If you want to be a more intentional gift giver this year, start by identifying how the people in your life express and receive love. And for that, you need to take a look at their love language(s).
Drawn from the popular books written by Dr. Gary Chapman, the love languages are broken down into five categories—quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch and receiving gifts. Every person speaks all five languages to one extent or another, but individuals usually have one or two that really hit close to home. So, once you figure out how the people in your life experience love best, you can make speaking their language a priority. Here’s how.
If this is someone’s primary love language, they just want to spend time with you. They’re happiest when you give them your full attention—so try to avoid checking your phone or multitasking when you’re together.
Rather than buying a gift, give them the gift of your time. Take a road trip, make plans to attend a concert, or set aside a day to hang out together. It’s not so much about what you do . . . it’s about doing it together. Your time means more to them than anything you could pick up at the mall.
Words of affirmation
One way to tell if someone thrives on words of affirmation is to see how often they say how much you mean to them. After all, we usually speak in the language we’d like to hear from others. These people love encouragement and appreciate hearing how much they mean to you. For them, words are everything.
To speak their language, find ways to affirm them verbally. Catch them doing something right and praise them for it. Scale back on the criticism because that just robs their energy. If you’re feeling particularly creative, write them a sentimental letter or meaningful poem. You also could fill a box with lists of all the things you love about them. Encouraging words are guaranteed to make their day.
Acts of service
Some folks simply feel more loved when you sweep their kitchen floor than when you sing their praises. The words they want to hear more than anything are: “Let me take care of that for you.”
When you’re thinking about gifts for this type of person, ask yourself: What can I do to make their life easier? One of the greatest gifts you may give them is an entire day devoted to cleaning the house, working on yard projects, or running errands. It’s all about getting things done. Another idea is to offer to babysit for the night so they can have an evening entirely to themselves.
These people are easy to spot. They’re the first ones to greet you with a hug or drape an arm over you when you’re walking together. They don’t shy away from physical affection.
For them, a meaningful touch is worth a thousand words. It provides a sense of security that other gifts just don’t. You can speak this love language in a number of ways—offering a pat on the back or a comforting hand on the shoulder after a rough day. You might buy them a day at the spa or a manicure. Or give the gift of learning a new physical activity together—like rock-climbing or swing dancing.
These friends and family members just love getting gifts. But make sure you don’t mistake this for materialism. People who speak this language actually thrive more on the thought behind the gift than the gift itself.
But don’t think you have to break the bank to make it work. Keep your eyes open for small gifts that remind you of this person—like their favorite coffee roast, a vase of flowers or a small box of chocolates. Go the extra mile with nice packaging or a special card. After all, opening the gift is part of the experience.
Once you can identify the love languages of those around you, you’ll be a better gift giver. But the people in your life will also feel genuinely loved and known. So start thinking outside the (gift) box. Who knows? The best gifts you give this year might not be found under the Christmas tree at all.