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Sample Category - 19-05-2023 - - 0 comments
Feeling sorely unappreciated?  It might just be a plumbing problem….

Growing up, I was sure my Mum hated me.  The things she said to me seemed to a deliberate attempt to hurt me.  It seemed like no one understood me.  Seemed like I was the black sheep of the family, I just didn’t fit in. 


I discovered later (after much therapy, inner work and deep diving into interpersonal relationship dynamics) is that my Mum was sure I hated her. 


Even as a little baby, the things she did to comfort me didn’t seem to work. Dressing me up in nice clothes and then me being clumsy and making it all dirty.  Me being pretty terrible at maths.  These things seemed to tell her she was a terrible Mum and reinforced her story of her not being good enough.


It’s a tragedy.  It feels so deeply personal yet it’s just a case of crossed wires.  Broken plumbing.  Fundamental misunderstandings that push us apart.


I find this a common story among my coaching practice.  Perhaps not a childhood story, perhaps not a family matter, yet finding ourself in the kind of situation where we just can’t seem to make ourself understood, we feel like we don’t fit in, where we feel sorely unappreciated, disconnected and at odds with our partner is so common.  Anyone working knows the territory of Leadership and Management often brings up parent-child dynamics; a ‘Disappointed Dad’ MD and his senior leadership team spring to mind…


But there is good news here – it’s just a plumbing problem and it’s fixable.


This is where the genius of Gary Chapman’s work around the 5 Love Languages come in.   It’s a really helpful lens that helps us understand what’s going on and how to so easily bring magic to your relationships – as this really does apply to all relationships.

You may already know the basics:  humans are wired differently in the way we like to give and receive ‘love’.


Let’s break it down:


1.    Words of Affirmation.  This means the words you say/hear matter: verbal acknowledgement, encouragement, compliments matter. 


2.    Quality Time.  This is about giving your or receiving undivided attention, spending time hanging out.


3.    Acts of Service.  This is where actions speak louder than words.  Doing things for someone, helping or being helped in some way. 


4.    Gifts. Often misunderstood, this is when the symbolic act of giving or receiving a gift is the way we give or receive love.


5.    Physical Touch. This is where physical signs of affection matter. Non-sexual touch, perhaps high fives or hand on shoulder as well as hugs, kisses, holding hands.


Nav, my husband might kill me for this but I think you’ll see the magic here if I share with you what has and is still helping us.












Quality time

Acts of Service


Quality time



Quality Time


Physical Touch

Quality Time

Physical Touch

Physical Touch


Acts of service



Immediately you can see a ‘plumbing problem’ that can lead us to feeling disconnected and like we just don’t understand each other.


Nav does so many things for me – but to me honestly, this means almost nothing. 


All I want him to do is give me even 5 minutes of his undivided attention, where he hugs me, looks into my eyes and we have a meaningful conversation.


I put effort into searching out little gifts and things I think will matter to him.  I give him encouragement and big ups.  And this just doesn’t hit the mark.  It’s so easy to make up the story that ‘he’s just not that into me any more’. 


It’s kind of exhausting and it gets us nowhere.  In fact it’s like we are going into reverse…


But you can see can’t you?  It’s just a plumbing problem. 


All that love we are giving out isn’t reaching its target, leaving them and us feeling misunderstood and unloved.  Instead of pouring our energy away, a super simple upgrade, let’s just lean into the primary love language of our other instead.


The work for us both is to notice when we feel disconnected, then lean into making quality time for each other, me doing an act of service to make that happen, him leaning into words of affirmation.  We regrow the threads of connection through which trust, intimacy and love flow.    


Simple isn’t necessarily easy of course, we are habit driven creatures, but with a tiny bit of effort we can truly transform and bring magic to our relationships.


I realised my Mum expresses love through Gifts and receives love primary through Words of Affirmation, probably because she is so hard on herself. 


When she gives me a gift, she’s trying to say ‘I love you’.  I remind myself the story my head makes up ‘just have this thing so I don’t have to spend time or speak with you’ is just a story my head is making up.


In turn, I take time to verbally acknowledge her, her good qualities, her strengths, her little wins.  This, over years, has softened her harsh words to me which I realise however harsh are less harsh than the way she talks to herself.


We’ve slowly but surely been rewiring our plumbing over the years, becoming more connected, feeling a little more love flow, a little more easily, feeling mutually more understood.


In a work context, this awareness can be so helpful. 


I have over time won several achievement awards that were quite honestly meaningless to me because, on reflection what really mattered to me was acknowledgement, a few words of praise from that one senior stakeholder or my manager. 


Again this seems like a common pattern in the world of work.  Research shows acknowledgement from our peers/manager is one of the most powerful drivers of performance beyond the £70k pay bracket.


As with all things, the first place to start is self awareness.  Do the quiz yourself to better understand your own needs:


It’s very helpful to have shared language as this helps us not take these plumbing issues so personally so why not get your whole family or team to do the quiz?


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