A Life of Love: Creating an Extraordinary Life

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you show appreciation? Why do you think many people feel as though they aren’t being appreciated?

From personal relationships to the workplace, showing your appreciation helps others feel affirmed and valued. Yet we may hesitate to show appreciation or not show it in the way that the person prefers to receive it. The Five Love Languages explain why people like being appreciated, how to discover someone’s love language, and how to show appreciation in a way that corresponds to the way a person prefers to be appreciated.

Read more about the five “love languages” below and how they can teach you how to show appreciation.

Employers Tend to Overlook Appreciation

Studies indicate that employees and employers value appreciation differently. For example:

  • When asked to rank 10 factors that would motivate employees to do their best work, employers ranked appreciation eighth. But employees usually rank appreciation as their number one motivator.
  • 88 percent of people said their employers don’t acknowledge their work, and 46 percent said they left a company because their employers didn’t appreciate them enough.

The data suggest that employers need to appreciate employees more. Learn the love languages to appreciate people in both your workplace and personal life.

The Five “Love Languages”

People have a preferred “language” or way of receiving appreciation, as well as a secondary way. If you show your appreciation using a love language that doesn’t register with someone, it won’t have the same impact as their preferred language. Here’s how to show appreciation in each of the five languages

1. Receiving gifts. If this is your love language, you feel appreciated when given material things. For example, Canfield gave one of his employees with this love language a bottle of melatonin when he heard she was having trouble sleeping.

2. Benefiting from a service. People with this love language enjoy having things done for them. Examples include offering to help someone with a project or doing the dishes for your partner.

3. Touch. Receiving touch is how people with this love language feel appreciated. At work, a handshake or hug could do the trick, while with a romantic partner, it may be sexual intimacy or cuddling. Canfield has given employees with this love language a gift card for a foot massage to show his appreciation.

4. Kind and encouraging words. People who prefer this love language need to hear kind words to feel appreciated and loved. It shows them you believe in their work and abilities.

5. Quality time. People who prefer quality time need to feel as though they’re spending uninterrupted time with someone to feel appreciated. For example, Canfield’s wife prefers Canfield give her his undivided attention when they spend time together rather than looking at his phone or the television.

Tips for Discovering Someone’s Love Language

Here are three tips to discover someone’s love language:

  1. Listen to what they ask of you. What people ask for can reveal the ways in which they prefer to be loved or appreciated. For example, if someone asks you for a hug, that might be an indication that their love language is physical touch.
  2. Watch how they behave with other people. People tend to speak in their own love language, so observing how they treat others could reveal how they want to be treated. For example, if someone is quick to offer kind words or compliments to others, that could be a sign it’s their preferred love language.
  3. Note their complaints. What people complain about can reveal how they feel underappreciated and how they’d prefer to be appreciated instead. For example, if someone shares that they felt disappointed when their spouse didn’t bring them a gift from a work trip, it may indicate their love language is receiving gifts.

You can tell you’ve identified someone’s love language when they respond favorably to what you did. But figuring it out can take time. For example, someone’s love language might be receiving gifts but it might be a very specific kind of gift, like a romantic card. Be persistent in asking questions, and keep trying until you get it right. 

(Shortform note: For more on identifying and learning to speak the love languages of others, read our summary of The 5 Love Languages.)

Activity: Track Your Appreciation

Given the benefits of making others feel appreciated, Canfield suggests tracking your acts of appreciation each day. Here are the steps:

  1. Set a goal for how many people you’d like to appreciate each day. Canfield once set a goal of 10.
  2. Carry an index card with you. On the card, tally when you appreciate someone.
  3. At the end of the day, if you didn’t reach your goal, take some time to appreciate a few more people. When Canfield worked on his goal, he’d write emails to coworkers, share gratitude in-person with family members, or write letters to his parents.
  4. Do it long enough for it to become a habit. Ideally, you’ll reach a point where you regularly express appreciation without needing any reminders.

Exercise: Identify Your Love Language 

Reflect on what makes you feel appreciated at work.

Do you feel appreciated at work? Why or why not? In your answer, include an example of what people at your company are or aren’t doing to appreciate you.

Based on your answer to the previous question, what do you think your primary love language is? For example, if you felt appreciated, whatever they did might be an example of your love language. If you don’t feel appreciated, what you wish people were doing might indicate your love language.

If you don’t feel appreciated at work, do you think it’s worth sharing that with your employer? Why or why not?

How to Show Appreciation: 5 Love Languages

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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