What makes you feel valued and appreciated? When spending time with someone you love or want to connect with more, it's useful to understand the ways in which you connect to others. This doesn’t mean that the person you’re connecting with needs to exclusively cater to your needs and preferences; relationships necessitate a mutual sharing of trust and connection. However, if you as a participant in social interaction do not know what gives you worth and value, it's harder for the other person to connect and show you support. (Here's a short overview of the love languages.)
Knowing the ways in which you connect with others, regardless of whether you subscribe to this framework, can be useful:
Help clarify your own needs. When you know what makes you feel connected to others, you can be aware of the parts of yourself that feel unheard, unappreciated, or unstable. When you know what part of you is not being acknowledged, you can clarify what is happening and take action to care for yourself.
Share your needs with others. Support people commonly do not know what their loved ones need in the moment — not because they don’t care, but because they may naturally misunderstand a circumstance or have a distraction of their own. Thus, being able to share with a support, “Right now, what I need is (fill in the blank),” can help your support respond in a way that serves the situation — which might even include the support saying they can’t help in the manner you’re looking for and subsequently assess where the needed support can come from.
Open up communication by relating to others. When you use open communication to discuss your needs and what makes you feel valued, your support person is better able to be equally vulnerable and share their own love language(s). As that happens, you and your support can connect in a way you both value, knowing you can share your own needs and trust each other to support your love language(s).
Expressing your love language(s) may not be easy. But as you work on knowing these parts of yourself, trusting others, and being willing to connect with those who foster mutual connection, healthy relationships can more easily follow in mutual care, support, and communication.
Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.