Love Languages: I’m Team Time

How your love language colors all social interactions

OK, this is not a post about romantic relationships, although the concept of the love languages is usually applied there. It really is applicable to any typical social relationship — parent/child, platonic friendships, lovers, but also I’d argue even one’s interests. Also important disclaimer, I’m using myself as the primary example here.

The five languages were originally proposed in a book The Five Languages, a 1995 best seller by Gary Chapman. They apply both to how we express ourselves, and also how we react to others.

5 languages — the theory is everyone has a clear dominant one, and also usually a strong secondary one above the other three.

For me the easiest way to figure out your love language is to ask ourselves two questions: First, what do we naturally for friends? For some people they love to give gifts, not just mechanically, but tailored to the person. The process itself . They relish the challenge of gift-giving, so the question of “What should I get Will for Christmas?” is exciting rather stressful. Also as far as how this applies to interests, I’d imagine someone of this orientation probably likes shopping.

I’m writing with a focus on ‘time’, which is clearly my dominant love language but if you’re interested in a quick overview read this excellent 5-minute summary (warning: It’s pro-’time’ biased and is a little provocative — don’t let it offend you).

It is important to understand that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ love language. Any of you could easily be writing a similar blog to this based on your orientation — this is is simply one way of knowing ourselves better.

Time

As originally proposed by Chapman, “This language [quality time] is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.”

‘Quality’?

There is the caveat that ‘quality’ can be subjective, I interpret that fairly loosely and in an admittedly abstract way. For me just being around people with whom you’ve crossed a comfort threshold is unconditionally rewarding. Their presence is good enough, without additional qualification.

Why we are weird

Before diving into this, worth looking at some blind spots i.e. some of the worse qualities of being a time person — coming across as intense and the frustrating paradox of the ‘social introvert’.

One of the disadvantages of being in this camp is that one can probably come across as pushy. Maybe I’m texting too much to hang out. That type of thing. For time people, if it seems like you never ever want to hang out sometimes (not all the time! This is an important distinction, more on that later) or it seems like you’re always blowing us off when we reach out, we can wonder whether you are really into the relationship — romantic, platonic, etc. But also it’s certainly possible that we push people away that otherwise might have been closer to us because we are coming across as over eager. Also we are open to hanging out and making plans with new people maybe earlier than in other people’s comfort zones…

The other one is the paradoxical situation where as an introvert I have a reserved demeanor in social situations, which can be frustrating or puzzling to other people (one of my dearest friends suggests I’m probably actually an ambivert rather than introvert). I like being in peoples company, but I’m also fine without having to be verbally expressive around people, because I’m already thankful for their time and presence. So another one of my dear friends will for example say that sometimes she sometimes feels “she’s talking at me”, while the reality is that in my head, I’m just really enjoying and appreciating that she cares enough to take time from her day to be interacting with me, I genuinely don’t need or expect anything more than that although certainly others might need more feedback in social interactions.

Why we’re your BFFs

On a more positive note, there are helpful qualities about a ‘time’ orientation, and areas where we add value to others. This is not exhaustive but just a few:

Non-Judgmental: Once we like each other, we are simple people, and we just want to be around you. That’s it. It’s not that we don’t appreciate your gifts (we do!), or that you should never put effort to do nice things for us…basically it’s just that we like you and your uniqueness as you are. Doesn’t matter if it’s reading a book together in a coffee shop, clubbing or watching a sports game together. Just keep being you :)

Reciprocity and immediate feedback. With time as a love language, one knows right away if the other person is receptive — maybe only touch has more immediate feedback. But unlike ‘touch’ you also have to give to receive, time is inherently give and take.

Organizers: This doesn’t mean ‘event planning’ in a structured sense (I don’t even like event planning). Rather that we’re often setting up social situations and I think because it’s a way for us to maximize the amount of time we’re spending with as many different people we value. Earlier in this post I gave the example of what naturally comes for a ‘gift’ person, and I think for us time people, it’s finding ways to be around people we like.

Fun times!

In concluding, having thought of this over the weekend, I am convinced I’m a ‘time’ person because of my temporal characterization of relationships.

I find that my relationships deepen due to shared experiences. When I smile to myself walking on the trail, it’s because of fun times —a full day neighborhood hopping in Washington DC that includes a limousine ride; an epic boat ride on a Miami trip; a pub-walk in Rome with friends from three continents; New Year’s day in Paris at a house party with my high school brother-from-another-mother, etc…for better or worse “fun times” becomes a the paradigm of how I remember people. Conversely, for a ‘words’ person for better or worse, things that stick with them might be what people did or didn’t say — resenting someone that didn’t say “thank you”, or treasuring a love letter from high school.

Self-Care

Another aspect of your love language is how you like to recharge, or spoil yourself. Someone whose dominant language is acts of service, may always cherish the accomplishment of completing errands or doing things for their future self such as investing or writing down goals.

This is also why earlier on I mentioned that we time folks like to spend plenty of time with others, but also need that space and allowance to spend time with ourselves. For me as a time person, that means as much as I organize and plan social events, I also proactively want that personal and solo time.

Lastly, on a philosophical note, all this makes me sympathetic to the idea of just being. I won’t get into details here, but this relates to the differences between ‘have’, ‘be’ and ‘do’, in different ways.

Lastly, there are of course other models of looking at social relationships, such as horoscopes if you’re into that, or also check out Hofstede’s cutural dimensions if you’re interested in similar paradigms but on a social scale instead of an individual level.

I find the five languages one fascinating tool to develop and maintain better self-awareness. I wonder if this could offer hints to discovering one’s purpose, or help live more purposefully.

Here are my full rankings:

  1. Time (by far)
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Touch (→ a huge gap between this and #4 →)
  4. Gifts
  5. Words of Affirmation

What is your dominant love language?