect, but it can also lead to suppressing the truth. Covering things up will make his conversations more palatable, but true emotions have a way of being felt and known even if not fully observed or expressed.
When I revisit this talk with him again, I’m going to do a better job of pointing out that he should also try to identify and deal with how he feels. Because directly dealing with his feelings will actually help him manage them better. It will also allow for a more open and honest exchange. I’m going to encourage him to examine his emotions and intentions even if it’s still appropriate to display them more calmly. I need him to know that tone and deliver definitely matter. But if the relationship matters – the truth about how he’s feeling matters too. So I want him to have some tools to identify his feelings because sometimes he won’t even be sure what they are.
Feelings that speak loudly
So these are the 10 questions I’m going to encourage him to ask himself. The truth behind any of these answers is often hard to hide. I’m sure he won’t remember them all but I hope he’ll try one or two. They should help him come to a conversation knowing what he’s feeling and if he’s being genuine or not.
- Am I angry with this person?
- Has this person hurt my feelings?
- Do I like this person?
- Do I trust this person?
- Have I tried to see their point of view?
- Do they remind me of anyone that may have hurt me in the past?
- Does this situation remind me of anything that’s happened before?
- Am I open to changing my mind?
- Am I willing to hurt this relationship to make my point?
- What is the outcome I’m hoping for?
What is missing from this list?
I can live for two months on a good compliment. – Mark Twain
Genuine compliments actually serve both the receiver and the giver. You can’t give a compliment without focusing on the beauty and value of others. So giving more compliments helps us develop our spirit of gratitude. And as I’ve covered previously, gratitude and service naturally cultivate each other.
Unleash the power
Have you ever wondered if men and women want to receive compliments in the same way? See below for ideas on how to tailor your compliment style by gender. These small tweaks in your delivery can help ensure that your positive message is received with the maximum impact.
- Ask for their advice: Many men see advice seeking as a sign that you respect them. And for men, respect is almost synonymous with love. I’ve taken a highly unscientific survey on this topic. All the men I asked said that being sought after for advice was the highest compliment a person could give them. Please note that it is very important to be authentic in valuing their expertise. Be careful what you seek advice on. If you don’t plan to use their advice it could be viewed as an insult.
- Be specific: My group of men reported not valuing general praises as much as specific ones. They preferred their compliments to be more targeted and unique. This may be because many men use logic to process emotion. It is therefore easier for them to see the emotion behind “I love the way you smoked the steaks. It had just the perfect mix of grill favor and tender texture.” than “These steaks are good!”
- Attention to detail: Women want to know that they are catching someone’s interest in a positive way. So it goes a long way when a person picks up on harder to notice changes. These could be things like their efforts to be more patient or even something cosmetic like a new hair style or outfit. The compliment is important, but it’s equally important to show that you care enough to be paying attention.
- Volume: The women I asked joked that they couldn’t imagine what too many compliments would look like. Some women preferred to receive compliments in private instead of public. But all wanted them to be plentiful. Don’t hold back.
How else do you compliment men and women differently? Surely this is just a start.
Speaking of compliments, please feel free to pay me a big one and SHARE this site with others. It’s definitely appreciated.
Every now and then I receive a call on my cell phone from someone speaking another language. When I don’t answer the call they leave me a voicemail. But I don’t understand the voicemail. I usually guess at the language they are speaking. Then I wonder how they got my number. Eventually, I start worrying that they might need something urgent. I try to judge how urgent the call is based on the tone of their voice. A few times I’ve called back the number and tried to say “Wrong Number!” in hopes they also speak English. Each time, I’ve not been able to tell if calling back helped them or not.
THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES
For some things in life you get credit for effort alone. But when you speak different languages the recipient may not be able to appreciate your effort. This is the basic gist of The 5 Love Languages written by Gary Chapman. This book completely changed the way I serve the people I love.
You may already be familiar with his work. If not, his main point is that everyone has a primary and secondary love language. These are the ways that they most like to receive love. Those ways are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Do you have a guess which one is your primary Love Language?
What about your spouse? Your children? Your best friend?
Knowing the love languages of the people you care about will allow you to serve them better. It will give them the opportunity to feel your love more deeply. It will give you a much higher return on your efforts to serve them. Knowing your own love language will also help you tell them how to best love you.
SPEAKING ANOTHER LANGUAGE
Here is how this concept has played out in my marriage:
My primary love language is Physical Touch and my secondary love language is Words of Affirmation. My husband’s primary love language is Acts of Service and his secondary love language is Quality Time. Now we both value ALL five ways of receiving love to some extent, but our primary and secondary styles are the way we hear the love messages most clearly. Since we have two completely different languages we have to make special effort to speak each other’s languages. This does not come naturally. It has to be deliberate and I’ve had to remind myself about it almost daily.
When I feel most loving towards my husband, I want to be with him physically or tell him how much I love him. Because those are my love language preferences and how I instinctually think to show love to him. Instead, I have to make sure I place a high priority on cooking for him and doing our laundry. Those things show him love through his primary Act of Service language. To me, laundry is definitely NOT sexy. For him, it gets him feeling loved and energized. He would instinctually show me love by doing housework. He thought most women desired more help around the house (and many do). And though I appreciate the help, it is much more important to me that he rub my back or tell me I look beautiful. He has to make a special effort to be more touchy and verbal than his natural style so I feel loved.
TAKE THE QUIZ
You can find your love language preferences and have others in your life take the Love Language Quiz by visiting Gary’s website. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
READ THE BOOK
If you want to read more about how to use the love languages in your relationships, see Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Language: The Secret to Love that Lasts at http://www.amazon.com/The-Love-Languages-Secret-Lasts/dp/0802473156/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392047956&sr=8-1&keywords=the+five+love+languages.
He also has a number of companion books and other books that speak specifically to children and teens.