5 Phrases Caring Partners Use Often Cover

5 Phrases Caring Partners Use Often

The best way to have a caring partner is to be one yourself. This isn’t always easy, but it’s simple.

For years, I used to wish someone would make me feel cared for and thus safe and loved. They wouldn’t have to fix all my problems, just show real interest, concern, and actually listen. As it turns out, much of receiving these feelings of affection, understanding, and respect was in my hands all along.

I’m in a relationship now, and the number one thing I’ve learned so far is this: If you want to feel cared for, care deeply for others. Reciprocity is a powerful force. When the giving is honest, it feels natural to want to give back, not forced or manipulative.

Lately, I paid attention which phrases my girlfriend uses that make me feel cared for, respected, and loved. Now, I’m making an effort to use them more often. I’m not perfect, but it feels good to say and mean them — and to frequently hear them in return.


1. “Take all the time you need.”

In my last relationship, I constantly felt bad for wanting to work. I was just starting as an entrepreneur, and though I didn’t put in Bill-Gates-like hours, the usual 40 of a common job just didn’t cut it.

My girlfriend at the time was a student. She had more time on her hands, and she often asked: “When are you done? Can we hang out now?” I was always excited to spend time with her after work, but these constant check-ins made me feel guilty despite the fact that I loved my work.

In my current relationship, hearing the words, “Take all the time you need” gives me huge relief. Whenever one of us has to finish something before we talk on Zoom or make dinner together, the other tells them to move on their own schedule, and it’s liberating. It makes me want to get my work done faster — minus the guilt.

Being in a relationship doesn’t handcuff you to your partner, but sometimes, we put the shackles on ourselves — usually out of fear. We’re afraid we’re being selfish if we pursue our own interests, and that they might reject us if we don’t spend every second with them. Ironically, often, both partners have this fear, making it wholly unfounded.

Your partner is their own person. They’re busy. They want to do many things and, a lot of them, they’ll have to do on their own. Let them. In a healthy relationship, one of the best gifts you’ll ever give — and receive — is space.

Don’t incessantly text your partner with real-time updates, and don’t expect them to do the same in return. Only if you’re apart will you learn what it’s like to miss them. You’ll appreciate them and the time you spend together so much more if you allow yourself this feeling in healthy doses.

2. “Are you ok? You looked worried.”

In the music video for their song “Family” the Chainsmokers tell the story of Rory, their cameraman. Rory joined them when they were still unknown, and then, like the band, he became famous.

Eventually, he became so successful that he lost himself, and, after a bad car accident, he fell into a spiral of negative thoughts. The band, his friends, his family, they all continued to make time for him and helped him get back on track. Had they not, he might not be here today.

The video ends with a simple message: it’s cool to check up on your friends.

When it comes to your partner, checking in on them isn’t just cool, it’s necessary. When they appear or sound worried to you, tell them. Let them know you’re under the impression that they feel a certain way: sad, angry, scared, anxious — whatever the emotion might be, shine a light on it.

Notice how different this is from saying, “You’re angry.” The truth is you can’t actually know. You don’t know how anyone is feeling except yourself. But you can make an educated guess, and if you deliver that guess in kind, people will thank you for it.

Sometimes, it’s better to do this a few hours after the fact because it gives both you and your partner time to reflect on what’s going on, but “Hey, you looked worried earlier, you ok?” often goes a long way.

3. “Do you want to talk about this now or later?”

Making room for what’s important to your partner is a two-part job: First, you have to create a safe space for them to share how they feel. Then, there also needs to be time to talk through those feelings and, eventually, help them figure out what to do about them.

“Do you want to talk about this now or later?” is a great sign of commitment and dedication. It shows you’re willing to take a break from whatever you’re doing to listen to your better half.

The phrase also accepts that they might not be ready to talk about this problem, either because they’re busy or because they need to think more about it on their own. It signals you’re open and willing to help, not just now, but whenever they feel like they need it the most.

When it comes to not only our intimate relationships but also our friendships, few actions are more powerful than letting them know you have their back.

4. “How do you feel about this?”

I think on some level, everyone can relate to Rory’s story: Sometimes, I get so busy that I forget to even consider how I feel about things. That’s how we bottle up emotions. We don’t mean to. It just happens. That’s why it’s nice to get a reminder from time to time.

You can’t have a real-time check-in for every emotionally challenging situation, but making them a habit can prevent a minor situation from becoming a major headache. Like all things under pressure, we gain stability from letting off a little steam every now and then.

“How do you feel about this?” is a universal phrase. It doesn’t just allow your partner to pause and think about their feelings towards what they’ve just experienced, it can also be a chance for you to get their opinion on a story or idea you’ve shared.

Proactively asking your partner for their opinion or how they feel about your plans eliminates many uncomfortable conversations down the line. No one wants to tell the person they love that they think an idea of theirs is bad — but sometimes, we’ll have to. Them asking us this simple question first is a great sign of humility.

5. “How did you sleep?”

If you’re with your partner for 30 years, you’ll spend 10 years next to each other — sleeping. Just because you’re not awake does not mean that it’s not time spent together.

Asking your partner how they experience this time is a simple courtesy, but it adds up — and so does a lack of it. Imagine waking up with a huge headache, and all your partner has to say is, “I slept great, let’s go!!”

Rather than waking up and immediately facing our days alone, we should use our mornings to show up to the starting line as a team. After all, what does it matter if we arrive at the finish line when we don’t do it together?


As you may have noticed, all of these phrases are simple. That’s another lesson I’ve learned in my new relationship: Being a caring partner isn’t about using big words. It’s about using the right ones — and saying them at the right time.

4 Zen Stories That Will Change How You Think About Life Cover

4 Zen Stories That Will Change How You Think About Life

I’m an introvert. I overthink. It’s what we do. My mind is always on, and even on good days, it can be hard to feel calm. Part of this is human nature — our brains are built to fix problems — but if you’re constantly worried about solutions, the future, and what’s not working, you can’t enjoy the bursts of relief we’re meant to celebrate whenever we achieve a breakthrough.

Drop a person like that into an environment of adversity, and they’ll forever lose themselves in a maze of their own making; a maze of thoughts they’ll whiz through like a rat seeking cheese, only to realize there’s none to be found once they’ve seen every corner. Now, on top of that person’s natural tendency to worry, every day offers them new opportunities to create negative thought spirals, and before you can scream so much as “Stop!” they’re already waving at you from the top of the slide, ready to begin another descent into misery.

It’s true. Life can be a real doozy sometimes. But even when it feels like the world is collapsing — especially if you’re prone to worry to begin with — you can’t dwell on the negative. The easiest way to do this is to turn to a good story.

Below, I’m sharing four that will get you back on track if you feel stuck in a spiral of worry. They’ll change your perspective, redirect you towards progress and growth, and, if you let them, they just might make your day.

The Farmer’s Horse

One morning, the old farmer’s horse ran away. The neighbors expressed their sympathy: “What bad fortune!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

The next day, the horse returned with a whole flock in tow. The neighbors were over the moon: “How lucky you are!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

The next morning, his son tried to tame the horses. He fell and broke his leg. The neighbors showed consolation: “Such bad luck!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

One day later, the army drafted soldiers. They skipped the farmer’s son. The neighbors were delighted: “What a blessing!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

If you’ve ever thrown a whole morning after a spilled cup of coffee by sulking in your anger for hours after the event, you know the neighbors’ dilemma: Life is a rollercoaster because they overreact to everything. If, emotionally, all you know is the highest high and the lowest low, your life will always be stressful.

The farmer knows something they don’t: The jury on today’s events isn’t out yet. Who knows what consequence they might have down the road? That’s why he keeps calm, stays humble, and holds off on judgments.

Don’t live in extremes. Live in the middle. Don’t be like the neighbors. Be like the farmer.

The Learned Man

A man went to inquire about Zen. He raised questions while the teacher was talking and frequently expressed his own opinion.

Eventually, the teacher stopped talking and served tea. When the man’s cup was full, he kept pouring.

“Stop!” said the man. “Don’t you see the cup is full? No more can go in!”

“Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions,” the teacher replied. “If you don’t empty it first, how can you taste my cup of tea?”

Not only are premature judgments stressful and often wrong, but they also prevent you from learning anything new. As long as you hold a stick in your hand, you can’t pick up a stone. The same is true for our relationships, careers, and knowledge. The hard part of learning isn’t to get new information, often not even to understand it — it’s letting go of what you think you already know.

Variations of this story call the visitor a “learned man.” As we grow up, go to school, meet people, and live our lives, we all become learned people. The sooner we can let go of our preconceived notions, the sooner we can keep an open mind, widen our perspective, and learn what we must in order to grow.

Don’t let your cup overflow. Empty it often so you can taste new kinds of tea.

The Couple on the Donkey

A man and his wife were traveling with their donkey.

On the first day, both rode on his back. In town, they heard people whispering: “What a mean couple, putting all that weight on the donkey.”

On the second day, the man rode and the wife walked beside. People whispered: “What a cruel man, forcing his wife to walk while he rides on the donkey.”

On the third day, the man walked, the wife rode the donkey. People said: “What a careless man, letting his wife ride alone on the donkey.”

On the fourth day, both walked beside the donkey. Again, people whispered: “What a stupid couple! Why walk if they could ride on the donkey?”

No matter what you do, people will judge you. Since we’re all overflowing cups, we can’t help but spill some of our hard-formed if ill-advised opinions. Even if we don’t voice them, whether we think you’re stupid or a genius, we’ll always think something.

Don’t let any of those thoughts seep into your self-image. They were never yours to begin with. If you find yourself thinking the lady on the bus is rude, she’s probably just scared, stressed, or confused. Maybe all three. We love to generalize behavior and ascribe it to who people are when, really, most of what we do is a result of the context we’re in.

Wherever your donkey takes you, hold your head high. Ignore the whispers, and be kind to the villagers. They might not know what they’re doing, but it is not who they are.

The Move

Two men visit a Zen master, looking for advice.

The first man says: “I’m thinking of moving to this town. What’s it like?”

The Zen master asks: “How was your old town?”

“It was terrible. Everyone was mean. I hated it.”

To that, the Zen master replies: “This town is much the same. Don’t move here.”

After the first man leaves, the second man enters and says: “I’m thinking of moving to this town. How is it?”

Again, the Zen master asks: “What was your old town like?”

“It was wonderful. Everyone was friendly. Just looking for a change.”

The master replies: “This town is very much the same. I think you will like it here.”

What we seek is what we find. Why you do what you do matters as much, if not more, as what you ultimately end up doing.

The reasons through which you look at the world as you roam through it will shape what you see, where you go, and who you’ll encounter. Ultimately, what you’ll find will be determined by how you chose to seek.

Choose wisely. Look for the positive. Stay optimistic. And don’t think moving alone will make you happy.

All You Need to Know

If you find yourself worrying a lot, overthinking things, and unable to enjoy life’s little and big wins, try changing your perspective with a story.

  1. The Farmer’s Horse is about not judging too quickly. A perceived misfortune today might be revealed as a blessing in disguise tomorrow.
  2. The Learned Man is about being willing to let go of your opinions if they no longer serve you. Don’t let them get in the way of learning.
  3. The Couple on the Donkey is about ignoring what others think of you while realizing you too tend to generalize. We all make bad choices from time to time. Everyone lives and acts in the moment, including you.
  4. The Move is about understanding that what you seek is what you’ll get. Your intentions shape your behavior, and thus your perceived outcomes and real results. Don’t let negative thoughts compound into a bad life.
How to End an Email Cover

How to End an Email: Which Sign-Off Most Likely Leads to a Response?

For all the energy you put into your mails, you’re neglecting the one element that’s most crucial in determining whether you’ll receive a reply: the ending.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’ve spent hours deliberating over your email subject line and its content. Will this word get them to open my message? Am I rambling? How can I get my request across in the most concise and considerate way?

You’ve worried about the first sentence, the second, and you’ve re-written both of them a dozen times. And then? Then you hit ‘Send’ without spending one thought on which words your recipient will read right before they decide if they’ll respond or not.

It’s easy to understand why your email’s subject line is all-important: If it doesn’t get the receiver to open your message, all hope is lost. Similarly, it’s clear that if you waste the first few seconds of someone’s attention, they won’t give you any more of it. What’s less obvious but also true is that if your email leaves a bad taste in someone’s mouth at the end, that person won’t reply.

Read More
Learn Structured Thinking in 3 Minutes Cover

Learn Structured Thinking in 3 Minutes

The best way to learn structured thinking is to ask pointless questions.

How much toilet paper is sold in France each year? How many miles of train tracks are there in Germany? What’s the height of the building across the street? If you take one job interview in the consulting industry, you’ll inevitably face such a brain teaser. Most people don’t understand them.

“What’s the point of guessing the answer to a question when I can just google it?” The point is to structure your thinking. To use logic, practice deduction, and build a big answer by asking many small questions.

Structured thinking turns you into a person who methodically breaks down problems — and then solves them piece by piece rather than worrying, guessing, or raising their shoulders in absolute cluelessness.

“You can learn the gist of how to do it in a minute, and you can use this kind of logic for the rest of your life,” Hannah Yang says in a short tutorial. Here’s an example: How many customers visit your favorite restaurant every year?

I live in Munich. My favorite restaurant is called Lemongrass, a Vietnamese place around the corner. I’ll start with big numbers and move into smaller ones, but you could also do the opposite. Starting on either end helps.

Then, you ask one question: What do I know? I know 1.5 million people live in Munich. I’ll assume two thirds live in the city center. That’s one million. Is this accurate? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that making an assumption allows you to further break down the problem. Then, you iterate from there.

  • There are about 10 neighborhoods in the city. That’s 100,000 people per neighborhood — and that many live reasonably close to Lemongrass.
  • If you eat out every meal not counting breakfast, that’s 14 times per week. Knowing myself and other young professionals, 10 times isn’t a stretch. Older people and families don’t do so as much, however, others don’t eat out at all. A conservative average is 3. That’s 300,000 meals eaten in restaurants in my neighborhood each week.
  • There are about 100 restaurants in our area. If meals were spread equally, that’d be 3,000 meals per restaurant. Now, some vetting is necessary.
  • Can Lemongrass serve 3,000 people per week? The restaurant is open 12 hours/day, 7 days a week. That’s 84 hours. The place holds 25 people, and the food is served quickly, within 5 minutes on average. At 100% capacity, they could serve 125 meals per hour or 10,500 per week. Even if the place is full only 30% of the time, serving 3,000 customers per week is doable!
  • Let’s say Lemongrass is closed 2 weeks of the year, be it for vacation, illness, or else. At 50 weeks, that’s 150,000 customers per year.

Is this answer 100% correct? Definitely not. Is it in the right order of magnitude? Probably. It’s also a question to which you can’t google the answer — which is exactly what makes structured thinking so valuable.

Based only on your limited experience, you can learn from extrapolations. For Lemongrass, we could now estimate their revenue, operating costs, find potential problems — and maybe even solutions to those problems. And this isn’t limited to business. Creative chains of questions work in all areas of life.

Neil deGrasse Tyson once told a story about two job candidates being asked to estimate the height of a building. One happened to know the answer. The other went outside, measured the building’s shadow against her own, and gave a rough estimate. “Who are you gonna hire? I’m hiring the person who figured it out. ’Cause that person knows how to use the mind in a way not previously engaged.”

The word “structure” makes it sound like you’re removing the creativity from your thinking process. Actually, the opposite is true: You enable it. Creativity thrives on rules. Within boundaries, your thoughts can roam freely and then slowly build on top of one another.

Structured thinking isn’t just smart, it’s innovative. As such, you can become an innovative problem-solver in just three minutes — and you’ll benefit from that ability for the rest of your life. After all, as Tyson put it:

“When you know how to think, it empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think.”

Why Everyone Should Write Cover

Why Everyone Should Write

If you’re reading this, you know how to write. And even though you picked up both in elementary school, right now, you’re likely doing too much of the former and too little of the latter.

You might write sales reports, shopping lists, and birthday cards, but none of those are really productive, are they? They’re just necessary. Ironically, all the most productive forms of writing aren’t necessary at all — but that doesn’t make them less important.

Everyone should write.

Why? So you can get rich and famous and build a personal brand and attract millions of readers? No. Everyone should write because writing imposes discipline on your thoughts and emotions.

Read More
One Day, You Will Be Enough Cover

One Day, You Will Be Enough

I don’t know why you can’t let go. Why you have to keep pushing. I know it upsets you. Deeply. Why do you love excellence so much? Why can’t you be normal? Just chill out. Just for a month, pretend work doesn’t matter. Wishful thinking, that is. Of course it matters. Deeply.

You’ve gained a lot from it. You can look back on so much. Every time you do, you’re proud. You know you’ve come far. You just don’t look back enough. You should turn around more. All this reaching high, falling down, it messes with your neck and back. Stay on the ground for once, will you? Ha, as if.

Read More
Creativity & Breathing Cover

To Stay Creative, Remember to Breathe

“I sometimes disappear for weeks or even months at a time. When I do this, I’m not abandoning my work or being lazy. I’m just trying to breathe.”

So writes Matthew Inman, creator of the web comic The Oatmeal, in a post titled Creativity is like breathing. To explain the analogy, Inman writes: “When you make stuff, you’re exhaling. But you can’t exhale forever. Eventually, you have to breathe in. Or you’ll be dead.”

Read More
Writers, Tell Stories Through Other People’s Eyes Cover

Writers, Tell Stories Through Other People’s Eyes

A writer friend asked me: “Should I tell more personal stories?” I told him yes but suggested an intermediate step: Tell personal stories of others.

Last year, I wrote a Quora answer about Mark Zuckerberg. Sitting at a desk, waiting for his investigative hearing in front of the US congress, no less than 30 paparazzi are pushing and shoving ten inches from his face, fighting over who gets to take the best picture. It’s a scene you’d see in the zoo.

I criticized the practice. It looks to be an intimidation tactic on part of the government. Intimidate the candidate until he tells you what you want to hear. Of course, that’s not what hearings are about. Hearings are about truth.

Read More