Love language? How about a “care language”?

Jen Xu
6 min readJun 3, 2019

People care for others in different ways. Some do it through words, emotions, talking, LISTENING. Some do it through actions, movements, intentions. I’m kind of at a crossroads for more ways of caring, but I’m sure plenty more exist. Now, because people care in different ways, people also receive and understand care from others in different ways. So where does that leave us — do we cater to everyone else and lose our sense of self? Or, do we say, screw everyone else, I’m gonna be me, they can adapt.

I think a little bit of both. I think it’s the terrible answer of “it depends”. I think you’ll find people who see the way you care and appreciate it, and they may just ask for a little bit more of the “care” you lack. It depends a lot too on the purpose of your caring — is it for a relationship or for work? For a relationship, the key is balance and finding a spot that both people can agree with. Or compromising on some parts, but no further than what is necessary or emotionally permissible (aka not manipulative, I just made this up, I dunno). But for work, I find that more often than not we should push ourselves out of our comfort zones to get better results.

Again, do we really have to change the way we care? No. No one “has to”. But could we? Absolutely, always, we can always do better. Should we? Well…why not? At the end of the day, I do want to do my best job, no matter how much I joke about things. And sometimes that involves getting out of my comfort zone. A terribly terrifying idea, but I need it.

I care for people by this — I see you, I see your pain, I see how hard you work (sometimes, haha), you deserve to feel better (or, you don’t deserve to feel this way, no one does). Granted, I don’t say it, I just try to show it by being there for them. However, I forget a lot of things — you do need to speak aloud your intentions and objectives from time to time, no matter how awkward it might be. You also need to remember that different people need different types of care. It doesn’t mean you have to change your personality all the time, but there are moments that call for wisdom and understanding of who people are and we can give them a little help.

I know I communicate well with men. For the most part. And just in general. For hours, I could sit with them, make jokes, roast each other, etc. But the biggest reason is that I think they often see actions as caring for people, they may not care about your words as much. They see the way you run around the field with water bottles, they see the physical effects of their injuries a lot and how you help them there, I think just giving them time is important (speaking as treating your athletes). It’s not to say that’s how they all are, but more often than not, that’s what I’ve seen. So many of them know that their results on the field mean more than what they say, and I think that’s how they see others.

I was raised to understand that actions speak a lot, and often the most. Sure, words also do, as a former “kid with anger issues”. But I saw the love from my parents in the way they prepared Chinese vegetables for us kids to eat (they are a pain in the BUTT), the way my mom worked even though she didn’t love her job, how she would cook when my dad went on business trips even though she didn’t know how. I saw it in the way they would randomly bring me bowls of fruit that required some semblance of preparation…apples, pears (which is so funny because both of these require nothing, technically, but that’s where the love shines through, ya know?), pineapples, mangos, etc. I saw it in the way my dad worked his butt off to get my family where we are today.

So I think I’ve unconsciously been practicing this type of caring for ages. I lacked proper communication skills, and I’m still not great. I preach honesty and blunt-ness because I believe it, but I still struggle with it. I was terrible with understanding my emotions and using them to inform my decisions; instead, I’d use them to fuel my anger and my word vomit, and I’d lose my temper a LOT, unfortunately.

I’ve dated a few people who said nice words, but meant none of it because their intentions showed through their actions. Or, lack thereof. It was truly awful. I’m happy to say I’ve recently made a much better decision. Of course, with my athletes, I don’t just say things and do the opposite of them. Often, I just don’t say things at all. I struggle with showing I care with my words properly. That’s the key — there are definitely better ways to do it. See, I like to talk. I like to blabber. I am generally really sarcastic with friends and coworkers, but I definitely turn that down a notch (or several) when I first meet athletes. And that sort of turns me into a very boring, serious/nerdy person. And sometimes that’s hard to connect with.

I suppose I’m not necessarily good at caring through my words because I’ve never challenged myself to. I’m friends with a lot of guys because…honestly, I don’t even know how to explain, it’s just easy. I’m friends with like, 3 girls. I struggled connecting to my female teammates and classmates, and I would wonder why no one liked me (because I had the urge of needing to be liked, and I figured, well, if they don’t say that they enjoy being around me, they must HATE me). I was sort of bullied in middle school at various church events (ironic, I know) for not being girly enough and for generally being weird, and I think I just feared that happening again. So I never tried. But how could I expect people to change for me if I wouldn’t change a little for them? I never gave them a chance…I never gave myself a chance because of my fear.

It boils down to fear of being uncomfortable. I talk about it, I try to practice it…but it’s easy to forget especially when you’re already stressed and anxious about other things. Aka, me this last spring semester. I struggled. On the surface, people liked me enough, I guess. But I often felt compared to the past people in my position, and whether that was self-imposed or having valid reasons to feel that way, I don’t think I’ll ever know. And that’s fine. But it’s something to work on.

It’s hard to be told that you’re not connecting well with people. I had 2 female teams in undergrad to work with…and the first rotation, I was approached about this issue (meaning forming better bonds with the athletes) I brushed it off, annoyed, embarrassed, not really caring because I figured it was fine, I’d just work with male sports in the future. The second rotation, I wasn’t necessarily approached about it, but I could just sense it. And I honestly felt like shit. I had always been a people person (this changed as I grew older, I think), and I felt like there was so much wrong with me. I didn’t get it. I got great reviews for my men’s soccer and wrestling rotations from the athletes, and I felt like I really connected with them. So I figured I was on a good track. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to work with female sports. It was that I was legitimately scared of failing in communication and being liked.

It doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with me. It just means some things are harder for me, and I would do well to work on it. It might help me get the jobs I want in the future. I want to be able to speak to this process of learning to be uncomfortable and failing at times. I have absolutely no clue how I am going to work on this, I’ll be honest. But the best part is that I’m not alone, I have people to help me. And I think for once, I’m very ready to accept that help. So here goes…learning to care for people and show that I care through my words in addition to my actions.



Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.