Communication: The Five Languages of Appreciation
Communication: The Five Languages of Appreciation
Post written by Paragon Interiors   July 13, 2017

Why ‘good job’ just doesn’t cut it…

When was the last time that you felt genuinely appreciated by your manager, direct reports or colleagues? Can you identify the exact moment and what the action was or what the words were that made you feel valued? If you can answer ‘within the last week’ to the first question, you may be in the minority. And not because of your manager or colleagues lack of trying. In fact, they may highly value the work that you are doing but may simply be communicating their appreciation to you in a language that is not meaningful to you.

The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace published by Dr Gary Chapman and Dr Paul White in 2011 is a widely acclaimed theory on expressing individualised appreciation in the workplace. This theory is based on the premise that we all have a primary and secondary language that speaks to us the most, and that the reason we may not feel appreciated in the workplace, or that our expressed appreciation to others often misses the mark, is because we are not communicating in such a way that is most valued by the person.

1.Words of Affirmation:

Thinking back to the exact moment that you last felt appreciated at work you might say, ‘well, that’s easy…. It was last Tuesday when my boss complimented me on my character by saying that I am very considerate of others. That I don’t only care about my own work but take a genuine interest in ensuring that my colleagues have the resources available to do their jobs well too’. If this is the case, your primary language of appreciation may very well be Words of Affirmation. Words of affirmation in this context, looks beyond a person’s performance to their character. In order to be meaningful, words of affirmation need to be specific and heartfelt. And yes, handwritten notes and emails count too!

2.Tangible Gifts:

You might say the last time that you felt appreciated was a month back when your colleague left a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a blueberry muffin (your favourite flavour) on your desk after you pulled an ‘all-nighter’ to finish off a project for your team. If this is the case, your primary language of appreciation may be Tangible Gifts. Gifts need not be expensive in order to be meaningful – they should simply be well thought out and relevant to the persons interests/likes and circumstances.

3.Quality Time:

Those of you who value quality time the most will appreciate your manager taking a genuine interest in what you are doing, even if it is just a sincere conversation in the car on the way to a client presentation. The key to quality time is that the recipient needs to receive the focused attention of the giver. The art of listening is key here. Constantly interrupting the person or looking repeatedly at your watch, computer screen or cell phone is a sure way to miss the mark with a person who values quality time as their primary language of appreciation.

4.Acts of Service

Do you often feel frustrated when people try to encourage you with words when what you would really appreciate is an offer of help to get through the mountain of work that you need to do? Your primary language of appreciation may be Acts of Service. You believe quite literally that actions speak louder than words. In order for Acts of Service to be meaningful to the recipient, offers of help should be made without any resentment, and tasks should be completed within the guidelines that the recipient provides.

5.Physical Touch

The least common language of appreciation at work is appropriate forms of Physical Touch – a handshake, pat on the shoulder or a high five. This form of appreciation is often avoided in the workplace for very real concerns around sexual harassment. The utmost caution should be shown when expressing appreciation to a person using appropriate physical touch – know the recipient well and understand what their tolerance for touch is. For some, even a casual high five is uncomfortable. For those whose primary language of appreciation is touch – a sincere, firm handshake will do.

All very well, but how do we find out what a co-worker’s primary language of appreciation? A formal inventory can be completed online at the following address ( for 10 US Dollars per survey (+-R130). Otherwise, spend some time observing your co-workers behaviours – how do they express appreciation to others? What do they often ask of others? Do they ask for help or for verbal affirmation about a piece of work? Reflect on what they complain about often in both their personal and work lives… Perhaps their partner neglected to give them a gift on their birthday or they may complain that you never have time for a coffee date or lunch with them. To really express appreciation to them in an impactful way, learn to speak their language.

What are the benefits? Organisations who have implemented this very simple concept into the way they do things (including 7 of the top 10 companies on the Fortune 500 list) and have reported increases in general happiness at work, higher retention rates, an improvement in the quality of work produced and increased job satisfaction.

What is there to lose?


Written by: Natalie Mabaso

Industrial Psychologist

PS 0128180


Chapman, G. and White, P. (2011). The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Chicago, Illinois: Northfield Publishing.