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Love Languages for Small Businesses: What's Yours?

Applying the love languages in business can help improve your relationships with your customers and employees.

Rachel Novosad
Rachel Novosad
10 min read
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Ever heard of the five love languages? 

Dr. Gary Chapman coined the concept in his popular relationship book, “The Five Love Languages,” originally published in 1992. After years of leading crisis couple counseling, Chapman realized what makes one person feel loved and appreciated is often different from their spouse or partner. 

People tend to express love and appreciation in the way they prefer to receive it—but that doesn’t always match up with how their partner feels most loved and appreciated. The sentiment and effort can get lost in translation—as if they’re speaking different languages.

“I discovered every person understands and receives love in a specific language, one of five to be precise,” Chapman said. “The other four are just as important and offer [other] ways to express love to each other.”

Chapman’s conclusion was that taking the time to learn and understand your partner’s primary love language—which is often different from your own—can improve communication and strengthen your relationship.

What Do Love Languages Have To Do With Business?

 
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A common misconception is that the five love languages are only applicable to romantic relationships. In reality, the term “love languages” is better described as “appreciation languages.” The same principles apply in relationships of all kinds—friendships, familial, romantic, even professional. 

As a small business owner, you have all sorts of professional relationships—with your customers, employees, business partners, vendors, etc. Something they all have in common? Everyone wants to feel appreciated and important. 

Taking the time to understand your own love language, as well as those of your customers and employees—at least in a general sense—can immensely strengthen your professional relationships, customer perception, and loyalty.

Here’s an overview of the five love languages, how they translate to the workplace, and how you can apply these principles to your business relationships.

The Five Love Languages for Small Businesses

Words of Affirmation

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Last we checked, no one can read minds. One of the biggest reasons for conflicts in relationships of any kind is lack of communication, which can lead to misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Words of affirmation isn’t just about compliments—it’s about acknowledging a person and their actions, and verbalizing your positive thoughts and appreciation. (If you’re not much of a talker, writing them also counts!)

People with this love language feel and show appreciation through:

  • Verbal expressions of reasons for appreciation.
  • Unsolicited compliments.
  • A listening ear.
  • 
Encouraging cards, letters, emails, text messages, etc.

People with this love language feel hurt by:

  • Non-constructive criticism or insults.
  • Ignoring their opinion.
  • Neglecting to acknowledge achievements or efforts made.
  • Reckless, insensitive speech.

How To Translate for Customers

While the saying “the customer is always right” may be cliché, it comes in handy here. Translating words of affirmation to customers goes hand-in-hand with good customer service. Making your customers feel heard, acknowledging their opinions as valid and important to you (good or bad), and thanking them for their business is a great start.

Ideas:

  • Excellent customer service. Be sure to actively listen to your customers when they give feedback, acknowledge their opinion, engage in respectful, productive conversation, and thank them for sharing.
  • Thank your customers for their business! This may seem simple but create a culture among your employees to express gratitude for customers. Handwritten follow-up thank you notes go a long way as well.

How To Translate for Employees

Who doesn’t want to be told by their boss they’re doing a good job? It’s easy for managers who don’t have words of affirmation as their primary love language to forget to verbally express praise and compliment employees for a job well done.

Ideas:

  • Public praise, private (constructive) criticism.
  • Make a point to regularly acknowledge your employees’ strengths and what they do well.
  • Compliment sandwich. When you do have constructive criticism to give, try “sandwiching” it between praise for things your employee is doing well. Positive reinforcement is effective!

Acts of Service

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Hey, this one’s our love language! We love showing our appreciation for our customers through excellent service, and providing them with the tools they need to best run their business. (Give us a try for free!) When it comes to this love language, actions—and services—speak louder than words.

People with this love language feel and show appreciation through:

  • Taking on responsibilities for others.
  • 
Performing chores or service-based actions without being asked to do so.

  • Unsolicited, self-initiated good deeds.

People with this love language feel hurt by:

  • Laziness.
  • Broken commitments.
  • Creating more work for others.
  • Ignoring requests for help.

How To Translate for Customers

This language may be the easiest to understand how it translates to customer relationships. Simply by providing excellent service to your customers, you can make them feel appreciated and important to you and your business. Following through on your commitments is paramount, and going the extra mile will make a big difference.

Ideas:

  • Be proactive in sensing your customers’ other or future needs. For example, if you’re a general contractor installing drywall and you notice a creaky door hinge, offer to fix it free of charge. Or if you’re a hairstylist giving a customer a trim and notice dry ends, throw in a restorative hydration treatment.
  • Be on time for your scheduled jobs. Things happen, so if you are running late, communicate to give them a heads up.

How To Translate for Employees

Taking an extra minute out of your day to help your employees shows you’re a team player who’s there to support them. It’s a two-way street!

Ideas:

  • Be observant. Notice your employee likes iced lattes? Grab them a pick-me-up on your afternoon coffee run. (Both a gift and an act of service!)
  • Offer assistance on a tough or time-consuming project. 
  • Take something off their plate. Is there a task they’ve been putting off, like organizing last week’s receipts? Surprise them by getting it done.

Receiving Gifts

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When it comes to the love language of gifts, it truly is the thought that counts. Gifts don’t have to be extravagant or expensive—the most important thing is that they’re thoughtful.

People with this love language feel and show appreciation through: 

  • Thoughtful giving, regardless of monetary value of the gift.
  • Remembering special occasions with a gift.
  • The effort put behind a gift.

People with this love language feel hurt by:

  • Forgetting important dates (e.g. anniversaries, birthdays).
  • Dutiful, unenthusiastic, or thoughtless gift giving.
  • Materialism. It’s not about the expense, it’s about the thought behind it.

How To Translate for Customers

Gifts are a clear and tangible way to show appreciation for your customers. While often used as an advertising tactic (“free gift with purchase”) it can also be an effective way to show your customers you value their business.

Ideas:

  • Throw in an extra thank you gift with their purchase or even just a handwritten thank you note. 
  • Wish your customers a happy birthday with an e-card and a coupon. (Pro Tip: You can automate this with your CRM tool.)
  • Implement a loyalty program where customers can earn points towards a free service.
  • Send your most loyal customers a holiday gift. This may not be feasible for all your customers, but you can say thank you to your “frequent flyers” with an end-of-year treat.

How To Translate for Employees

Who doesn’t like a company gift? Stay away from kitschy gifts that just turn into clutter though, and instead gift your employees with tailored, more meaningful tokens of appreciation. This could be a gift card to their favorite restaurant, tickets to a sporting event or concert they’ve been excited about, or even surprise monetary bonuses for a job well done.

Ideas:

  • Organize a company dinner or day trip experience.
  • Gift your employees with a paid day-off for their birthday.
  • Celebrate milestones with free company swag.
  • Send your employees a holiday or end-of-year gift.

Quality Time

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Quality time is all about giving your undivided attention, showing a person you value their time, and making them feel like they’re the most important person to you in the moment. 

People with this love language feel and show appreciation through: 

  • Spending one-on-one time together.
  • Giving undivided attention.
  • Uninterrupted, focused conversations.
  • Prioritizing time spent with the person over everything else.

People with this love language feel hurt by:

  • 
Distractions and multitasking. (This includes being on your phone!)
  • Postponed or cancelled plans.
  • Not listening.
  • Long periods of being apart or lack of one-on-one time.

How To Translate for Customers

Customers expect a certain level of attention and service. They want to feel their business is your top priority and assured that things won’t fall through the cracks. Their time and money are valuable to them, so it’s important to give them the time of day to show them it’s valuable to you too.

Ideas:

  • Prioritize your customers and give them your undivided attention. If the phone rings while you’re helping a customer, let it go to voicemail.
  • Maintain customer service quality and attention after the sale. Many businesses make the mistake of not prioritizing responsiveness to their customers once the sale has been made—which is the quickest way to customer dissatisfaction, lack of future business, and referrals.
  • Follow up after the service is complete. Show your customers you appreciate their business by taking the time to check in on their satisfaction with the work.

How To Translate for Employees

No employee wants to feel like they’re just a cog in the machine. Spending quality time with your employees is the best way to add the human element to your business. Remember, it’s not quantity of time, it’s the quality that counts. We know you’re busy as a business owner, so find a cadence you can commit to. Spending a little time getting to know your employees goes a long way.

Ideas:

  • Have one-on-ones with your employees. Depending on the number of employees you have, this can be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. 
  • Face-to-face conversations (even if it’s by Zoom!).
  • Host team lunches where no one is allowed to talk about work.

Physical Touch

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Ok, we left this one for last for a reason. Physical touch is the least translatable love language to the professional setting, for obvious reasons. It also isn’t COVID-friendly! However, outside of the pandemic, there are some appropriate applications of this love language—such as a strong handshake greeting, a celebratory high-five, or congratulatory fist-bump. In general though, keep this one for your personal relationships outside of work.

People with this love language feel and show appreciation through: 

  • Hugs.
  • Pats on the back.
  • Holding hands.
  • Thoughtful, appropriate touches.

People with this love language feel hurt by:

  • 
Long periods without intimacy.
  • 
Physical neglect
.
  • Coldly giving affection.
  • 
Any physical abuse.

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While you may not be able to ask every customer and employee what their primary love language is, and tailor your actions to each, being aware of the different ways people feel most appreciated is helpful and applicable in just about any setting or human interaction. 

You can find out your own love languages by taking the quiz at www.5lovelanguages.com, which can help you identify how you tend to express your appreciation for others.

We hope this helps you spread more love and appreciation, and strengthen your professional and personal relationships! If you’re interested in our acts of service, you can try GoSite for free (gift!) by signing up for a free account below.START YOUR FREE ACCOUNT!

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