Affirm, affirm, affirm

Exploring our love languages and the ability to truly connect leads to the realisation that the one that everyone could do more of is words of affirmation. A sobering statistic urges us to do more.

The start of the year is full of birthdays on Chantal’s side. As February yawns and stretches Chantal’s middle brother’s birthday arrives, a week later it is her own day of birth, a week after that, her mother’s. The 2nd of March arrives with her son-in-law’s celebration, ten days later her son’s, a week after that her daughter’s, then youngest brother's and finally her father’s birthday on the 1st April. Oh, and there are numerous friends’ celebrations dotted in between.

It has always been an expensive and busy start to the year. When her children were still at school, Chantal would stumble out of the festive season madness to fall dazed and confused into the new school year with all those expenses. Then February would arrive all too soon with the start of all those birthdays!

This year, with a new soul arriving in March, and a baby shower wrestled into the beginning of February, Chantal demanded a low key birthday for herself.

“No gifts, Matthew,” she said firmly, “For an accomplished aromatherapist I have yet to enjoy one of your massages, so you can give that to me this year.”


A day of quiet celebration

After a day of quiet celebration including a relaxing massage, Chantal announced that it had been one of her best birthdays yet. Receiving gifts is definitely not her love language. What is more important to her is the caring thought in a message, a handmade card or an experience that she does not need to organise herself. Her love language is acts of service, although this wasn’t that clear to her until this year.

For someone who is an accomplished “doer”, having things done for her was not something she even considered she would appreciate. Why ask someone else when she can do it herself? Although it isn’t really about asking, it’s about having things done without asking. It’s the idea that someone would be thinking about her and what she would really like without her telling them what or how, that makes her feel truly appreciated and loved.


This week we celebrate 5 years of living in our 5th Place! Housewarming parties began in mediaeval times when guests would bring firewood to literally warm the house and light fires, and to also keep evil spirits away.

A bit of them all

Matthew was confused about what his love language is.

“I’m a bit of all of them,” he said, running through the list.

Chantal thinks that Matthew’s love language is physical touch, with quality time a close second. He is right, though, we are a bit of all of them. And more.

Gary Chapman’s book about the ways to express and experience love in relationships, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts was first published in 1990 but it has stood the test of time. It’s a fun bit of exploration into relationship engagement and interactions and can be extrapolated beyond love relationships too.

It is a skill and an art to truly connect and find what it is that really makes another feel appreciated and seen. We do so much from our own perspective: - well, I like it so must he, or she, - that we often miss the mark.


Celebrations of a different kind, Clive’s birthday is also in February. The most common birthdate in the world is September 9th. This is because it’s 9 months after December, a festive and holiday season for many. Now, now get a room for that, please!

Of course we will

The one love language that everybody could do with more of is words of affirmation. Psychologist and philosopher William James once said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”

We are so used to getting criticised, by parents, teachers, lecturers, managers and bosses but it doesn’t get any easier to accept. Recently Chantal’s son, who has only been in his job for six months, announced that he had secured a R800,000 business deal.

“Wow, that’s amazing, Juds!” said Chantal, “Well done.”

“That’s fantastic, Judson,” remarked his sister, literally patting him on the back.

“Thanks, guys,” replied Judson, smiling, “I only get that from you, at work they just notice what we’re doing wrong!”

This is not untypical of the work environment. It is very easy to criticise. It is easy to find the “C” in the list of “A’s”, the incorrectly spelled word, the late submission, the untidy desk, the misstep, the forgotten line. It is very easy to focus on the wrong or negative and overlook all the good done around as well.

What we don’t realise is the power those negative criticisms hold. They weigh heavily, and can take considerable time to let go of. According to researchers the magic number of positive to negative feedback should be 5-1! That is, five positive affirmations or feedback to one negative. The emotional power that one negative word holds can only be properly dissipated by five positive ones.


Next level recycling! A single use product of a different kind. The coffee will find its way into our food waste management system. Recycled Nespresso capsules have been used to create a range of products, including limited-edition pens, Swiss knives, and even watches!

Affirm, affirm, affirm

Affirm, affirm, affirm, we constantly remind ourselves when we work with the learners and young adults in our programmes. It’s quite a challenge working with up to 75 15 to 16 year olds in one room. The disruptive elements tend to pull our attention away from the majority of the group who want to be there, who want to learn, who want to get better.

Our job is to find ways to acknowledge and appreciate those that do the work, that follow the instructions, that realise the benefit. We have to find a way around the people potholes, the noisy acting out, the bravado and feigned (or not) disinterest to find and affirm the positive. Over and over and over again. Five times over. It’s a sobering statistic and we forget it more than we remember it.

The words cannot be inauthentic either. Anyone can hear a patronising, inauthentic, made up affirmation a sound byte away. Affirmations need to be heartfelt. When words are spoken from the heart, the room goes silent. Ears open, a connection is made. It is one of the reasons we always end our sessions with a poem. These young people listen to the poems. They remind us when we choose, in the push of time, not to read one.

“Where is the poem? Read the poem.”

Then the voices hush to hear the words. Different words. A respite and maybe an affirmation that they are alive. With possibility, choices and even opportunity. We hope so as we say:

“Thank you, you were great today! See you next time!”

When next you are moved to point out a fault, pause and consider what was done well, what looks good, what positive is there too. Affirm that with all your heart. Step back and notice the difference it makes.

Until next time.

Yours in feeling,
Matthew & Chantal

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5th Place

5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.

We offer Emotional Fitness Classes and courses that help individuals, from children to adults, build emotional resilience and well-being. For our younger audience, we've created the Vibarealm, a vibrant universe that encourages a healthier interaction with emotions.

Join us on this journey to emotional fitness and let's make the world a better place together.

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