EMPATHY – THE ABILITY TO PUT YOURSELF IN SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES
I was walking home, thinking about a loved one that I was missing. I was thinking, I hope they know how very much I love them. And I realised something, something pretty profound that honestly has taken me most of my adult life to realise.
And that is – they may not know the extent to which I love them. Because I don’t express love the way they do. This is very hurtful to me, because this person deserves to know how much I love them and whilst I try to express it, they don’t know how to receive it and vice versa.
About 5 years ago, I was at a work conference which was all about customer service.The presenter at this conference diverged and recommended a book called, The 5 Love Languages. At the time I was going through my own personal struggles so I noted it down and one day when I was feeling pretty desperate I ordered it and read it.
For those who know me well, they know this is pretty significant, I’m not a big book reader, unless it’s of the textbook variety. I actually hate to admit it, because I love writing, and language and words and I envy people who read long, juicy novels. I do long for a balmy, sun filled, tropical holiday where there is just me, the sun, my love and a juicy book. One day …
I will skip ahead to current day and spare you the details of how all that turned out but it is kind of coincidental that some years after this conference and in a different time in my life I was chatting with a friend, who I respect very much and has a beautiful relationship with his wife, and he mentioned this same book.
The book explores the concept that we have 5 basic love languages:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Quality time
3. Physical touch
4. Acts of service
5. Giving and receiving gifts
I am sure there is a lot more psychology behind why we are inclined to fit into these particular categories and the book probably covers this (it’s been 5 years since I read it). But what is important to realise is that most of us are a mixture of different types of languages but generally we have one or two dominant love languages.
Sounding a bit hippy, crunchy? At the time I thought so too. But now, a little older, a little wiser and maybe a little more hippyer – I actually think it’s pretty significant. Hence, why I am divulging this somewhat lengthy, possibly corny, love story with you.
My Love Languages are clear – I feel most loved through quality time and physical touch and/or words of affirmation, I crave them. Lucky for me, Jan from day one gave me an overwhelming amount of this, making me feel instantly loved. I haven’t asked him directly what his are but intuitively I make sure I am giving plenty of words of affirmation and physical touch. So far things are working well 🙂 But maybe after he reads this, he can tell me how I am doing in filling his love meter.
For us we are definitely a strong mix of those THREE. And they flow naturally from us so it seems to work. However, like all couples when life gets busy or you are caught up in your own stuff or other people’s stuff then your expression of these things can get compromised. That’s when someone needs to recognise it and show up and start giving out more love.
Unfortunately most couples/parents/children do the opposite and actually stop giving out love because they aren’t feeling loved. This creates a sad, vicious cycles of no one feeling cared for. And really who wants that for their loved one?
Jan and I both aren’t big on giving and receiving gifts or acts of service. Although at times Jan may wish I was more expressive of my acts of service around the kitchen or laundry :).
What prompted me to share this was I recently read a blog from Melissa Ambrosini, the guru in, self love, and she mentioned the book (this was now the third time it had made its way into my life) and her positive experiences with it.
And whilst it may not save a relationship it certainly does give you some insight into the intricacies of how people express and receive love.
For example, if you are someone like me, who tends not to place as much value or express love via acts of service or giving and receiving gifts, paired upped with someone who expresses love via doing these things and also feels loved via receiving these , there is going to be a disconnect.
It is very likely that the quality time and the physical touch that I am trying so desperately to give to show my love is not getting the message across the way they need to feel loved. And this realisation, makes me cry.
But today I realised it, and I now I can try.
Love is at the heart of our being. When we give it; when we receive it; we are better humans.