#49: Words of Affirmation
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue.
I love attending our International Fayre twice a year at my university. Meeting and greeting people from all over the planet, often in their first week in the country; jet-lagged, shell-shocked and perhaps lonely. I happen to know some words and phrases in a lot of different languages and a colleague once pointed out to me how faces brightened when I trotted out something, anything, in the student’s own language.
I don’t know how well known the ‘five love languages’ are (https://www.5lovelanguages.com/) and I don’t know how much science there is to them, but I’ve found them a helpful way of thinking about relationships and where I’m weak on communication. Not just in the context of romantic love but also in connecting with work colleagues, family members and friends.
‘Acts of Service’ and ‘Receiving Gifts’ are definitely not my strong points but I’ve probably got at least some ability to communicate in the others. I’m pretty fluent in ‘Physical Touch’ and was a bit shocked when it dawned on me that thanks amongst other things to lockdown, no one had ‘spoken’ to me in that language in a long, long time. Even giving my mum a hug is currently out of the question.
Having said that, however, the one I suspect I identify with most strongly is ‘Words of Affirmation’. Colleagues in both this job and previous ones have noted my propensity to take time to acknowledge, thank or praise individuals around me up to and including Vice Chancellors of our universities! I’ve even caught myself stopping to thank police and other emergency workers – when they’re not otherwise engaged obviously. I hadn’t even noticed I did it until it was pointed out. It just seems an ‘obvious’ thing to do.
It works the other way I’ve been learning these last few years. It would seem that I like receiving such words of affirmation as well. I very much doubt I’m alone in this. Starved of them elsewhere in my life, I’ve realized, I’ve come to look in the one place people are gracious enough to provide words encouragement: the Traveller community.
As both a writer and a Referee I’m driven by a desire to create and a desire to share that with others for their enjoyment. But I also find that I’m encouraged to continue by such affirmation. I don’t suppose I’m alone in this although my guess is that some are more driven by it than others.
Having confessed the above, perhaps it’s worth considering whether there’s a player around the table with you, or sharing virtual table tops, or an author whose written material you’ve enjoyed reading or adding to your gaming, or a referee working hard to entertain that it might be worth stopping for a moment to thank or otherwise appreciate.
They might be taken aback if it’s not a usual thing; but they just might be encouraged or sustained by it and they might just take delight in being spoken to in their own language.