Get the idea? If you love hearing words of affirmation - and are longing for your partner to give you a compliment or send you a sweet note while he or she is out washing your car because that's the way they like to receive affection - you can understand how wires get crossed. In this case we would have one partner speaking the "words of affirmation" language while the other is communicating from the "acts of service" perspective. "Houston, we have a problem."
And this is not just limited to couples. It can extend to all important relationships - kids, parents, siblings, co-workers. If you're not getting your point across, you may want to step back to see how you're communicating. Examine how others in your life communicate with you for clues as to how they'd like to be approached.
You may be surprised if you try a different angle. If your partner is speaking the "quality time" language, think how you could speak back to them in this language. Offer to sit down and watch a ball game together or to go to the mall. Maybe a car ride together would provide some much-needed "get-away-from-it-all" and togetherness stimulus.
It's amazing how many of us run around in circles because we're communicating in our own love language, and we can't understand why others don't get it. Hint: They're doing the same thing - in their own language.
Learning to talk
According to Chapman, quality conversation requires not only sympathetic listening, but also self-revelation. When a wife says, "I wish my husband would talk. I never know what he's thinking or feeling," she's pleading for intimacy. She wants to feel close to her husband, but how can she feel close to someone she doesn't even know? For her to feel loved, he must learn to reveal himself. But that involves being vulnerable, and that's something not often valued in traditional male circles. In this example, the wife's emotional tank will never be filled until he tells her his thoughts and feelings.
Self-revelation doesn't often come easy, Chapman says. Many adults grew up in homes where the expression of thoughts and feelings was not encouraged, but condemned. They learned to keep their thoughts to themselves - and their feelings bottled up inside. By the time we reach adulthood, many of us have learned to deny our feelings. We're no longer in touch with our emotional selves.
A classic example of miscommunication is cited in "The Five Love Languages." Patrick, a 43-year-old who had been married for 17 years, came to see Chapman because his wife had left him. He said his wife would come home from work and talk about her office problems. "I would listen to her and then tell her what I thought she should do," Patrick said. "Talk with the people involved or your supervisor."
The next day she would come home and talk about the same problems. He'd ask if she'd followed his advice. When she said no, he would get angry. He told her she could solve the problem if she'd simply do what he told her. It hurt him to see her living under such stress because he knew she didn't have to. The next time she would bring up the problem, he'd say, "I don't want to hear about it. I've told you what you need to do. If you're not going to listen to my advice, I don't want to hear it." He would then withdraw.
Finally, he realized she didn't want advice when she relayed her struggles. "She wanted me to listen, to give her attention, to let her know I could understand the hurt, the stress and the pressure. She wanted to know I loved her and that I was with her. But I never tried to understand. I was too busy giving advice."
Many of us are like Patrick. We're trained to analyze problems and create solutions. We're focused on what we're going to say next - not on listening.
Tips for listening
So maybe you'd like to learn a foreign language this year. While it definitely takes some effort, just realize what the return on your investment could be!
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm. Reader comments may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mailed to livinglifefu...@arnoldagency.com.