What Are Words of Affirmation and How to Use Them

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couple on a date using words of affirmation

Actions speak louder than words. While this is true for some people, words can be a powerful force too. Some people may actually prefer to hear compliments, encouraging phrases, and generous thank-you messages from their significant other. It makes them feel loved and heard. If this sounds like you or someone you know, then your primary love language may be words of affirmation.

What Does Words of Affirmation Mean? 

Words of affirmation are one of the five love languages which are specific ways of giving or receiving love in a relationship. To affirm something means to state it as a fact or offer emotional support.

These affirmations can be any spoken or written words that confirm, uplift, and empathize with someone in a positive manner. They can be something small that makes someone feel good such as saying, “Thank you,” “I appreciate you,” or “I am proud of you for…”

However, you may also point out something on a deeper, emotional level such as, “I’ve noticed you’ve been doing things to move our family ahead in life and I’m grateful.” Either way, these heartfelt phrases are important to show your loved one that you have noticed their actions and are appreciative of them.

Why is it Good to Use Words of Affirmation?

Words of affirmation solidify the reality of the thought or behavior. Perhaps you cook breakfast for your partner knowing they have a busy day at work. Afterward, if your spouse or significant other tells you, “Thank you so much for cooking that meal. I appreciate you taking time out of your day,” it deepens the tie you both share.

Giving and receiving words of affirmation improves communication, promotes compassion, and increases emotional and physical intimacy. Furthermore, hearing your partner’s positive sentiments boosts your confidence and motivation. Studies have shown that when your partner feels appreciated, they are likely to experience a deeper satisfaction with themselves and the relationship. Basically, there are a lot of beneficial things that come out of verbally expressing your love for someone!

What Are Love Languages and Why They Matter

There are many ways to express our love to a partner, child, parent, or even yourself. We also have preferences on how we want to receive love. We generally have one or two preferred love languages but keep in mind our needs can shift depending on the situation. So, if you are someone who normally appreciates a thoughtful text message or note, there might be moments when you just need a hug instead of hearing, “Everything is going to be OK.” Below are the five love languages:

    • Physical – As the name suggests, this is all about physical connection with your partner. This includes everything from sex to hugging, to just a pat on the shoulder after an achievement.
    • Words of Affirmation – Giving verbal expression – communicating your love, appreciation, and respect for another person.
    • Receiving Gifts – Buying or making gifts for a loved one is also a love language. Flowers, food, or bringing home a magazine because it makes you think of your partner shows the other person that you are invested in your connection.
    • Quality Time – Quality time is centered around connectedness. It is doing activities with your loved one while also giving your full attention to that person. It might be cooking a meal or playing a board game together.
    • Acts of Service – This language is about doing things that your loved one would appreciate. In other words, lifting a bit of responsibility from somebody’s life. Examples are cleaning the dishes, putting away laundry, or filling up their car with gas.

Knowing how to show up for your loved one starts with communication. Talk to them about what expression of love they need the most. As mentioned, your needs may change which is why it is crucial to communicate and keep it an ongoing conversation. It might be directly telling the person, “I look for love in this way and I express my love in that way.” Without talking it through, you may be defaulting to certain behaviors that your partner may be missing.

How to Give Words of Affirmation to Your Partner or Loved One

To some people, words might not seem that meaningful. But to others, words are powerful and carry a lot of weight, which can either strengthen or weaken the relationship. As long as you are tending to your words with care and speaking to your partner about why you love them that’s what matters.

  1. Be genuine. Take a second and truly recognize what the person did. By centering yourself you can connect with a genuine belief or thought going on about this person or gesture. Then say it, meaningfully.
  2. Make eye contact with the person. It goes a long way to be present in the moment when you are sharing words of affirmation. Get rid of all phones and other distractions. It might not be a good time to say something meaningful when you are rushing off to work in the morning (though saying something genuine and meaningful, albeit, rushed, is better than never at all). When possible, carve out the time for both of you to fully listen to your words.
  3. Be mindful of tone. Be respectful when expressing words of affirmation. Saying, “Thank you for FINALLY doing the dishes” is sarcastic and not effective. Make sure it is a positive statement free of sarcasm and negative judgment.
  4. What you say.  While hearing, “Good job” makes you feel happy, you can also try deepening that emotional connection with your loved one. Maybe next time you can say, “Good job. I am so proud of you, and I hope you are proud of yourself too. I really like the way you did that.” This helps reaffirm your words of affirmation even more and strengthens your bond.
  5. Delivery. You should also ask your partner likes words of affirmation delivered face-to-face, text or call. Well, it varies depending on who the person is. Sometimes there are barriers to expressing words of affirmation face to face such as if you are in a long-distance relationship or one person is going on a long trip. In these cases, verbally expressing yourself over the phone is good, or you can decide to wait to say certain special things in person. Or other times, sending a quick text saying, “Thank you. I appreciate what you did today,” or “I’m so thankful to have you in my life” might be the perfect way to express love.
  6. If you struggle with sharing words of affirmation and this is what your partner needs, tell them. You can tell that person that you will try to work on improving this skill. Maybe you can start by writing it out on paper and reading it aloud, if they are open to it. Or start with small phrases to show your appreciation for your partner.

The takeaway here is that words matter; our reality is shaped by the narratives we create. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Take the time to recognize the love you have for one another, the bond you share, the qualities you admire in another, and express them from a genuine, meaningful place.

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