How to Communicate Better Cover

How to Communicate Better: 7 Simple Lines to Express Your True Thoughts, Beliefs & Feelings

Good communication is always simple.

What’s hard is having the courage to let it be. To say “I don’t love you,” rather than concoct some elaborate web of intricate, lesser truths — or even outright lies — hoping the other will stumble into it, trip, and fall over all on their own.

In the movie Hitch, titular character and communication expert Alex says:

“60% of all human communication is nonverbal; body language. 30% is your tone. So that means 90% of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.”

It sounds intriguing, but I think it grossly underestimates the importance of truth. Even our subjective one. If you’ve ever sheepishly confessed something, shaking like a wet poodle, you know what I mean: A powerful sentence uttered poorly may be weaker than it could be, but it doesn’t turn the truth into a lie. People can tell what we tell. And they’ll react accordingly.

When I fail to communicate clearly, to say what I want to say, it’s almost never because of some complex combination of circumstances. It’s that I’m too afraid to say what I really — like really — think and believe. I have wiggled my way around questions, nodded my head when I should have shaken it, said “yes” when I meant to say “no,” shied away from asking for help, neglected giving compliments, and hated saying “sorry.” All in hopes of the truth magically finding its way to the light, which, of course, it never does.

Because it’s my job to take it there. The job, really. A job for all of us. The only one that matters. I’m not sure how much of what we’re saying comes out of our mouths, but I know that 90% of what does is a weak version of the truth. We may soften it to be polite, censor ourselves to maintain our image, or ask for less than we want because it’s more than we think we deserve, but, at the root of it all, there’ll always be fear.

There’s no way for me to bestow the power to act in spite of this fear upon you or even myself. It’s a war fought in countless battles over one’s lifetime, and you’ll need to summon the courage to be honest time and again. But it helps to keep some truths at hand. A little vial filled with beacons, all but ready to release. You’ll still have to uncork it each time, but at least it’s close by.

I’m only 27, but I’ve had — or would’ve had — to use all of these hundreds of times already. Here’s hoping that, in the future, you and I both will.


1. When you don’t know something, say:

“I don’t know.”

People will respect you for it. It’s a chance for them to say “I don’t know” too. And then you can figure it out together. We think of this line as an admission of defeat, but it’s actually the beginning of taking your power back.

2. When you don’t understand something, say:

“I don’t understand.”

People will explain again. Actually, most of the time, they’ll be happy to. It means they can double-check that they understood what they told you themselves. If you think about how comfortable you are with explaining things multiple times yourself, you’ll see why others will likely be too.

3. When you don’t agree with something, say:

“I don’t agree.”

People will respect your opinion. At least tolerate it. At least most of the time. Don’t launch into an immediate defense. Just plant your flag. Stand your ground. Stay still and watch what happens. Will they stand theirs? Start an attack? Or even join your side? Very few things in life can neatly be separated into right and wrong, which means very few ideas really need justification.

4. When you don’t want to do something, say:

“No, thank you, I don’t want to do this.”

People will find a way without you. They always have in the past and they always will in the future. No one is indispensable forever. Just like time heals all wounds, it makes everyone replaceable eventually. Spouses. Neighbors. Parents. Bosses. Leaders. Friends. You’re never too important to say no.

5. When you have a hard time going it alone, say:

“Excuse me, can you help me with this?”

People will be happy to give you a hand. Like “I don’t know,” asking for help makes people more likely to trust you, not less. After Benjamin Franklin borrowed a book from a rival legislator, they became lifelong friends. In fact, showing vulnerability is probably the only way to truly overthrow animosity.

6. When you like someone, say:

“I like you.”

People will like you back. Maybe not as much. Maybe more. But, when in doubt, most people opt to be friendly. They might not like you enough to kiss you, or to give you a job, or to go on holiday together, but they won’t stand in your way. And even if they thought about it before, now, they won’t cross you.

7. When you know you made a mistake, say:

“I’m sorry. That was my fault.”

People will forgive you. The word ‘default’ is made from ‘de,’ which means ‘out of,’ and ‘fault,’ which means ‘guilt.’ When we ‘default’ to doing something, that’s a safety mechanism meant to cover us in advance. We hate admitting mistakes more than making them and so our default reaction is to shamefully sweep them under the rug. True guilt, however, is too painful to just shake off. So we fess up and fix our mistakes. Therefore, it’s a feeling worth embracing.


In a world full of information, sending signals through the noise is more important than ever. In a world full of devices, it’s enough that the medium twists the message. And in a world where technology dominates everything, communication is a uniquely human differentiator. But only if we keep it real.

May the above sentences help you do just that. Oh, and whenever you find the courage to speak them, leave some room for one more thing: listening.

I don’t think the following communication expert had as much research as Hitch to back up his statistics, but then again, the numbers of nature never lie:

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” 

— Epictetus

Why You Should Trust People First Cover

Why You Should Trust People First

We used to be best friends. Now, I hadn’t heard from her in six months.

My last “Hey, how are you?” had disappeared in the vast nothingness universe of unanswered WhatsApp messages.

Eventually, I thought she didn’t care anymore. That she had silently deleted me from her life, just like we now nuke our relationships by unfriending people on Facebook. You know, without ever telling them.

I was sad for a bit, but these things happen. Friendships die. Connections fizzle out. The shared culture you’ve developed takes on a life of its own and, once you stop tending to it, spins out of control. It slowly circles from meaning into emptiness, ultimately landing right next to that last WhatsApp message.

Ironically, one of our last talks had been about just that. The fact that losing touch is a sad, but sometimes healthy and necessary, part of life.

Then, two weeks ago, I stumbled over some old Tinie Tempah songs. Instantly, my mind slingshotted into a nostalgic flashback. I remembered the time we spent raving in clubs with the gang. I remembered how we yelled “tsunami!” all the time for no reason. I remembered how we blasted his songs driving around in the summer.

And so, in a moment of vulnerability, I sent a message:

You’ll always be the first person I think of every time I hear Tinie Tempah.

She replied:

That’s the best message I got all week!! So glad to hear from you!

We started chatting and caught up. Before I could even start to wonder why she didn’t message me all this time if she were so excited about talking to me, she said something that perfectly explained it.

That same week, she had met a mutual friend of ours, who, like her, had recently entered the workforce. After the usual “how’s your job,” “fine,” and “what else is new,” my friend confessed she was having doubts. That not all was great at work. That she was having second thoughts about her choice.

Suddenly, the girl she talked to opened up. She too wasn’t happy.

And then my friend said the sentence that stuck with me: “I think she just needed a trust advance.”

As it turns out, so did my friend.


A trust advance is reaching for a stranger’s heavy bag on the bus and saying “let me.” They might flinch, but they’ll usually be thankful for your help.

A trust advance is shouting “hold the door” and hoping the person in it won’t take your out-of-breath-ness as a threat. They’ll rarely shut it in your face.

A trust advance is admitting that you just don’t feel like it when someone asks you to join their spontaneous soirée. That you’re not in a good place.

A trust advance is not deflecting the “why” that follows. Because the only way to find out whether they meant it or not is to give an honest answer.

A trust advance is being the first to say that “some things about my job really suck,” to deliberately turn off the highlight reel and start with the real stuff.

A trust advance is picking up a loose end even if someone else left it hanging.

A trust advance is saying “I’m sorry” before you’re sure you screwed up.

A trust advance is texting “I miss you” without context because feelings don’t need one. They’re true the second you have them.

A trust advance is choosing to show your private self in public, even if it means you’ll be exposed. But maybe you’ll get others to show theirs.

A trust advance is tearing down a wall without knowing what’s on the other side. You might be carried away by the wind, but you also might make a new friend.


By and large, we live in a world where our biggest concerns are our careers, our relationships, and our happiness. Most of us are not running through the wilderness trying to survive. More people in the world die from too much food than too little. More from self-harm than violence.

As a result, cooperation now carries disproportionately greater reward than competition. It’s what allowed us to create this world of abundance in the first place. We haven’t figured out how to allocate it best, but we’re getting there. And while the world isn’t perfect and never will be, cooperating humans win.

Therefore, most of the risks we take are risks of rejection, of being exposed and vulnerable. But they’re not risks of survival. They’re problems of ego, not existence. Being laughed at, being told “no,” being rejected romantically—these are not matters of life and death.

Trust advances multiply. You hand out one, and they’ll hand out five more.

We forget this. Our brains haven’t caught up. They still equate “I’m sorry,” “I miss you,” and “I need help” with “I’m gonna pet this tiger.” But they’re not actually dangerous. We fear these things because we can’t control them. That they’re really unlikely to happen doesn’t register. We’d rather have a definitive threat we can respond to than a vague improbability that’s out of our hands.

When I reached out to my friend I felt weak — but actually, I was the strong one. Sending that message felt like caving, like giving in. In reality, I was the one showing up—the one saying “here I am.” Yes, I exposed myself. Yes, I was vulnerable. But it was an act of courage, not defeat. And in today’s world, at least most of the time, courage is rewarded, not rejected.

The best thing you can do to be of service; to be a good friend, partner, parent, even stranger; to be the person we all want to be around, is to be vulnerable.

There’s this popular line that “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” But fear is nothing I can act on. I think everything you want is on the other side of being vulnerable. That’s something I can do. I can always hand out more trust advances.

No one spends their day obsessing about having to buy toilet paper. We’re all thinking about deep stuff, all the time. Let’s use our time to talk about these things. You might still get hurt, but the risk pales in comparison to the reward.

Being vulnerable tears down walls between humans. Behind those walls are trust, love, honesty, joy, resilience, friendship, and lots of other magical things. What’s more, each wall that crumbles hands more people a hammer. Trust advances multiply. You hand out one, and they’ll hand out five more.

Give trust first, and the world will shower you with trust in return.

Why Life's Biggest Limitation Will Make You Happier Cover

Why Life’s Biggest Limitation Will Make You Happier

One of Gandhi’s most popular quotes is this:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Once we’ve gotten some much needed distance to whatever our education system forced us to remember, most of us rediscover the joy of voluntary learning at some point. Whether you like to research stocks, tend to your garden, or read books, self-improvement has many benefits.

Beyond satisfying our curiosity by regularly spending time in flow, we can use it to become better people, get what we want and solve problems. It seems so universal a tool that its usefulness feels limitless.

But that’s not the whole story. No matter how much we’d like it to, self-improvement isn’t a magic wand we can wave to cause whatever change we want to see. That’s because no amount of reading, learning, or even discipline can ever change that life still consists entirely of tradeoffs.

It’s like that line: “You can have anything you want, but not everything.” Choosing one thing always means not choosing another, so even if you’re the most dedicated person in the world, you still have to decide what to dedicate yourself to.

No idea highlights this problem better than The Four Burners Theory.

Two Out of Four

Imagine a stove with four burners on it, which represent the big aspects of your life:

  1. Family.
  2. Friends.
  3. Work.
  4. Health.

Now, the theory says that in order to be successful, you can only turn on three burners at a time. If you want to be exceptional, it’s just two.

The second you hear this theory, you know it’s true. Take a moment to think. Which burners have you cut off? For me it’s friends and health. If I had to put percentages on it, I’d say work is at 80%, family at 15%, and friends get a crippling 5%. Almost out of oxygen. Ouch.

This theory explains why we’re frustrated, no matter how much we improve. Sooner or later, we find out self-improvement isn’t the universal remedy it is often claimed to be, and we want answers. Why can’t I have everything? Why?

Of course we never could, we’ve just fooled ourselves into believing we can over time.

The Four Burners Theory was originally just mentioned in passing in a New Yorker article, but James Clear popularized it. He also offered different views on what you can do about this problem.

  • Be imbalanced. Sacrifice your health, or friends, or work and say “screw it, that’s just what it is.”
  • Be mediocre. Do turn up all burners, but just enough to get by. As a result, you’ll go long in life, just never far.
  • Outsource stuff. If you make more money, you can hire a chef, or a trainer, or pay a nanny to take care of your kids. All of these have limitations of their own, of course.
  • Set constraints. “I’ll work 70 hours a week on becoming a millionaire, but not a single one more.” “Monday night is date night.” And so on.

All of these feel like weak attempts at bypassing the problem. If you’re a dedicated self-improvement nerd like me, you want a solution. Luckily, it seems there is one.

A Life for All Seasons

James says our default in which burners we turn up is to imitate the inspiring figures in our lives. If your boss is a workaholic, you’ll likely turn into one too and if your fellow students mostly hang out with one another, so will you.

That’s nice if those burners happen to match the ones you would’ve chosen, but if not, you have a problem. Life forces you to choose either way, but if you’re not the one picking, you’ll end up with a lot of regrets.

Besides starting to make the choice, Nathan Barry suggests living your life in seasons. Yes, it sucks to compromise, but no one said you have to stick with one compromise for the rest of your life.

In high school, my friends and family burners were turned up all the way. In college, that shifted to friends and work, then work and health and now, I’m on work and family. Next year? Who knows.

It’s a little tweak to that line from earlier, but it makes all the difference: “You can have anything you want, maybe even everything, just not all at once.”

Right now, I’m laying the foundation of the rest of my working life and spending what little time I have with the people I care about the most. In exchange, I can’t see my friends every day and I might not be in perfect shape.

I can be okay with that. And that’s the whole point.

Half of Happiness

When you work hard in your career, on your body, for your relationships, you can achieve a lot. You should. But if all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

Don’t expect your dedication to becoming better to absolve you of all problems. Self-improvement, like all tools, is imperfect. Embracing the Four Burners Theory can make you happier, because it allows you to not fret over what you’re temporarily missing out on.

That’s the solution, I think. We don’t need to look for a bypass. We can just accept the problem and that’ll do.

Half of happiness is being okay with what you don’t get.

Sometimes, it helps to remember that, in spite of what Gandhi said, tomorrow will be another day.

My Uncle Died in His Sleep, and It Changed Me Forever

On January 21st, 2016, my uncle Martin did something that changed me forever. At 7 AM, he woke up, walked to the bathroom, went to the toilet and then back to sleep.

He never woke up again. At 52 years old, he died peacefully in his sleep. No pain, no heart problems detected. He had lost 60 lbs the year before and was in better shape than ever.

Seneca said that “life is long, if you know how to use it.” But sometimes life truly is short. Not everyone gets the time they may deserve.

Since I didn’t know how to deal with his death, I did what I always do to process things: I wrote.

One of the saddest things in life is that often, it takes a tragedy to pierce our clouded vision. In his case, I could only now see stark and clear two powerful lessons from how he lived his life:

1. Stop doing shit you don’t like.

Just two days before, he sat in our kitchen and had his cappuccino, like always.

Carnival season was coming up and his in-laws (my Mom’s parents and sister) are huge carnival nerds. My grandpa founded the local club so all year round, they plan and prepare for carnival week.

It just wasn’t Martin’s thing. He hated the dressing up, the music, the corny jokes. So he wouldn’t have any of it and that was okay.

2. Spend time with family and friends, because you never know how much you’re gonna get.

What quitting things you don’t like or just feel obligated to allows you to do is to focus on what really matters.

So while the rest of the family was carnivaling all over the place, Martin was content to stay at home, relax, build a play house for my cousin or a new fireplace to have BBQs at, since he was a carpenter.

Screw tending to C-class relationships or that one, half-related aunt of yours who only complains and tells you to “get a real job” every time you see her anyways.

When you think about the people you call family and friends, who really feels like family? Who really feels like a friend?

Only if you cut out 90% of the people that don’t matter can you show the 10% that do the love they deserve.

Family is not an important thing. It’s everything. 

— Michael J. Fox

Mom, Dad, Sis & Me at her graduation. ❤️

Two songs were played at my uncle’s funeral, one he would’ve picked and one my cousin selected.


The first song was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” You couldn’t find a better song to highlight the first lesson if you tried.

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way

The second song played as we all walked to the grave and said our last goodbye. See You Again” from The Fast & The Furious. As if I needed another reason to cry next to Paul Walker driving off into the sunset.

From the official music video

Just like Paul, my uncle didn’t get the 70, 80, 90 years most of us nowadays take for granted. But just like the Fast & Furious movies, Martin’s life was all about family. Real family.

How can we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
And now you gon’ be with me for the last ride


Every time I listen to one of those two songs now, it stings a bit inside. But after the sting, a rush of gratitude floods my heart. It’s a constant reminder.

“Life is short Nik. Use it well. Don’t do shit you don’t like. Be with family. You never know how much you’re gonna get.”

That’s what I learned from my uncle and it’s changed me forever.