Expressing the Love Language of Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation - what they mean and how to show

If you’ve ever looked into improving your communication with someone—especially a partner—you’ve probably come across the concept of the “five love languages.” Marriage counselor Gary Chapman published his first book on this topic in 1992 and it quickly spread. According to Chapman, everyone experiences and expresses love differently. He identified five separate ways through which people give and receive love, one of which is “words of affirmation.”

But what are words of affirmation and how do we use them? We’ll cover this concept and what it means. We’ll also give plenty of examples that you can start utilizing in your relationships.

The Five Love Languages

Through his practice as a couples counselor, Chapman found that couples were often trying to connect but had different ideas about how to do so. As a result, the couples would feel distant or claim that their partner didn’t care, despite both individuals clearly loving each other. In his book, Chapman describes five different love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts, and quality time. By using your partner’s love language—and your partner using yours—Chapman believes that couples can grow closer.

Understanding what actions make your partner feel loved can promote a sense of selflessness. In a way, you are thinking of their needs and putting yourself in their shoes. This can do wonders for building a shared sense of empathy and can even aid in personal growth.

Most of the languages are quite simple and self-explanatory. If someone’s love language is receiving gifts, they feel loved when receiving gifts. Actions like giving flowers on a random day are great ways to express your love to someone with that love language. Another example is physical touch, which involves physical affection like hugs or hand-holding. This continues until you reach one of the more difficult love languages to nail down: words of affirmation. Despite being the most common love language, it’s also one of the most misunderstood.

Explaining Words of Affirmation

At its core, the love language of words of affirmation involves spoken or written acknowledgments of love. Romantic words of affirmation might include compliments or words of encouragement. Even something as simple as “I love you,” can be an example of this love language. It doesn’t matter what form these messages take—although each individual may have their own preferences. From a handwritten note to a daily text or even just a sticky note on the mirror, there are many ways to utilize words of affirmation. This love language, like the others, is simply a way of showing that you do notice and appreciate the work your partner puts into the relationship.

How to Give Words of Affirmation

People with words of affirmation as their primary love language are always taking notice of other people. They care about and keep track of the small details in people’s lives. They are often the first individuals to notice someone’s new haircut or to remember to check in on someone’s sick parent.

While they are doing all this for other people, you can be doing it for them and thinking of what phrases show that you are doing so.

Giving words of affirmation can be quite simple or quite difficult, depending on your partner. Some people feel recognized and affirmed with small messages that show you care; “I love you,” before bed or “I’ll miss you,” when heading off to work. Certain individuals, however, may need messages with a bit more substance. Think about the things your partner does for you, your relationship, your living situation, and your overall life together. Maybe they do the dishes because they know how much you hate that chore. Make sure to directly tell them that you appreciate that act of selflessness.

On a similar note, throwing out random compliments can be nice, but overdo it and they feel less authentic. A superficial “You look pretty,” can be nice in some circumstances, but most people want to feel seen. Why do they look pretty? Maybe your partner took a lot of care in putting on their makeup or they’re trying out a new outfit. Complimenting those aspects shows that you have actually noticed your partner’s effort.

Do your best to speak from your heart and make it a habit to recognize the nice things others do.

How to Receive Words of Affirmation

Many of us do not handle receiving compliments well. We’re often taught while growing up that we need to remain humble, which often involves downplaying the praise we receive. Try to fight this instinct whenever someone is providing you with words of affirmation. Even if your love language doesn’t involve words of affirmation, accepting and appreciating them will do wonders for the other individual.

Verbally acknowledging your partner’s words with a “Thank you,” can go a long way. You can also reciprocate compliments. If they comment on your hair, maybe there is something you noticed about them that you can praise.

Don’t shy away from letting your partner know what words and phrases mean the most to you. Some of us don’t feel comfortable with comments on our appearances—even if they’re nice. In that case, communicate with your significant other about how you feel.

Examples of This Love Language

Words of affirmation can take many forms. Remember that they should largely be personal, but here are some words of affirmation examples that you can use for inspiration.

  • I love you
  • You are so special
  • I enjoyed spending time with you today
  • I was really impressed when you…
  • I couldn’t have done … without you
  • I’m proud of you
  • I really appreciate it when you…
  • I’m always in your corner
  • I love your new haircut
  • That shirt looks great on you
  • Thank you for making me feel safe and loved
  • Thanks for being so great with my friends
  • I noticed you really like …, tell me more about it
  • Wow, you’ve been working really hard
  • You inspire me

A Parting Note

Remember that the theory behind the five love languages is a way of simplifying a complex topic for easier understanding. Most people benefit from giving and receiving multiple love languages—they just might prefer one over the other. You might like words of affirmation the most, but you probably still enjoy receiving the occasional gift.

Alternatively, some people may not fall under any of the love languages. People with autism, for example, might struggle to give or receive affection the same way people not on the spectrum do. The idea behind the love languages is to have open, healthy communication with others. Find out how they communicate and engage with them on that level.