Love Language Communication in Non-Romantic Relationships

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Captivate" by Vanessa Van Edwards. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do the five love languages work the same in platonic relationships? How can you identify what people’s love languages are?

You’ve probably heard of the five love languages, but you might not have considered using them outside of the context of a romantic relationship. In fact, you can deepen all of your relationships by illuminating and interacting with people using their preferred forms of communication.

Keep reading for a discussion of love language communication outside of romantic relationships.

Love Language Communication

In her book Captivate, Van Edwards presents and discusses Dr. Gary Chapman’s five “Love Languages,“ applying them to non-romantic relationships. She says we feel best when others communicate with us in the language we prefer. Knowing people’s love language helps you recognize what makes them feel most appreciated. Using this information, you can use love language communication that will serve your common goals. The five love languages are:

  1. Words of affirmation (positive feedback in the form of words)
  2. Gifts 
  3. Physical touch 
  4. Acts of service (doing things for others)
  5. Quality time (spending time with people)

Van Edwards offers a few ways to identify other people’s love languages: 

  • Ask them directly if they know about the five love languages.
  • Observe how they interact with you and others. For example, if they enjoy volunteering and regularly offer to help you and others, their love language is likely “acts of service.” 
  • Ask questions like: “If you were having a tough day, what’s one thing someone could do to make you feel better?” or “What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?”
Keep Perspective on the Five Love Languages

Though the five love languages are popular and widely used in psychological circles in American culture, some warn that people are misusing them—to the detriment of their relationships—in four key ways:

To keep score: The five love languages weren’t intended to be used by people to keep a mental tally of how much their partner or others use or fail to use their preferred language.

To the exclusion of active listening: Love languages can evolve, so it’s important to always listen actively to stay attuned to people’s changing needs.

As the be-all-end-all key to happiness: You shouldn’t expect or rely on others to always meet your needs in the exact way you want them met.

As a universal fix to all problems: The love languages can’t solve everything, including toxic behavior.
Love Language Communication in Non-Romantic Relationships

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  • How socially awkward people can become social superstars
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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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