As the cliché goes, we are all different colors of the same rainbow. That is, of course, a huge oversimplification. Some of us are also all the colors, or one color today and another tomorrow. A more accurate metaphor of our inner lives would be an ever-changing kaleidoscope. This makes keeping up with our fickle mosaics a full-time job, let alone when we add other people with their own ephemeral states to this equation.
As there’s no one-size-fits-all formula in love or friendship, building strong and nurturing interpersonal connections takes time and effort. Emotional intelligence, open-mindedness, and communication constitute the majority of the success, yet there are still bits of knowledge regularly coming to the surface to keep us in a constant state of learning and improving. Have you heard of the four support languages yet? Exactly our point (wink).
The Four Support Languages
The languages of support, much like the five love languages, are various communication strategies. They’ve been gathered together and systematized by psychological astrologer Dr. Jennifer Freed to make us aware of how much our genuine will to help others is typically based on our subjective perceptions of what we think a particular person needs. Not to mention, we might have been communicating our own desires incomprehensibly all along, too.
Not everyone wants to be supported in the same way and assuming that we automatically know what kind of help others seek squishes our ability to provide it. Hence, Dr. Freed’s theory delivers much-needed insight into the complexities of human nature. It expands our knowledge and awareness so that we can show up for our loved ones in the most effective way possible, maximizing our chances to light their way in the dark. And vice versa.
What exactly are these support languages, we hear you ask? That’s the fun part: natural elements (as metaphors, of course). In Dr. Freed’s view, fire, earth, air, and water serve as accurate representation of our differing wishes and needs. These four elements characterize what matters to us most, how we want to be understood and encouraged, and what is essential on our way to flourishing. Which force of nature are you?
Action and Demonstration
Probably the most effervescent of them all, fire is the element of light. It symbolizes inner strength, willpower, and transformation. People who recognize fire as their language require deeds and trustworthiness in order to feel supported. They are a show, don’t tell and honesty is the best policy kind of people. That’s why if you break a promise to a fire person, you will cut the wings of a phoenix trying to rise from the ashes. Show up when you said you would, be reliable and thoughtfully truthful, and bring in some enthusiasm and good energy with you. No need for too many words, celebrate this person in action.
Example: When your family member is going through a difficult time of loss and grief, it will uplift them if you do grocery shopping and cook a meal for them without the need for conversation. Offer to eat together (then, you could also wash the dishes).
Earth is the most tactile element. Hence, it stands for grounding and strong foundations. Those who recognize it as their language require stability and reassurance to feel supported. To show you care for their wellbeing and freedom from worry, you need to be rock-solid in their life. Nurture their soil by being patient, attentive, calm, and accepting. Consistency of words and actions is key. Be dependable, do something without being asked, show that you care by offering them your shoulder to cry on. Your earth person needs to know they can lean on you when the winds of turmoil bend their spine. Shelter them from harm.
Example: When your spouse is tired at the end of a work week and needs to vent, listen to their problems without trying to fix them or find solutions. Then, with a positive attitude, offer to clean the house over the weekend.
You might think that air is lofty. Yet, what it represents is intellect, mental capacity, and connection. Those who see themselves most in this airy category of languages need top-notch communication and affirmation to feel supported. Enable this bird to soar freely, high above the mortal coil, by acknowledging their ability to do so. Words of encouragement and positive reinforcement are wonderful strategies to show up for your air person. Show interest in their ideas and thoughts. Ask questions and challenge their beliefs in a respectful manner. Breathe in their air while holding their hand. Your support allows them to fly.
Example: When your best friend comes up with an ambitious business idea, dive into the specifics together. Let them show you their business plan and explain their mission. Should they want your assistance, assure them you’ll be there to help out (if you can).
Water stands for the emotional flow. This fluid element represents intuition, adaptability, and purification. People who recognize water as their language require empathy and comfort for healing in order to feel supported. Be their cleansing ritual. Wash over their wounds, rinsing off their pain by being attentive and compassionate. Like water, adapt to their needs, be the vessel for their sensitivities and vulnerability. When their emotions overwhelm them, give them space to work through those darker moments and trust they will be ok if they say so. When you’re together, be present and mindful. Quality time is a sturdy pillar.
Example: When your child is crying over something that happened at school, bring them camomile tea, gently hug them, and sit in silence with those difficult emotions for a while. Wait for your child to be ready to share their heartache in their own space and time.
The ABC of Support
These four categories of support are the love framework that works best if we eliminate mind-reading and guesswork and clearly communicate what we need as assistance and reinforcement. What sustains us might not work well for others, yet, to some extent, we need to speak all four languages because all four elements live inside each and every one of us. Fire, earth, air, or water – relationship maintenance has just gotten a bit easier.