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The 5 Love Languages: Words of Affirmation



I am a type six on the Enneagram scale and have a natural propensity to see the glass half empty. The shadow side of a type six is the core motivation of fear. Because I am motivated to consider what could go wrong, I can see things from a negative perspective. I developed this self-awareness years ago and am happy to say I now choose optimism in the circumstances that surround me. This did not happen instantly, and it is a skill I have practiced and honed. But now, I no longer stall out on the negative side of issues.


With the type six personality, affirming others does not always come naturally. If you fall into this category, you will need to learn to develop this skill. When you do, you and those you care about will reap the benefits, because you will be learning to speak the language of affirmation.


What is affirmation? It is offering encouragement or emotional support for something a person does well. It is using words to communicate love, respect, and appreciation.


When I use words of affirmation it helps me pivot and look for the good in others. It feels much better to focus on what is lovely than what could go wrong. According to Gary Chapman, becoming fluent in words of affirmation requires more than just mastering compliments and encouragement. He says it involves communicating with a tone and an attitude that are unmistakably loving. Otherwise it is just a form of flattery.


Here are three suggestions from Gary Chapman’s work on how to affirm others.


1) Compliment a Physical Feature: Be specific. Instead of saying, “You look good,” say, “I like the way you are wearing your hair today.”


2) Mention Something Specific You Observed: “I was impressed with the way you handled yourself at the meeting yesterday. You were calm and clear when you challenged John’s way of thinking, and he seemed to appreciate your comments.”


3) Initiate Conversations to Encourage a Loved One to Share their Dreams: Add your own observations about strengths they possess to encourage them. “You have the drive to see a project to the end, and I believe you will accomplish your goals.”


Psychologist Henry Cloud says we need each other and will achieve more in life just knowing people believe in us. Words of affirmation help a person know you appreciate their actions and contributions. Nowhere is this opportunity more valuable than within a marriage or any intimate relationship. When someone really knows you and chooses to point out your strengths and abilities, it has lasting merit. Learn the language of affirmation. It is crucial to all loving relationships!


Patti Hatton, MA, LPC

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