Never Too Old To Learn A New Language

Affirmation Header

Are you familiar at all with the The Five Love Languages?

It’s a 1995 New York Times Bestseller, written by Gary Chapman. If you hop over to Amazon, you’ll see 12,279 reviews of the book — more than 10,000 of them 5 stars.

Pretty incredible!

The root of it is that fulfillment and/or discontent in interpersonal relationships usually stems from the fact that people speak different languages. Not literally. But rather the way in which we prefer to express & receive appreciation, recognition and encouragement.

While working as a marriage counselor for more than 30 years, Chapman identified what he called the 5 primary languages of love, communication and connection.

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

My daughter, Madeline, is off the charts quality time. My son, Collin — if I had to peg him — I’d say he’s high on physical touch. And words of affirmation are very important to my wife, Kristin.

Me, I’ve read the book a couple of times and taken the quiz. My results say that I am high on the scale of “Acts of Service” and “Quality Time” and very low on “Receiving Gifts.”

And while I fully understand the power of affirmation and appreciate the feeling of being affirmed, for whatever reason I’ve always struggled with it, in practice. Both giving and receiving. I’ve made strides, no doubt, but I still have a loooooong way to go.

I could come up with any number of rationalizations: all dudes suck at affirmation, I’m stubborn and set in my ways, I don’t need others to puff me up, tell me who I am and what I do well. I am my own person. It’s all pretty predictable at this point in life.

So, you can imagine my anxiety when I showed up at my men’s discussion group — early yesterday morning — to find out that not only were we not following the “normal schedule,” we were going to break off with our table-mates and go around the circle affirming each other, instead.

Oh mercy!

Immediately my head started swimming. I wanted to look around the room and quickly find the nearest exit.

I wasn’t the only one. You could almost feel the collective air being sucked out of the room. Eyes darted left and right. Guys trying to find confirmation that this was going to be extremely awkward for everyone else too.

But then, for some inexplicable reason, a sense of calm washed over me. Like “Hey, I can do this. If we are going to be uncomfortable, at least we’ll be uncomfortable together. Right?”

Like anything — when you put 7 guys in a circle at 6:30 in the morning — it took some time for us to break the ice. To get warmed up. Someone had to show the courage to step up and ‘Go First.’

But once we built up a little momentum, we ended up going strong for almost an hour. One by one, each man took his turn sharing with the other what character traits, values, principles and contributions he appreciated most, based on the year and a half we’d spent together.

I feared, for the few men that I did not know as well, I’d have very little to contribute. But that wasn’t the case.

I suppose that once you allow yourself space to step out of your own anxiety and instead put your focus on to the well-being of another, the thoughts and the words flow effortlessly.

Furthermore, the feedback I received from the group was much more validating than I anticipated. Words like: consistency, maturity, faith, humility, thirst for more, committed and improvement were shared by others, with me.

I had to laugh because one of the guys said, “Every time I see you take a note I think to myself, ah-oh, what did I just miss?”

In truth, I walked out of the meeting with both a peace and a fire that I cannot adequately explain in words on a computer screen.

Not that I needed more confirmation, but yesterday morning’s experience just further solidified the thought that joining this group was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in a long time.

And of course, you know me, my mind immediately went to work trying to conceptualize a way that I could introduce a similar practice into our daily routine at home.

So at dinner last night, iPhones and iPads were off limits. Before we dug in, we took turns going around the table sharing one thing we’ve noticed, like, or appreciate about each other. The kids loved it. And as a family, we shared more laughs together than we have in a long time.

I’m already envisioning ways to infuse this into the dynamic as the team at Three Pillars Realty and Voices of Impact continues to grow in the coming year.

There is nothing more inspiring than to know that one’s contribution is recognized and to have one’s worth affirmed by those he or she is in the trenches with day in and day out.

Who woulda thunk it? The guy who almost broke out in hives at the thought of …. would become a convert in under an hour.

It just goes to show you that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Or in this case, I guess, it’s teach an old guy a new language.

If you enjoy reading the articles & content on this website, please join our group of email insiders. Each Friday, Ryan sends out an email sharing new articles, insights and updates – with clients, friends and family. The stories are often uplifting and rarely focused, exclusively, on real estate.

Ryan France

Ryan France is a native of Austin Texas, father of two, super-early riser, avid reader, admitted podcast junkie & bulletproof coffee addict. In a past life, France was an aspiring professional baseball player. Today, Ryan is an entrepreneur, author and relentless innovator of the real estate industry. Read more on the "Who is Ryan?" page.