It’s safe to say we all like feeling loved, but do we all feel and express love in the exact same ways? Not necessarily, according to the experts. If you’ve spent any time online or interacting with pop culture, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about love languages, and one love language specifically: words of affirmation.
These buzzy terms have been on our collective radar for decades, but you might be wondering where this idea comes from and how to communicate using these so-called languages. Since words are our speciality, let’s dive in. Here’s what you need to know about love languages and what to say when words of affirmation are your sweetie’s language of choice.
What are the love languages?
As you might have guessed, love languages aren’t actual languages that you speak. Rather, they’re a way of explaining the different ways people give and receive love. The concept of love languages is largely taken from a 1992 book by Christian self-help writer and counselor Gary Chapman.
What does words of affirmation mean?
An affirmation is “the assertion that something exists or is true.” When you use words of affirmation, you’re essentially affirming your relationship with someone, what they mean to you, and how you view them.
Words of affirmation aren’t only important in romantic relationships. They’re also a way to solidify your connection to friends, family, colleagues, and other significant people in your life. So, what does affirming someone actually sound like? Here are some of the words you might use in these affirmations and how to put this essential love language into practice.
One major way to affirm people is to tell them how much their presence improves your life. Appreciate is the perfect word for this. Meaning “to be grateful or thankful for,” appreciate comes from the Latin appreciātus, or “valued, appraised.” To use this one in an affirming way, be specific with your praise. For example:
I appreciate it when you …
The thing I appreciate about you the most is …
You make me feel appreciated by …
What impresses you about the people in your life? Impress is a verb that entered English in the 1300s. It means “to affect deeply in mind or feelings; influence in opinion.” When you tell someone you’re impressed by them, you’re letting them know they’ve caught your attention and have your admiration. That might look like this:
It impresses me so much when …
Your ability to do [blank] is so impressive.
What better way to let someone know they’re one of a kind than by telling them how lucky you are to have them in your life? Lucky means “having or marked by good luck; fortunate.” Telling someone you feel lucky to have them lets them know you see your relationship as a product of good fortune, and that’s always lovely to hear. For example:
I feel so lucky to have you because …
Not many people have a friend like you, and that makes me feel so lucky.
Pride isn’t always considered a positive thing, but being proud of someone else usually is. Proud means “feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself.” It’s a feeling we’ve been expressing in English since before the year 1,000. To use proud as a word of affirmation, say:
I am proud of you because …
It makes me so proud to call you my friend.
I’m so proud to have you on my team.
Ultimately, words of affirmation let people know that you value them. To value someone means “to regard or esteem highly.” It’s a form of the Latin valēre, meaning “to be worth.” When you affirm someone, you’re letting them know both that you value them and that they add value to your life. For example:
I really value the way we can always talk to one another.
My life feels more valuable just because you’re in it.
I deeply value your …
The word love has existed in English since before the year 900, yet somehow we never get tired of hearing it. It means “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.” In the case of words of affirmation, the key is in how you use it. “I love you” is an easy enough thing to say, but what qualities do you love about that person? What inspires those feelings? Try one of these:
I love the way you …
I feel most in love with you when …
Gratitude is an important part of saying words of affirmation. Sometimes we might feel very thankful for someone’s presence, but not necessarily express that to them. This word is a way to change that. Gratitude is “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” To use it as an affirmation, you might say:
I feel so much gratitude that I get to have you in my life.
I’m so grateful to have a partner who …
How do your loved ones inspire you? Inspire means “to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence.” It comes from the Latin inspīrāre, meaning “to breathe upon or into.” Someone may inspire you to action or they may inspire feelings within you. Let’s try it in some sentences:
I’m so inspired by the way you …
Your [blank] is my greatest inspiration.
Every day we spend together makes me feel inspired to be a better person.
Trust comes from the Old Norse traust, which is related to the German trost meaning “comfort.” And that’s what makes trust so important to relationships, right? Being able to trust someone lends a sense of comfort. It’s defined as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.” Here’s how you can use it in an affirmation:
I know that I can always trust you to have my back, and that makes me feel safe.
It means everything to know that I have earned your trust.
Sometimes our relationships inspire us to have faith and keep going, even when it’s hard. A good word to use in that case is believe. To believe means “to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.” You might say:
I believe in you.
I believe in our relationship because …
Having your support helps me believe in myself.
The word partner has gained popularity in recent years as a gender neutral way of talking about a significant other, but that’s not the only definition. A partner can be anyone “who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor.” That might be a business partner, a romantic partner, or even a best friend. Letting someone know you see them as a partner is a significant way of affirming what they mean to you. For example:
You’re my partner, and your opinion matters to me.
It means so much to know I don’t have to go through this alone because I have you as a partner.
I couldn’t ask for a better partner than you.
In hard times, relationships are about being there for each other. That’s why it’s affirming to let others know you support them and to thank them when they return the favor. Support means “to bear or hold up; serve as a foundation for.” You might say:
I feel so supported when you …
I know this is a big decision for you, and I support you no matter what.
Your support is a big reason why I’m able to …
Just like you have a favorite song or a favorite food, you can have favorite qualities in people you care about. A favorite is “a person or thing regarded with special favor or preference.” Maybe it’s their kindness. Maybe it’s the way they cheer you up after a bad day. Maybe it’s their beautiful smile. Whatever it might be, it’s affirming to hear the specific things that make you someone’s favorite, like this:
My favorite thing about you is …
My favorite thing that we do together is ….
Bolster your enduring gratitude for your loved ones by testing yourself on these words. Our quiz will reaffirm your skills!