How Leaders Use The 5 Love Languages to Build Trust in their Teams

In All, Communication, Lifestyle by Anna PangelinanLeave a Comment

The five love languages aren’t just for romantic relationships. Based on the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, love languages are how you communicate love and appreciation for others. By understanding how the people on your team accept love and appreciation, you can successfully build, maintain, and grow trust in your personal and professional life.

What are the 5 Love Languages?

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Quality Time
  5. Receiving Gifts

Most people have 2 that are the most prominent. The other 3 are effectively overlooked. You have to be able to recognize how others receive appreciation and then go out of your way to show it. Even if you can just get marginally better at showing appreciation for others, your team will trust you more, commit to you more, and see you as a true, caring leader.

Why does trust matter?

Stephen Covey writes for the Harvard Business Review in The Connection Between Employee Trust and Financial Performance and shares how important trust is in an organization. For the top 100 Best Places to Work, 2/3 of the criteria were related to trust. And high-trust organizations showed a 2.5x greater chance of being a high performing revenue organization.

woman talking on the phone saying keep up the good work

Words of Affirmation

A person who’s love language is words of affirmation needs to hear that they are appreciated. The more they verbally understand that you appreciate them, the more likely they will continue to reflect that behavior.

What to do

Genuineness is key for this individual. They will see right through a half hearted compliment. Make sure you truly mean what you say. These are some of the phrases that you can use to show appreciation:

Some other things you can do to show your appreciation is 1) handwrite letters to them, 2) actively listen and accept praise, 3) point out noteworthy achievements and give praise.

What to avoid

If you know this is someone’s love language, then you’ll want to avoid the following actions:

  • Non-constructive criticism
  • Emotionally harsh words
  • Not recognizing effort
  • Not appreciating effort
team at a table helping each other

Acts of Service

A person who’s love language is acts of service values actions over words. The more they see you going out of your way for them, the more appreciated they will be. This requires thoughts, planning, time and effort.

What to do

Initiative is key for this individual. If you begrudgingly take on a task or complain while doing it, then you’ve lost your opportunity to show appreciation. You need to take the time to evaluate what that other person does and how you can help them. Here are some ideas on acts that you can take in a professional setting:

  • Get them coffee in the morning
  • Help them with their workload
  • Take action and remove an item off of their plate

Here is a list of additional acts of service you can perform. The list is a little more geared toward romantic relationships, but it can give you ideas. Other things you can do:

  • Ask, “What can I do for you?”
  • Not bring them frequent requests of their time
  • Follow through with action items

What to avoid

If you know this is someone’s love language, then you’ll want to avoid the following actions:

  • Adding to their work load
  • Forgetting to follow through
  • Prioritizing other tasks over theirs
two women fist bumping

Physical Touch

A person who’s love language is physical touch literally requires physical touch to feel appreciated. Obviously in a business setting, this needs to be monitored as physical touch can easily become inappropriate without forethought. But there are still professional ways in which you can use physical touch to express appreciation.

What to do

Proximity is key for this individual. There really is no loop hole for this one. It’s very binary. You either touched them or you didn’t. Your touch needs to be appropriate and properly timed. Here are some ways to engage physical touch in a professional setting:

  • Fist bump or high five after an accomplishment
  • Hugs or side hugs after a prolonged absence
  • Introductory handshakes, even if it’s daily
  • Sitting close together

While it might be weird to touch your colleagues (particularly if you’ve not done it before), there are several mental and physical benefits touch can have in a relationship.

Some other things to consider if a person’s primary love language is touch is 1) show pleasant facial expressions, 2) show open and accepting body language, 3) gesture and use your hands appropriately.

What to avoid

If you know this is someone’s love language, then you’ll want to avoid the following actions:

  • Neglect
  • Accepting touch coldly
  • Shying away from an embrace
  • Inappropriate physical touch
two guys spending quality time out at the beach

Quality Time

A person who’s love language is quality time needs your physical presence and time to feel appreciation. This means that you have to set aside time for this individual. You don’t have to set aside a half a day. 20 minutes can be plenty of time, so long as you give your undivided attention.

What to do

Presence is key for this individual. Phones away. Laptop closed. Work paused. Thoughts focused. It’s a lot to ask for, but even just brief moments of “I am here for you.” speaks loudly for the individual who values quality time. You can share quality time with this individual by:

  • Taking a walk together
  • Grabbing lunch together 1 on 1
  • Sharing an impromptu conversation
  • Collaborating together on a project

If you really want to show you care, you can try new activities together and share a unique experience. This is one of the best ways to engage quality time. Simple activities include playing sports, doing yoga together, or trying their favorite activity. If you want to take it up a notch, you can evaluate these extreme outdoor activities to try before you die.

What to avoid

If you know this is someone’s love language, then you’ll want to avoid the following actions:

  • Postponing or constant rescheduling
  • Long stretches of time between interactions
  • Distracted time together
  • One sided conversations
woman holding a gift

Receiving Gifts

A person who’s love language is receiving gifts feels appreciation from considerate gifts. This is not to be confused with materialism. The gift need not be large or expensive, but it must be personal and given at the right time.

What to do

Thoughtfulness is key for this individual. This is probably the most difficult one to do because you MUST pay attention to their needs, desires, and interests. You have to take note of what they mention in passing or what their child wants for Christmas or what their favorite restaurant is. Otherwise your gift will not have the desired effect. Here are some easy gifts you can give to show your appreciation.

  • Almost anything handmade (with quality)
  • A book they’ve been wanting
  • Hobby related gifts
  • Spontaneous gift giving

You can find more gift ideas for the people in your network from another post we wrote around the Christmas season, but it translates to whenever you need a gift idea. You can also jump to for more gift ideas.

What to avoid

If you know this is someone’s love language, then you’ll want to avoid the following actions:

  • Forgetting important dates
  • Unappreciated accepting of gifts from them
  • Gifts with no meaning
  • Gifts only on special occasions


As a leader in your organization, you need to stay alert to the level of trust that exists within your team. The lower the level of trust, the faster your team will fail; however, the more trust there is, the greater the chances of creativity, innovation, and financial success within your team.

As an extra note: It is much worse to engage in “What to avoid” behavior than it is to simply forget “What to do” behavior. For example, even if you get someone a gift, but there is no thought put into the gift, it can be perceived almost as an insult (even though that wasn’t the intention!). Show genuine appreciation and build trust!

Ryze | The Personal Relationship Manager is a tool for the man or woman who values the power of relationships. Stay on top of those relationships that matter to you!