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Our love languages transcend every area…

Have you heard of Gary Chapman’s book on the 5 Love languages? Believe me when I say this is not some cheesy love book. According to Dr. Chapman, there are five universal ways that all people express and interpret love. Dr. Chapman firmly believes that each person has one primary and one secondary love language and he advocates that people tend to give love in the way they prefer to receive love ( The 5 love languages are Words of Affirmation; Quality time; Receiving gifts; Acts of service and Physical touch.

I know in our world when someone mentions the word “love”, our default mode thinks romance. While it’s true that the word love is predominantly used in that context, however in my journey of maturity I have come to realise that actually, understanding your love language and others love language transcends across every aspect of life.

In light of the revelation of my love language, I was doing a bit of a self-evaluation exercise about some of the leadership roles I have occupied. According to Dr Gary Chapman’s Love Language test, my primary love language is Words of Affirmation.

In my self-evaluation exercise I began to think about most of the missed opportunities in the roles I have occupied. By my very nature I believe that I try my best to exude excellence in whatever I do. Usually when I start something new; be it a new project, new job, new role etc, I am full of excitement and bubbling with creative ideas- ready to implement. So I flourish in environments where I am constantly affirmed through recognition and praise. However, reality is most of the environments and leadership styles I have been exposed to, have not really supported this kind of love language. I have been in environments and had leaders skilled in criticism.

I recall the many great ideas and action plans I would come up with that never got off the ground or failed dismally because of negative words. When I am not affirmed I become complacent and I end up disappearing with the crowd. I think of all the inadequate things I witnessed and inside of me I would cringe because I knew I could do something to improve the situation, but I wouldn’t do it because I couldn’t get pass the horrible words spoken. Now don’t get me wrong, the work still got done, but inside of me I didn’t really care. I really tried to speak myself out of the negative words and carry on to do the work, but it was a difficult journey. I have also been in environments and had leadership styles that encouraged my creativity; gave me authority and ultimately consistently affirmed me through recognition and praise. I must say these were the times I really flourished. When I am in this kind of environment I really give it my all.

So when I got a hold of Dr Gary Chapman’s book and began to understand my love language, I had an Aha moment! And came to the conviction that this love language concept is true and it cuts across every area of one’s life. What was more powerful for me was I began to understand the love languages of others around me and I must say that has made my interactions more meaningful. I really think everyone needs to know their own love language and also come to a point of understanding others. Love is powerful and it cuts across every era; every nation, every business and history tells us that the people, who do great things and are remembered, are people who have, understood and appreciated the love languages of the humanity they serve.

Learn the lingo – Why McDonalds got it right and Coca-Cola got it wrong.

I always think that people who are natives of a country; where there are only two official languages have one less thing to worry about in their lives. My country, South Africa, has eleven official languages and that obviously is one of the things that make us a proud rainbow nation. However, if you can speak only two of these eleven, it can sometimes pose a challenge. I often tell my friends who grew up in the province of Gauteng just how blessed they are that they can speak 50% or even more of the eleven languages.

South Africa has nine provinces and Gauteng is the one province where there is a serious mix of people from literally all walks of life. This is because Gauteng houses Johannesburg which is the economic power hub of Southern Africa. My friends from Gauteng don’t know this, but I am sometimes very uncomfortable when I go to meet their parents and I have to speak my language or English so we can understand each other better. Now I can understand some of the languages, but responding is a mission. Fortunately, most of their families can speak my language but I still feel really bad when they have to adjust their dialogues just to accommodate me.

Beyond just my friend’s families, navigating your way in public spaces in Johannesburg when you don’t speak some of the languages can be a bit problematic. Most South Africans would agree that Johannesburg is the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” and most of us come here because of the vastness of opportunities available. Whether I am catching a taxi; or trying to respond to an elderly person; or asking for something at the grocery store, I have noticed that when I make an attempt to answer the person in their language there is an automatic connection and when they pick up my limited vocabulary and my “shabby” accent they become more understanding and we able to meet each other half way and speak a language that serves us both.

I think we need to begin to appreciate that speaking someone’s language or being culturally sensitive is not just “pink and fluffy”. A language is not only about the verbal expressions, but sometimes it can embody the very essence of a nation’s identity. And in this global village, in order to be truly successful we have to be able to adjust and “speak” the language and culture of others.

Two interesting cases come to mind when I think of cultural understanding equaling success for one and failure for the other. When McDonalds was intending to launch in India it was completely willing to localize its offerings. India was a unique and very conservative market because most of the Indian population is vegetarian and they don’t eat beef and pork. As most of us are aware, beef is one of the core ingredients of the McDonalds brand; however in India, McDonalds adopted a concept called Glocalization (Globalization + Localization).They intended to obviously maintain global standards whilst also meeting the needs of the local customer ( and Though it was an expense to localize for India, it paid off big time. They adopted a very authentic Indian menu comprising of chicken, fish and vegetarian meals and what a success it has proved to be.

When Coca-Cola initially launched its sales campaign in Saudi Arabia it was not so successful. Since their sales team couldn’t speak Arabic and most of the Saudis didn’t speak much English they thought surely simple pictures would work to portray the message and they believed that to be a brilliant idea. So they put together three simple pictures and these were meant to be a story line:

  • Picture one showed a man lying in the hot desert sand totally exhausted and fainting.
  • Picture two then shows a man drinking Coca-Cola
  • Picture three shows the man now totally refreshed and on his feet running.

The simple message was meant to say that when you feeling exhausted because of the desert heat, have sip of coca-cola and you will regain your energy. Sounds simple enough right?

Wrong! What Coca-Cola failed to do was be culturally sensitive by speaking in a way relevant to the Saudis. The rest of the world read left to right however, Arabic readers go from right to left. To the Arabic people the advert read, when you feeling energetic (picture 3) take a sip of Coca-Cola (picture 2) you will faint and be exhausted (picture 1) ( This obviously miscommunicated the intended message because to them it said stay away from Coca-Cola it will cause you to be dehydrated and faint. I do believe though that Coca-Cola has bounced back since then by investing a couple of million dollars into the Saudi Arabia market.

I think we can learn some interesting lessons from these multinational corporations and perhaps we can start becoming more aware of the languages and cultures of others around us and perhaps go further by engaging in a lingo that serves others. My friend, trust me when I say authentic human connections are more likely to be the new success in the near future.

Before you load more, focus and stabilize

I was reading one of my favourite women magazines and one of their main articles for the month was an exposé of three very influential women. These three women are what we term “movers and shakers” in their various fields. They were asked to share their individual journeys that led them to build successful business empires.

As I read their unique individual stories of triumph, pain, confusion, wins, challenges and ultimately success; I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the one common thread of wisdom or advice they all shared.

When asked to share some success and business secrets, they mentioned that it’s very important to have a focus when starting out and make sure you stick to the focus.  They mentioned that many times people attempt to be the “jack of all trades” and that can become problematic because you can easily lose focus and not build a solid foundation, and when you don’t build a solid business foundation there will be cracks in your business and ultimately that will affect your business negatively.

Builders often emphasize the laying of a solid foundation before building the entire residential or commercial building. The foundation is probably the most important part in a building construction. The foundation carriers the building that sits on top of it thus ensuring that the foundation is built to the very best standards possible is very much worth it. When the foundation is not properly done and begins to fail, you will notice the following: cracks on the exterior wall finishing; separated brick joints; windows or doors misaligned; cracks on the flooring, etc. (

I don’t know about you but I am overwhelmed with this obsession to seem like a “multi-tasker”. It’s like if we not doing more than one thing with our lives we are insignificant. Many of us like starting too many things at the same time therefore are unable to dedicate time to focus on one thing and getting that one thing right. I believe it’s okay to work on something for long, to others it may seem mediocre, it may seem like repetition and that’s okay because as the old cliché goes “practice makes perfect”.

I look at stabilising as a way of staying true to who you are and what you are about. One of the accolades I often hear people say when they referring to someone who’s great; is that they remain themselves in a world that’s constantly trying to make us all the same…

Behind the Scenes

I was watching the repeat of the BET Awards recently and one of the award categories that really got my attention was the life time achievement award; awarded to Samuel L. Jackson. I’ve noticed a similar trend at these prestigious award ceremonies, i.e. when most of the awardees come on stage and they have to render a speech, they usually are quick to mention a lot of people who actually played an integral role in their success that most of us are not even aware of.

Samuel L. Jackson was no different, as he was giving thanks he mentioned the following roles; His Manager, Agent, Accountants, Publicist, Wife, Aunt and echoed that if it wasn’t for these people he would not be on that stage receiving a lifetime achievement award. This really got me thinking of this whole behind the scenes concept. The concept of behind the scenes simply means “being or working out of public view or in secret. It may also mean working without receiving credit or fame.”

I think individuals in the entertainment industry have a great deal of appreciation for the work that goes behind the scenes. We know that what we see on screen; be it our favourite movie; or TV series; or documentary, is only a fraction of what actually goes on to ensure that we enjoy what we watch.

This also triggered what my friend shared with me recently. He mentioned that he received this really amazing opportunity because one of his ex–colleagues referred him. I just thought to myself as he was narrating his story, ‘Bongeka just rest’. Don’t get me wrong, we still need to put in the effort and work hard but a lot of things are really beyond our control. I am led to believe that God is a master of ‘behind the scenes’. There are a lot of things that have happened in my life that I was not actively pursuing or going for and yet found out later that God was the puppet master, ensuring that I met with the right person at just the right time.

There is a peace we must live with of knowing we may not see it, but there are things unfolding behind the scenes. Find encouragement in knowing that somehow there are positive changes that will come into your life and in many instances you will not see it because your vision is limited to the physical, but know this; there is a powerful force behind the scenes.

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