Finding and supporting is a one-way street, says psychological astrologer Jennifer Freed. Often times, Freed finds that it’s not that people don’t support one another – it’s that people don’t know how to communicate the kind of support they really want to get. Even with the best of intentions, we can miss the mark if we assume that people automatically know what we need, or worse, if we believe everyone wants to be supported in the same way.
Our support languages, which are very similar to our love languages, are nuanced, says Freed, and it’s important that we avoid the guesswork to figure out how best to support one another. By identifying our own support language (which Freed guides us through below), we can also learn how others like to be supported. Freed asked her clients to share how they felt most supported by others, and found that most people fell into one of four categories, which can be described in terms of fire, earth, air, and water. “It’s not difficult to support someone when you know what matters to them, and there is nothing more satisfying than your support being well received,” she explains.
What is your support language?
By Jennifer Freed, PhD
We all need support more than ever, but it is not always clear to us or others what real support looks or feels like. We can learn about our love languages and the love languages of others through self-help books and articles, but that doesn’t quite cover the depth and breadth of ways we can support each other as friends, family, workmates, or really lovers.
I’ve asked dozens of customers to share how they feel most supported by others. When I was talking to people about their support language, I saw that most of the people hadn’t thought deeply about it. They certainly hadn’t communicated these needs to their closest crew, and they didn’t know exactly what it would take their crew to feel supported by them.
To help them identify their language of support, I had them consider when they felt unsupported. They shared that they felt the least supportive when:
- • •
Someone minimizes my feelings
- • •
Someone interrupts me repeatedly while I am speaking
- • •
I am judged wrongly or criticized sharply
- • •
People seem to be checked out as I speak
- • •
People doubt, undermine, or compare themselves to me
- • •
When people clap and belittle others (because I know if they do it to others, they probably do it to me too)
- • •
When people talk behind my back
- • •
When people don’t let me know what they want or need from me
- • •
When people don’t recognize me
From this list it can be seen that what people want most needs to be understood and promoted. Seems easy enough right? However, this is where it gets most interesting because each of us has a very specific map of what we experience in support. One size doesn’t fit all.
The four elements – fire, earth, air, and water – prove to be wonderful ways to understand different support needs. By examining these four matrices and recognizing yourself there, you can become more clear about what your support language is and how to explain it to others. You can also have them examined by your close crew and let you know how they would most like to be supported.
Fire: Support is expressed through actions and courageous demonstrations
Show me instead of telling me. Bring me food, flowers and gift certificates for experiences. When Aly’s mother died, she had no bandwidth to speak to people. Some people brought meals and flowers without talking and that was what helped them most.
Show yourself when you say you will. Be someone I know is literally there for me – at the time we agreed in advance. Kim really feels supported when she can absolutely rely on people to show up and not change plans at the last minute.
Be honest with me When it comes to your authentic feelings, I want you to share honestly and thoughtfully. Leah experiences support knowing that what is being shared is real, and not just people-friendly. They will tell me when I literally and figuratively have an egg on my face.
Celebrate me with enthusiasm and special rituals. Confirm my achievements. Kalpana feels most supported when her close friends mark her successes with real joy and fanfare.
Earth: Support is expressed through consistent effort
Complete the small and large tasks without being asked or cheered on.
Pippa loves it when people just do what it takes to get the space they share without needing praise for doing their part.
Give me carefully selected gifts and supplies. Notice what you might give me to best assist my endeavors. Sean, who is just about to start his own small business, feels most supported when people give him things he needs to get this business up and running.
Be calm, patient, and accept when I need to solve or solve problems.
It is important for Jake to be able to rely on close people to be calm and confident listeners who can hear all of the difficult issues he is covering without trying to fix any of them.
Be reliable and in tune with your affections and actions.
Ren says that what matters most to her is when loved ones act lovingly in words and deeds on a daily basis rather than the occasional grand and eye-catching exhibits.
Air: Support is expressed through communication
Speak to me regularly confirming and appreciative words.
It helps Mary tremendously when her euphoric plans and visions meet positive reinforcement and excitement.
Be actively curious and interested in my beliefs, thoughts and ideas. Ask me good follow-up questions. Emerson feels most supported when someone takes an active interest in their ideas and intellectual activities.
If I’m upset, please take a deep breath to help me get centered again For Ray, breathing is the best way to reset. Letting someone breathe slowly and deeply with her is really centering.
Be ready to contradict me in a respectful way. Always pay attention to what we have in common. Barbara loves agreement, and when there is real disagreement, she feels most supported when both parties want to deeply understand each other’s different points of view.
Water: Support is expressed through real feeling
Be a safe container for me to share my deep feelings and sensitivities. Realize that I have great emotions that sometimes overwhelm me. Suzu feels most supported when someone can sit her lovingly and hold her with her great feelings. She feels best when someone can stay with her without melting into her pain.
Treat my problems with empathy and compassion. Acknowledge my concerns. Alicia feels supported when someone shows patience and acceptance for what she’s going through. Feelings can be processed much more easily when they are considered valid no matter what.
Be present and attentive when you are with me. Make me a priority when we are together. Bree feels supported when someone is fully present with her through eye contact and attention. This is the case when devices are out of range and nothing in the world is more important than this conversation.
Trust that I will be fine even if I am in a dark place. Give me space. Caryn never needs to be pushed to share before she is ready. People who give her space and show confidence in her process feel most supportive for her. Some of us need to go deep inside before we can come out with open hearts. Please do not press against the heart gates!
Imagine for a moment if everyone in your social space understood your support needs and had a realistic idea of what supports you the most.
We might assume that someone who loves us knows what we need. Or we assume that others want to be supported as much as we do. Both assumptions miss the mark in a subtle and profound way.
For example: I experience support in my relationship when my partner gives me constant words of encouragement and is fascinated by my creative ideas. My support profile falls mainly into the element of air. My partner gets support when I do lots of tasks without nudging or needing approval – an earthy kind of support. When we both remember to prioritize these support needs, we feel empowered and loved.
At work, my support needs are different. I experience support when people come to me directly with their needs, desires and their appreciation. Two of my colleagues feel most supported by the loud and consistent recognition of their efforts. It is not difficult to support someone when you know what matters to them, and there is nothing more satisfying than when your support is well received.
None of us should be tasked with knowing how to support another unless that person has told us what they need. When we release the pressure to guess or read minds, we can clearly communicate what effective support is for ourselves and others, and we become much more effective at holding and caring for one another.
Jennifer Freed, PhD, is a consultant, workshop leader, and writer with over 30 years of experience in psychological astrology and social-emotional learning. Freed acts as a consultant for the Co-Star app and is the author of Use Your Planets Wisely: Master Your Cosmic Potential with Psychological Astrology.
We hope you enjoy the book recommended here. Our goal is to only suggest things that we love and that we think you could too. We also like transparency, i.e. full disclosure: we can collect part of the sales or other compensation when you shop via the external link on this page.