The Language of Love

By Robine Jean-Pierre

There are hundreds, if not thousands of languages spoken, written and articulated in the world today. Not all of us will be able to say we learned Swahili, Chinese or Urdu in our lifetime, but there is one language that we can all speak, one language alone that can unite us: the language of love. And no, I don’t mean French or Spanish.

a man in suit and bow-tie holding a martini glass and winking

© David Niven 2017

“No man is an island” (the title of a poem by John Donne). Unless you have spent all of your life in solitary confinement, you have connections with people around you. What we often overlook, even though it may seem obvious, is that these deep rooted relationships require maintenance. Your loved ones have standards that you need to meet, and vice versa, in order to keep the relationship afloat. That might mean phone calls, keeping the house clean, gifts, visits, etc. The thing is that we all set those standards in different ways, and that’s where the specific love languages come in.

In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that there are five main ways we express and receive love. They are: acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and quality time. He goes on to point out that each of us has a primary love language; we feel the most loved through it and express it toward others the most. I will explain in my own words and give some examples below.

one man holding a door open for another man

MCT via Getty Images

Acts of Service

If this is your primary love language, you feel most loved when someone helps you. You are always willing to lend a helping hand to others as well. It warms your heart when someone holds a door open for you or offers to do the dishes when it was your turn. Conversely, it really “grinds your gears” when someone does not offer you a hand, whether by outright refusing, or by failing to acknowledge your need. 

For these people, actions speak way louder than words. If you love them, you will be willing to show it, and to do whatever they are asking of you with a sincere heart. This might be doing the dirty work, like taking out the trash without being asked. This is definitely my mom’s love language, and not just because she is a mom. I have seen her offer herself wholeheartedly, not just for her children, but for people who, frankly, do not even deserve it.

two young male friends, one with his arm around the other's shoulder

photo by Vishvanavanjana

Physical Touch

You love to give and receive hugs, pats on the back, an arm around the shoulder and firm handshakes. You find massages incredibly enjoyable, and holding you while you cry is the most compassionate way someone can console you.

People might be suspicious of you because they are not as comfortable with touching, or they suspect that you are just trying to “make a move” on them–but that’s not true. Physical touch is not limited to affection exchanged between lovers. This is my fiancé Angel’s primary love language, and I realized early on that his touchiness was not simply flirtiness when I observed his interactions with family and friends. He was all hugs, all the time, and still is that way.

Words of Affirmation

a text message conversation in which one person expresses his/her feelings for the other

from Pinterest

You value words of praise and encouragement. One compliment has your mood lifted for the entire day. Love letters are the quickest way to your heart. On the other end, hurtful words inflict a wound like nothing else can.

If you know individuals like this, it is crucial that you constantly boost them up with the power of your words. Don’t dismiss them as being vain or conceited when they fish for compliments. Tell them “I love you” often, because even if you hit all of the other four love languages, they might not feel certain until you say it. Don’t just think good toward them–be very vocal about your appreciation and generous with compliments. Be careful, even when joking, about what you say to them.

 

Receiving Gifts

You feel most loved when someone gives you a gift. Whether something small like a flower or expensive like new sneakers, just the fact that someone thought of you means the world to you. Someone’s presence is also a present to you; you would be greatly offended if your significant other got you nothing on Valentine’s Day, but also if your best friend did not make it to your birthday party. 

a man embracing a woman to whom he has given a gift

Vogue (http://www.pulse.ng)

I feel as if this can be mistaken for being materialistic, but there is a difference. From what I have observed, this is my younger sister’s primary love language, and it took a while for me to realize that she wasn’t just being greedy whenever she asked me to bring her something on my way back home. Her attention to detail when choosing and packaging gifts for others also says it all. Because of this, when I have the money and time, I am less reluctant to pick up a Snickers bar or buy her something she’s been raving about every now and then.

Quality Time

You are an unofficial event planner, always coming up with a new idea for a date with your friends, family or significant other. You value long conversations, especially with an engaged listener. If you had one complaint in a relationship, it would be, “We never spend enough time together!” You give your phone a side-eye when someone does not reply back to your messages quickly enough or answer your calls.

a father reading a picture book on the couch with his daughter

Photo courtesy of United Way of West Alabama

This is definitely my primary love language. Nothing hurts me more than a missed opportunity to see someone I love, especially Angel. It drives me crazy when he’s not texting me, even if he has a very legitimate excuse, like work. I can spend a whole day with him and still feel disappointed when we have to part ways. This was true even with my best friend Marsha when we were younger; I often cried whenever I had to leave her apartment, and we lived in the same building.

People like me need as much time as you can afford to give. Make sure that in the midst of all your responsibilities, you don’t make a “quality-timer” feel as if he/she is at the bottom of your list; we are more likely to get jealous of things (e.g. work, sports, video games) than people. Set aside time for dates, phone calls, etc., and as a tip, it’s not enough to just be in the same room together–make sure that the activity requires you to give each other undivided attention.

Get Out There and Love Someone

Chapman explains that each of us has a love tank that needs to be filled. Often times, people act out, complain, or are unhappy because their tank is not filled. Marriages often crumble because two people are working hard to please each other in the way they know how, not in the way their spouse wants. The main way to fill the tank is to show love in that person’s primary love language.

If you are wondering what your primary love language is, think about which one you show others the most, and what bothers you the most (and see the quiz online). I highly recommend you get a copy of the book for yourself and take the quiz. Just as a final word of advice, the goal here is not to win people over, but to love them for the sake of love. If something is to be done, it might as well be done right. Do you want a boring relationship or an exciting one? Do you want nagging parents or happy parents? Love people wholeheartedly, expecting nothing in return, and this world would be radically redefined.the cover of "The 5 Love Languages" book by Gary Chapman

The Right to Speak Up

“I am speechless, but I can’t keep quiet
And I am wordless, but I can’t stay silent”

-Lauren Daigle, “Wordless” on her album How Can It Be

Have you ever been so overcome with emotion that you were completely speechless?

We often put ourselves in others’ shoes, imagining what we would do if we were in their situation; but when it happens to us, somewhere between the realm of the hypothetical and reality, we lose our thoroughly-thought-out, immaculately articulated responses.

There will be times when, frankly, life will shut you up. Something so shocking, painful, or nerve-wracking will leave your lips locked and your tongue tied. Choosing to speak up will not be the easy, automatic thing to do, but you will know that it is the right thing to do.

Two weeks ago, in my blog post The Right to Remain Silent, I talked about how silence can be a constructive form of communication. On the flip side, there are times when keeping quiet hinders more than it helps. It is imperative to know when to break the silence. 

a broken brick wall exposing a partly cloudy sky

Getty Images (Vkyryl)

Speak Up against Injustice

Victims of injustice often have a hard time seeking justice on their own. The stigma, pain, and residual feelings of weakness stifle their attempts, and they remain silent because it seems to be the only reasonable option. This is especially the case for victims of sexual assault, violence, and harassment. Nevertheless, whether you are the victim or you know one personally, speaking up about it might be uncomfortable, but it is the only way to initiate change.

City Tech has taken a stand against crimes of that nature by providing mandatory When Yes Means Yes… Sexual Assault Training for Students and  Title IX Training for Employees. The goal is to make more people aware so that the excuse “I didn’t know” evaporates. Bringing the issue to the light affirms the victims, exposes the perpetrators, warns potential offenders and calls the bystanders to action.

Speak Up about Secret Struggles

If you are anything like me, the worse a problem gets, the less willing you are to tell people about it, especially if it is an internal problem. By internal I mean something going on inside of your mind, a struggle in which you are battling your own thoughts, emotions, or habits.

a man with his arms crossed in a pool of dark ink, refusing to receive help from the many hands reaching out to him

Art by Katherine Choi (NY Times)

To give one example, I am guilty of being too much of a perfectionist at times. If I am running late to school, I would much rather it be due to delays and packed subway cars, rather than my oversleeping or not being able to find my glasses. I end up red-faced and teary-eyed on the train platform, angry at myself for making the same mistake over and over, angry that I did not get to bed early enough so that I could wake up comfortably and early this morning, angry that the reason I stayed up is because it took me hours to complete an assignment that other people could do in just one… Next thing you know I’m angry at myself for being angry and making such a big deal over nothing.

It can be a simple character flaw or a clinically diagnosed disorder, but whatever inner struggles you are facing, I encourage you to speak about it. If you were able to handle things yourself, then you wouldn’t be battling yourself. So what will keeping it to yourself do, except make things worse? Reach out to counselors at school, a trusted friend, a professional, a spiritual leader, family member–any confidant can make all the difference. Sometimes you need to hear a voice other than your own, but first, someone has to hear yours. (Please check out my fellow blogger Samantha’s post on a similar topic, Virtues from Motherhood: Needing Help Will Never Make You Weak.)

Speak Up and Get “Greased”

Have you ever heard the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? This means that if you have a need, you should make it known. As a college student, and especially a transfer student, I have often felt lost in a sea of demands. I have had to fill out dozens of applications, and I did not always know if I was doing so correctly.

It can be very nerve-wracking to have to go to an office and ask questions, especially if you don’t even know where to start, or if the clerks appear to have a bad attitude. Even so, there are countless resources at your disposal, both on and off campus, to help you with whatever you might need (if you are a City Tech student, see our academics site and student services site). And all of those intimidating officers and professors, guess what? They are paid to help you. When I was at NYU and facing plenty of financial conflicts, one particularly helpful bursar officer gave me his card after an appointment, and repeatedly encouraged me to come back and ask more questions because that was why he was there in the first place. So please take my advice; as the song says, “For / no one can fill / those of your needs / that you won’t let show” (“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers).

Speak Up and Be Yourself

one red game chip among dozens of blue game chips

istockphoto.com

On a lighter note, it’s not always a matter of being in need. It is important to speak up just because you have the natural born right to do so. We are all entitled to have our own opinions and to express them freely (and respectfully).

We live in a time where the lines between fact and opinion are often blurred. Sometimes opinions are given even more importance than facts. People will think you’re crazier for saying “I think Trump makes a good president” rather than “the moon is not real, it’s man-made.”

What’s more, everyone goes around saying “be yourself,” but the fine print under that statement reads, “as long as ‘yourself’ fits into this mold, or is popular, or is politically correct.” You might feel pressured to keep quiet because you are afraid that people will disagree or look down on you. My response, in short, is so what?

As a reserved Christian, my opinion is almost always in the minority, but “minority” does not mean “negligible” or “does not exist.” If you think a certain way and have taken a firm stance on something, no one has the right to silence you.

I encourage you, reader, to do something different today. You can even start small, and work your way up. Raise your hand in class if you don’t understand what the professor just said, rather than nodding absentmindedly. If you think that the person next to you is wearing an awesome shirt, tell him so. Tell your sister that she really hurt your feelings, because she might have been totally oblivious. I dare you to break the silence, because you are most definitely worth hearing.

a microphone pointed at the reader

Shutterstock image

The Right to Remain Silent

By Robine Jean-Pierre

In my Elements of Music course at NYU, the professors pointed out that the rests, or pauses between sounds, make up a piece of music just as much as the actual notes do. The intro to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is so powerful and memorable, in part, because of the rests.

If we take things outside the realm of music, we see that silence is a crucial part of communication. Some of us may be more talkative than others, but no one is ever speaking 100% of the time. We pause when we are listening, when we are thinking about what we want to say, when we feel respect, nervousness, concentration, guilt–it all depends on the scenario, and so it is important that we understand these distinctions.

a man (Simon Cowell) with duct tape over his mouth

Copyright Verizon Wireless

The Silence of Concentration

The quietness in a library tells you that people are focused and busy at work. The silence in a church might tell you that people are deep in contemplative prayer. A classroom is usually quietest when the students are taking a test. In these examples, the silence itself is not the focus; it is simply a result of some deep, inner process at work.

The Silence of Unity

There are times when silence is the main focus. In school, we often had moments of silence in observance of 9/11, and we did it to demonstrate respect for the friends, relatives and heroes who lost their lives that day. Whenever people take part in a unanimous display of solidarity, it moves me. There is something so powerful about everyone agreeing to stop what they are doing and focus on one shared experience.

The Silence of Disunity

There are other times, however, when silence represents disunity rather than harmony. You might be familiar with what is called “the silent treatment.” Imagine you insulted your father by doing something very foolish behind his back, and now he hasn’t spoken to you for days. Obviously, it’s not because he has nothing to say. I personally hate the silent treatment. One of the easiest ways to hurt me is to deliberately ignore me–but the people who are enforcing it are usually the most hurt of all. They feel that their silence, rather than their words, will more effectively convey their pain, frustration, or disappointment.

Using Silence Constructively

Since silence can convey a message or emotion that is either positive or negative, I want to suggest ways in which we can intentionally use it to promote effective communication.

The Silence of Consideration

In my personal experience, I do not like it when someone answers my questions too quickly or abruptly, as if they knew what I was going to say before I said it. A pause before replying to someone’s question can actually be beneficial for both parties. If, for instance, my sister asked me, “What classes do you think I should take next semester?” pausing will give me time to come up with a thoughtful answer. Plus, it will make her feel important, knowing that I cared to give her my time and thought, rather than hastily dismiss her with the first answer that came to mind. (I highly recommend reading the book Skill with People by Les Giblin; it is a thin handbook full of advice on how to communicate more effectively.)

The Silence of Listening

I have often heard it said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we speak.  If you are anything like me, you get irritated when people cut you off mid-sentence (especially when they start their sentence by saying, “Not to cut you off, but…”). I once read somewhere that a person lasts an average of 17 seconds of listening before he/she feels the need to speak again in a conversation.

The basic fact of the matter is that we cannot listen and talk at the same time; even the greatest “multi-taskers” must admit this. Being a good listener means having a willingness to stay silent while someone else has the mic, whether that is for 17 seconds or five whole minutes (I know, that’s a long time, especially for our generation!). If you never pause to listen, and you are the only one speaking, that makes it a monologue, not a dialogue.

The Silence of the Wise

I will end with a word of advice: sometimes silence spares you from a lot of trouble. Think of all those police shows where you have heard this portion of the Miranda rights: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in the court of law…” It would be smart for an arrested person to exercise that right, rather than say something foolishly that would further incriminate him or her. On a more relatable note, whether it’s the school bully or a family member, silence can be the strongest defense against someone’s antagonism. It can keep you from saying things you will regret, or from stooping down to someone’s level.

I hope this helped you to see silence with a new perspective. I will leave you with a poem I wrote below, titled (of course) “Silence.” Thank you for reading.

The absence of sound.
The brief moment when thin air rests in your ears.
A dull void, empty, cold,
yet as leaden and suffocating
as darkness itself…
are these the definition of silence?
Possibly… but I offer a different interpretation.
Silence
is the ear-splitting screech of raw, pure thoughts
huddling, hesitating in their last moments of privacy:
some yearning anxiously for their spontaneous departure;
others holding on, settling at the bottom of
the ocean floor we call our conscience.
Silence
is the thick black cloth
that envelops these thoughts
(providing protection, yet restraint):
some too fragile to be forced out
into the open;
Others so dense, unstable,
EXPLOSIVE,
that they would drop
like bombs
on the world.