Community Dialogue

How to build meaningful relationships with your community

I participated in a #bufferchat earlier this week and thoroughly enjoyed discussing community with, well, the bufferchat community. Aside from being immersed in positivity, encouragement, and great insight throughout the 1-hour Twitter chat, the experience got me thinking about the concept of community in whole new ways. (See, that’s why dialogue and conversations are so important.)

One of the interesting chat questions was about determining goals for community efforts, and my first response was: listen, align, then respond.

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But the further question is:

How should we respond?


I think we know quite well that how you say things matters as much as what you say. Perhaps even more. In fact, what you say could be totally lost on someone if you don’t say it the right way. As I was toying with this question in my mind, Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages popped into my mind.


Wait! Don’t run away!


What I’m discussing has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with interpersonal connection.

You can communicate with your community, and you can communicate with individuals that make up your community.

Consider what it’d be like if we took the additional step to communicate with someone in a way that they’re naturally receptive to. I think we can agree that the same action may not be perceived in exactly the same light by 2 people. That’s where a taxonomy like Chapman’s could come in handy. (This is just a framework. Suggest other alternatives in the comments below or on twitter!)


(Love Languages + Community Efforts) = ?

Chapman’s 5 Love Languages are basically the 5 ways that people typically express love and understand expressions of love:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

He claims that we subconsciously prefer some Love Languages over others and those are the ones we understand best.

Let’s substitute “express love” with “communication” or “dialogue”, and look at these Love Languages as ways to communicate with someone in the language they are most familiar with.

While Physical Touch may be a little, ahem, controversial for community efforts, the other 4 may inform a community manager in interesting ways:


Words of Affirmation

Ever had that warm, fuzzy feeling when someone compliments you or just says that you’re a great human being? That’s what Words of Affirmation are about. Some people favor this language so much more than, say, Acts of Service, that a simple “Thank you” or “I’m glad to have you in my life!” goes a longer way than cleaning their room for them. In community, communicating through Words of Affirmation would manifest in telling your community how much you appreciate them. It’s that simple. Just reaching out with a quick Thank You note can make someone feel really special and puts the both of you in a positive space.

Receiving Gifts

This one’s pretty clear. People whose primary language is Receiving Gifts value the thought behind the gift they are receiving. To them, the physical gift is a symbol and testament that you care about them. Better yet if the gift reveals that you’ve paid attention to something they mentioned in passing, or that you understand what matters to them.

When it comes to your community, this could come in the form of personalized notes (a combo with Words of Affirmation — pow pow!) or sending people some swag. Buffer is really really good at this, and it’s even better since you know it’s not automated. The Community Champions behind these gifts really put heart into sending them out and the gifts aren’t necessarily the same! Authenticity counts.

Acts of Service

Do you know anyone whose favourite platitude is, “Actions speak louder than words”? Well, her preferred language is probably Acts of Service. When you do something for someone like that, she knows that she means something to you and that you appreciate her. Better yet if your act is something she hates doing or can’t do!

Community Managers, this could be as simple as recommending services or products to your community even if there’s nothing in it for you, like Buffer does. Or organising networking events for them. Perhaps it could be empowering individual employees to be a community champion in their own right.

I recently had a personal matter to attend to and had to cancel a trip. Now I did what all diligent travellers are told to do and I purchased travel insurance ahead of time. (This is only the second time I’ve had to use it, thankfully!) To claim the cost of my airfare, though, the insurance company insisted that I produce written confirmation from the airline that they will not refund my fare. Unfortunately, the official customer service channels were unresponsive. I tried to reach out to them multiple times online to no avail, so I paid a visit to the Sales Counter at the airport to seek help. Now, I was there really really early — before the counter even opened — and this could have turned out badly. But it didn’t.

Instead of turning me away, a really pleasant Guest Service Assistant listened to my sob story and offered to send an internal e-mail to the head office on my behalf. And she did. She also followed up and kept me updated with developments. While the matter hasn’t been resolved yet, I really appreciated that this lady went out of her way to help me even though this wasn’t in her job scope. That’s some good community relations right there.


Quality Time

‘Being there’ for someone is what quality time is about. It’s about being present with the person and spending the time meaningfully with him. By ‘meaningfully’, I mean that it is evident that you want to be there with him, not some place else. Trust me, people know when you’re not really there with them.

With community, efforts that appeal to Quality Time may not be as obvious. In my opinion, this manifests as any initiative that shows you are listening attentively to your community and that their voices are what matter. This could come in several forms:

  • Attentive communication on Support forums (instead of leaving them hanging for hours before you get back to them) (e.g. WordPress Support forums)
  • Twitter chats where you respond and affirm your community members individually — this shows that you hear and value their responses (e.g. #cochat, #bufferchat, #hootchat, #sproutchat, #TnTechChat)
  • Community Meetups
  • Responsiveness and engagement on your Facebook page
  • Speedy, patient, and pleasant customer service/support responses


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Those are some examples off the top of my head, but I’m sure you can think of many more.


A great community strategy would benefit from a combination of the 4 languages to really connect with the different types that make up your community. This could complement the auditory-visual-kinesthetic preferences, which could also inform the kind of media employed. (Combination of podcasts, blog posts, webinars, and swag, anyone?)

It’s fascinating to think about this and doubly fascinating to pen this down in a post. Thank you to all the amazing community builders and managers, and customer service people that I’ve crossed paths with. I think people don’t thank and appreciate you guys nearly enough for the amount of effort that goes into your job.


Reading Pitstop: Words, oh, words

I recently received an email from Pocket (one of my all-time favourite apps) telling me that I’ve made it to the Top 5% of readers. Yes. I am now a verified bookworm-nerd. And I was quite pleased at the affirmation. Read till the end because I saved the best for last ♥

Instagram makes teens and celebrities angry by killing millions of spambots // Article, Social Media // I thought this was amusing because of the vitriol that’s spilling from those affected. The closing lines are also pretty funny.

What Happens to Our Brains When We Exercise and How it Makes Us Happier // Article, Fitness // I kid you not, this article literally got me out of bed one morning. Been trying to get back in my exercise groove and reading stuff like that is a small motivation.

How Exercise Changes Our DNA // Article, Fitness // I started exercising for health reasons, but the aesthetic ones can get in the way. Time and again, when I feel like cutting back because I’m happy with the way my body looks and feels, I come across a reminder like this that the goal is a long-term one. Look beyond the ‘now’.

The New Trophy Wife // Opinion, Relationships, Women // Love it or hate it, this writer speaks the truth about the evolution of the ideal wife. Some women hate this article because the term “trophy wife” suggests that a wife still only has instrumental value, others hate it because it sets the bar even higher than it previously was. I love it because while the bar may be set higher, becoming smarter than you currently are is, to me, more achievable than becoming more beautiful.

Vladimir Nabokov’s Passionate Love Letters to Vera and His Affectionate Bestiary of Nicknames for Her // Review, Letters, Literature, Love // I’m including this because underneath my practical, efficient, and utilitarian exterior is a great big softie — any non-corny, romantic sentiment will leave me much like a s’more. I’ll leave you with some lovely words:

“How can I explain to you, my happiness, my golden wonderful happiness, how much I am all yours — with all my memories, poems, outbursts, inner whirlwinds? Or explain that I cannot write a word without hearing how you will pronounce it — and can’t recall a single trifle I’ve lived through without regret — so sharp! — that we haven’t lived through it together — whether it’s the most, the most personal, intransmissible — or only some sunset or other at the bend of a road — you see what I mean, my happiness?


I swear — and the inkblot has nothing to do with it — I swear by all that’s dear to me, all I believe in — I swear that I have never loved before as I love you, — with such tenderness — to the point of tears — and with such a sense of radiance.”

“I simply want to tell you that somehow I can’t imagine life without you…

I love you, I want you, I need you unbearably… Your eyes — which shine so wonder-struck when, with your head thrown back, you tell something funny — your eyes, your voice, lips, your shoulders — so light, sunny…”

Oh, words.

Curated See

Visual Pitstop: Entrepreneurship, Love, and Pets

Lessons on Love, Learning, and Leadership from an Entrepreneurial Power Couple
// Video, Entrepreneurship, Life, Love // Yael Cohen Braun and Scooter Braun talk about how they balance the demands of an entrepreneurial life with family and love.

How Passion, Priorities, and Family Power These Two Driven Entrepreneurs
// Video, Entrepreneurship, Balance // Yael Cohen Braun and Scooter Braun answer some viewer questions. Worth playing in the background just for hear them out.

How Your Cat is Making You Crazy
// Article, Pets, Health // One of my best friends loves her cat to death. She thought I was crazy when I mentioned hearing about this parasite and its freaky freaky effects. Babette, I’m not nuts. It’s worth a read even if you aren’t a cat owner or you don’t give a shit (pun intended) about cats because this is riveting stuff, psychologically- and scientifically-speaking.

Love is Not Enough
// Blog, Love, Relationships // Mark Manson writes: “The only way you can fully enjoy the love in your life is to choose to make something else more important in your life than love.” In this romantic day and age where so many of us hope for the once-in-a-lifetime, soulmate-type of love, this piece can take you back to earth, gently and lucidly.

Finally, I really enjoyed this What’s in My Travel Bag video by heyclaire, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite youtubers:



Curated See

Visual Pitstop


The One and Only // Article, Only Children, Relationships // A short article on the psychology of only children in romantic relationships. I recommend it because I’m an only child and because a lot of what is mentioned is quite true. Even my partner agrees.

How Your Spouse’s Personality Affects Your Success At Work // Article, Relationships, Career // Turns out that if you’re supportive, your spouse will thrive at work! Who knew?! But seriously, take a look at the list and see how you can make a difference 🙂

People Who Jump From Screen To Screen Have Less Gray Matter In One Brain Region, Study Finds // Article, Media Consumption, Multitasking // So maybe it’s not a matter of causation, but the correlation is interesting, no? Multitasking ↔ less grey matter in the part of the brain that is responsible for emotional and cognitive functioning?

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night) // Article, Sleep // I’m struggling with this now so this article was particularly relevant. It has plenty of suggestions about how to improve your quality of sleep. Let’s see if they work.

This Facebook post by Dan Steele about poor folk and the sayings that we have.

Curated See

Visual Pitstop


And So There Must Come An End // Blog, Mortality, Family, Farewell // Huffpost writer, Charlotte Kitley, battled cancer and succumbed to the disease last week. This is her final farewell. Poignant.

Why ‘I Love You’ Isn’t Enough // Psychology, Relationships // (Spoiler) The key to a happy relationship is three-fold: Decrease the criticism, increase the appreciation, and be specific about what you appreciate. The first two are pretty obvious, the third, however, is often overlooked.

Why The Fear of Rejection Never Goes Away // Relationships, Rejection // The Philosopher’s Mail writes about our regular need for reassurance, and differentiates it from that nasty word: neediness.

Sometimes Those Who Have Less Give More // Video, Generosity, Charity // My friend shared this on Facebook and I thought it drove home a point. Sure, it’s a video and may not present things in the most accurate fashion. We can all be skeptical about it. But we can also recognise the other message, namely: How difficult is it to give? It’s often not very difficult at all.

Curated See

Visual Pitstop



The Love Edition

The One Thing Your Relationship Needs Right Now (And Every Day) // Blog, Relationship // We often take our partners for granted and spend time with them without really spending time with them. Denise Li reflects about the importance of being present, always.

Taking Marriage One Year At A Time // Opinion, Relationship // Edan Lepucki writes about the trials and tribulations of staying married, and of renewing the decision to stay married every year.

How We End Up Marrying the Wrong People // Article, Relationship // The Philosophers’ Mail analyses the common oversights responsible for marital unhappiness. This is a really long piece, but it’s worth the read.

What Every Argument You’ve Had Is Really About // Article, Relationships // Spoiler: “It’s not you, it’s me.” is actually quite true. It’s really simple.