The Language of Emotional Intelligence


Last week I attended the Virginia Counseling Associations’ Annual Conference. The keynote speaker, Dr. Sherene McHenry, addressed the “The Languages of Love” referencing the work of Gary Chapman whose book, The Five Love Languages, has been translated into eight languages and has had incredible sales across the globe. I found this fascinating and I think you will too,

The premise is that we are all looking for love. When our love tank is fully we feel happy, energetic, and optimistic about life. When our love tank is on low or empty we feel sapped of life and struggle. It affects our view of our self and optimism about life.

Chapman proposes the hypothesis that frequently there is a disconnect between people who really do love and appreciate one another. It is as if we are speaking a different language and don’t understand each other.

There are five basic languages in which love is communicated.

1) words of affirmation

2) gifts

3) quality time of uncompromised attention

4) service, doing something tangible for another

5) touch

Each of us has a primary language and a secondary language in which we understand and through which we communicate. Unless the person who loves us speaks our language their intent does not connect with us. And unless we translate our love and concern for the other in a language that is meaningful to them it is like speaking Arabic to an Englishman.

It is important to learn the language of the person we are attempting to communicate to. There are three ways to learn their language. First identify the language they are using most often in communicating with others. Second, identify what they complain about. Third, pay attention to what they request.

Sherene McHenry gave a wonderful example of a couple that came to her in the midst of marital discord. The husband listed the marriage on a one to ten satisfaction scale as a 5. The wife listed the marriage as a -3, Neither could understand each other’s’ dissatisfaction. The wife, learning that service was her husband’s primary language, worked to prepare him a wonderful meal. The husband learning that quality time was his wife’s primary language arranged weekly times when he and his wife could have time uncompromised by other agendas. Both ended up rating the very same marriage as a 10.

Given that approval by superiors is extremely important in a work situation, it is important that we learn the language of the people who work for us. What may work for one of us may not work for another. The gift giver will love a plaque. The words of affirmation person will want to hear how well they have done. The service deliverer will appreciate help that makes their job or life off the job easier and more productive. The touch person will respond to a pat on the shoulder or handshake. Knowing the languages of those with whom we work is an important part of emotional intelligence.


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