My whole life, I’ve been taught the Golden Rule: treat people how I would like to be treated.
And I don’t think this is a bad rule. At all. But I do think it’s a little flawed.
It assumes that everybody wants to be treated the way you want to be treated, and that’s not necessarily the case. I think everybody wants to be loved and treated well, but everybody also has different ideas of what it means to be loved and treated well. Enter the 5 Love Languages.
I learned about the 5 Love Languages about a year ago. If you’re unfamiliar, there are essentially 5 different ways that people like to be loved. If you’re following the Golden Rule, whatever your love language is, that’s probably the way you’re going to love other people, too. I’ve caught myself doing this. I love quality time with people; that’s what matters most to me. Therefore, I’m content to just have people to hang out with me on my birthday and Christmas and whatnot. I don’t really care much for gifts, and because of this I don’t really like to give them.
Because I value quality time so much, a few times when I didn’t have the money for gifts, I’ve pulled the “my presence is your present” bit on my family. And I think my family is okay with this, because they love me (I assume), but I haven’t ever really thought about how they would like to receive love.
It can be really hard for me to get outside of myself and think about what other people need/want. Especially when it comes to gifts. I don’t really care about receiving tangible gifts from people. It’s actually been really hard for me to believe that there are people whose love language is gift-giving. To me, gift giving feels manipulative. And that’s probably just because I’ve known people who legitimately give gifts to manipulate the people around them. But I’ve also learned that there are people who genuinely like to give people things. There are people who love differently than I do.
I think it’s important to really know the people in your life and figure out what they want and need. That way you can love them the way they want to be loved. If a person says they don’t want anything for their birthday or Christmas, maybe try listening to them. I’ve legitimately meant it when I’ve told people I don’t want things as gifts, that I’m content with spending time with them, and yet they still give me gifts because they think they’re supposed to. **I feel like I need to add here that I still encourage gratitude and appreciation regardless of what you are given. I still appreciate the thought that went in to picking out my tangible gifts, even though I didn’t ask for them.**
I understand the trickiness of this idea, though. Sometimes all you have to work with is what you would want, and that’s fine. And sometimes people say they don’t want anything when they really do. So, I’m also suggesting more transparency. Being honest about what you need from the people in your life is almost always beneficial, even if it can also be uncomfortable.
This new golden rule doesn’t have to be a big thing. You don’t have to give all of your loved ones the 5 Love Languages quiz. It can be as simple as paying a little bit more attention to the way they react to certain things and listening to what they say. I think also asking yourself, before you choose a gift or are about to make a nice gesture, “is this what they want or what I would want?”