Last year Carolyn Burke and I were teaching a workshop and one of the participants shared a piece of feedback I will never forget. She said that watching our interactions with each other was as helpful as the yoga tools we taught. A big takeaway for her was a renewed feeling of hope that women can work together in a spirit of generosity and cooperative respect–rather than compete with each other, which many of us have been conditioned to do. She seemed a little surprised that this aspect of the day had such a powerful effect on her.
This wasn’t the first time a student has commented on our friendship. Over the years people have asked us how we manage to work so intensely together and remain close. Others look at our relationship as a bit odd or curious, telling us they just don’t get it.
I always feel a little wary around women who say “I connect better with men than women,” but I also understand it. Women’s voices have been stifled for thousands of years, and we’ve been trained to look to men for validation, leadership and protection. As we take our place as true leaders alongside men, we women need each other.
But sometimes we don’t know how to stand together with our sisters–we don’t know how to connect.
People harmonize with each other–as friends or lovers–for a multitude of reasons. Some have shared values, common interests, complimentary personalities, basic chemistry, a strong commitment to growth, or all of the above. We get drawn to people to learn lessons, complete unfinished karmic business, or shake things up. Sometimes people land in our life like earth angels.
Carolyn and I have our share of arguments–our friendship is far from perfect. But we do share some core values that make it easier to navigate the ups and downs. We share a desire to use conflict as a learning opportunity, celebrate our differences, and support each other’s path, even when it doesn’t match our own. This last one is hard at times, but we’re committed to it.
This year we also realized that we have the same love language.
The New York Times best seller The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, lists the five languages as:
1) Quality Time
2) Words of Affirmation
3) Physical Touch
4) Acts of Service, and
5) Receiving Gifts.
Having a friend, partner, parent, or colleague with the same love language makes a big difference in the satisfaction we feel in a relationship. When Carolyn and I discovered we had virtually the same love language scores, it was a huge light bulb moment. It’s partly why we click! It also made me reflect on my past relationships, and helped me understand the needs of those people in a different way. Love languages have widespread implications at home, work, and in friendships.
Our love language is the way we feel appreciated, loved, and supported by the people in our life.
I was so excited to use the love languages as a team-building tool in our company–I could hardly sleep! We went through a love language exercise with our staff, and were all amazed.
Words of affirmation, like–“great work Tamika, that article really made a difference in my life,” mean the world to me, but another staff had a very low ranking on words of affirmation. For her, physical touch ranked highest.
Instead of complimenting her, praising her skills, or chatting on the phone (which make me feel appreciated), she feels valued by hugs, a pat on the back, or hanging out in person. Running a company from the other side of the country, this had me a little worried at first. But there is always a way to adapt to someone’s love language once we understand it. We decided to do Skype meetings instead of phone calls, and I find myself sending her videos or photos instead of texts. When I come home, seeing her is a priority. We’ve found a way to work around our differences.
People thrive on meaningful connection, but don’t always know how to create it, or sustain it. Some of it’s out of our control, but some of it–like our love language–can be worked on. If nothing else, you’ll have some great new jokes. Picture me thanking Carolyn for bringing me tea, and her saying “yep, acts of service” under her breath.