Podcast 61: Stop Apologizing, Variety vs. Familiarity, and the Problem of Passwords

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

 Try This at Home: Stop apologizing.

Know Yourself Better: Do you prefer variety or familiarity?

Listener Question: “How can I remember my online passwords?” Elizabeth and I need an answer to this question, too! So listeners, send us your brilliant solutions. Plus, we talk about some great lucky charms that listeners told us about, in response to episode 59.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth didn’t spend enough time with her friends while she was in New York City.

Gretchen’s Gold Star
: I give a gold star to our father, who showed me a great parenting tip: when a child (or adult) says that something hurts, really pay attention. Often, that’s enough to make a person feel better. (In passing, Elizabeth and I mention our habit of “updates”–learn more here.)

Remember, if you want to request bookplates or signature cards for a mother in your life, to make the gift of a book more special for Mothers’ Day — or if you want a bookplate or signature card for yourself! — you can request them here.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #61

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  • Mama_Skywalker

    For the password problem, what you might do is have a base word that you can remember and then append a unique bit at the end for each site. For example, if you love flamingos, you might have the base of F1@mingo (that has a capital letter, number and symbol). Then, add a bit at the end per site. For example: F1@mingo_amazon or F1@mingo_google As long as you have the base that you remember, it should work!

    • statmam

      I do something similar, but I start with four basic passwords (one for work, one for retail sites, etc.) Then I have a system for creating variations from the basic passwords, a system that makes sense to me but hopefully wouldn’t make sense to other people, i.e. if a password thief managed to hack one retail site, he/she/it would not immediately guess what my other retail passwords were…although with enough time, a powerful computer could do it (anything short of a long completely random password runs that risk).

    • gretchenrubin

      Great idea!

  • Chris Bruce

    For passwords I use Dashlane and really like it. It remembers passwords, automatically generates strong passwords and can automatically log in to sites and fill in forms if you want it to. The free version works great on one device and there’s also a paid version that allows you to back up passwords online and sync across multiple devices.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for the recommendation!

  • pam

    I use and would highly recommend an app called “mSecure,” which can be installed on your phone and computer. That way, as long as you remember your password for the app(!), you can have easy – and highly secure – access to all your passwords in one place. I seem to access mine several times a day.

    Love the podcast! Thanks!

  • Amanda Kirk

    NO APP REQUIRED!! On Iphones (and I think Andriod also has this kind of feature) You can now create ‘LOCKED’ Notes. For the iphone 5’s and newer, your ‘passcode’ is now your fingerprint. Create a note that holds all of your passwords for all the various portals and then lock the note. No need to remember a password to unlock the note because all you need is your thumbprint. Even if your phone is lost or stolen, pretty sure the thief will not have your thumb, also, the note will not be lost because your icloud backup will restore the note to your new phone.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific point.

  • Shanna

    I use an app called 1Password. All you have to do is remember one master password and the app keeps all of your other passwords saved for you. There’s a browser plug in for the app as well so when you need a password for a website you can easily call it up from the browser plug in and it will automatically fill the information for you. Again, just by entering you master password. You can also have the app keep other information like credit cards and bank accounts, it can enter the information for you when online shopping. It has a password generator as well so you don’t have to constantly create your own. I love it. My parents also use it and I’ve stored their master password in my app for emergencies so that I can access their bank accounts, etc if needed.

    • Karen Maxon

      1Password, yes! I’ve used it for years. You have ONE master password to remember. 1Password will generate those long gobbledygook passwords for you. You have access from all your devices. If I need to log in to something on my work computer, I can look up the password on my phone. Works great!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific recommendation.

  • Amy Zarndt

    I am a relatively low-tech person. I don’t have a smart phone, so I’m
    never doing online things unless I’m home on my laptop, so this might
    not work for someone who does a lot on their phones, but I have an old,
    small address book that never got used for anything and I use that to
    keep track of my passwords. I keep track of the company or website
    under the appropriate letter (i.e. Amazon under “A”), and then write the
    password there. It works for me!

    • gretchenrubin

      Simple but it works for you!

  • Ana Maria Fernandez Pujals

    I have to second Shanna’s suggestion for 1Password. 1Password app is life-changing in this domain of forgetting passwords and maintaining their security. https://1password.com/ They have phone, desktop and web apps that can sync to your Dropbox, etc. Have access to your passwords securely (uses state-of-the-art encryption) from anywhere and it actually makes your accounts safer by encouraging creation of stronger hack-proof passwords, encouraging an password audit, keeping track of web logins and accounts, important documents, banking information, addresses, identity documents, software and driving licenses, and even two-step logins for sites like google, facebook, dropbox, etc. You can have groups such as families and teams if you so desire/require. All of your passwords are encrypted on all your devices and storage locations. It is simply the best solution I have found and I highly highly recommend using it!

  • LoriM

    RE: Passwords

    I tried the Last Pass app, which was highly recommended. It did not work well for me but maybe I needed to spend more time learning how to use it and then inputting passwords. They also had some security issues (!!!) last year, which, together with my difficulties, just made it not worth it to me. I may try it again some time. Now I’m reading here about 1Password. Sounds good.

    I like Google Chrome because it saves passwords for me, if I want it to. I usually say yes when I add a new site/password and then the next time I go to that site, my username and password are both already filled in.

    But my own password system is also working pretty well for me. I keep a document “in the cloud” (you could use DropBox or Google Docs or something like that) and also a copy on my home and work computers. In it I keep all my passwords in code form.

    I make each password a combination of

    The first letter of the site the password refers to (e.g., Z for Zappos); or even the whole word

    Numbers (I vary between two 4- digit numbers that are easy for me to remember; one was my first ATM code which I have used for years and the other is a 4-digit address of a family member that my husband and I both use a lot in passwords ]

    Foreign word – for example you could use the name of a dog you once had or a street you lived on or some foreign word that’s easy to remember

    Maybe a character like an asterisk or two.

    I’ve heard you shouldn’t re-use passwords on different sites, but since all of mine are in different combinations I think it’s ok.

    Important: The document that I save in the cloud, etc. does not list any of the passwords; it looks like this

    Amazon Amazon[DOGNAME][NUMBER]**

    Zappos Z[NUMBER][DOG NAME]*

    ETC. Every once in a while I print a hard copy and date it and put it with my will and trust binder. On it I write what the dogname and number are. I’ve also told my husband about all of this, just in case.

    I also keep my most important passwords, which change fairly often – (Google and Facebook) handwritten in code form in my purse calendar. Of course the Google password leads to my Google Docs where all my passwords are.

    I don’t have a lot of really important passwords so I also don’t worry about just clicking “forgot password” – ha.

    • Jeanene

      Keeping a document in the cloud is a great idea! I also never thought of have a “password formula” so that they’re all unique, but easy to remember. Mine are too similar.

  • statmam

    “Thank you for being flexible” sounds a little like the “Thank you for your patience” signs that were discussed in the blog comments last month. If I recall correctly, some people found those signs irritating. I guess if I were voluntarily being flexible, “thank you” would be appropriate. But if I was involuntarily bumped from my room and unhappy about it, a “thank you” without a “sorry” might seem like rubbing it in…at least on a bad day it would.

  • vv

    Password help: Use a Standardized System for All Passwords

    About a year ago I started using a single system for all my passwords. It seems trivial, but it has made me so much happier! How it works:

    1. Pick a sentence or phrase you can remember. I picked the title of a book I like a lot. Just as an example, let’s use the title of a movie: How to Get Ahead in Advertising.

    2. Take the first letter of each word of the sentence:

    3. Make some of the letters lower-case. Do this with the logical ones, if there are any, for example with prepositions:

    4. Add a number that you will remember, such as a special year, and always put it it in the same place within the password:

    5. For each entity that needs a password, add the intitials of that entity, always in the same place, for example, for Drugstore.com:

    (Set the intitials in any way that you will remember. Since Drugstore is a compound word, I think of it as DS.
    6. If the password must have a special character, put a punctuation mark at the end. Always use the same one:

    7. If the password must have fewer characters, remove them in the same order for each password, for example, if it needs to have 10 characters, I would remove the last two (but not the initials of the entity):

    So every time I log in anywhere now, I say to myself: “How to Get Ahead 2013 (initials) in Advertising.” If it doesn’t work, I check the password requirements to see if it needs a special character, fewer characters, or whatever. And if I make a written note about those changes, I put it like this: “regular minus 2” or “regular!”

    I have a system for usernames too–one email address for commercial sites and anonymity, one for being my real self, one for work.

    Since I always use the same system now, I hardly ever have to spend time recovering passwords, and it has become second nature to enter all those letters and numbers correctly.

    Someone who knows you really well might figure out your sentence, but they still would have a hard time figuring out the rest of it. I’ve been told that this kind of password is very hard for a robot to crack.

    : )

  • Caitlin

    Gretchen & Elizabeth, I need advice after realizing the variety vs. familiarity podcast has pinpointed the root of a recent stressor in my life!

    I like familiarity in almost all aspects, one pattern being that I eat the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.. For weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. (Since I’m in NYC I eat different foods at restaurants all the time – I do live a little!)

    I find this habit very convenient to go to the grocery store, plan my cooking schedule, and eat healthy.

    My “problem” is that this summer I am moving in with my boyfriend, who is the exact opposite of me. He loves variety on all levels – food, travel, activities, etc.. He also doesn’t cook whatsoever; Instead, every night he orders food from one of 10 online food ordering apps, all with hundreds of restaurants each. This gives me a mini panic attack just thinking about it! Plus it’s expensive and unhealthy.

    I love to cook, so I’m looking forward to being able to cook dinners for us, but he would never eat the same thing all the time, understandably – what do I do? Looking up recipes every week and having to go to new and unexplored areas of the grocery store all the time would totally ruin my experience, which is usually calming and fun.

    I feel like it would be unusual for me to cook for myself, while he orders food for himself every night. Any solutions would be great!

    • michelle m.

      I use an online menu mailer service. There are a few online. The one I use is at savingdinner.com. It has different menu types (classic, low-carb, paleo, auto-immune) for 2 or 4 people and it lists all of the groceries that you need for the week on the first page of the menu.

      All of the dinners can be made pretty quickly (15-30 minutes) and they all turn out pretty yummy!

  • Mindy`

    We have all our account links, usernames and passwords in an electronic file in that is password protected and sits on our server at home that is also secure. So only the family has the information, and there are just two passwords – one to get into the server and one to get into the file. We change the file password every 60 days too.

  • Cee

    The discussion of apologising really resonated with me. I am a Girl Guide (Girl Scouts) leader and I have really started to notice how often my girls aged around 15 are apologising. I saw this advert a few years ago and showed it to them recently, I think some of you might enjoy it too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p73-30lE-XE

    • ChrisD

      Because sorry isn’t an apology! It’s an all purpose word used as social glue.
      I had this conversation with a Russian friend when he was standing in front to the kitchen sink at work. He said there was no need to apologise. I said sorry was polite for ‘get out of my way’.
      Though the video also raises good points. I liked changing ‘Sorry …’ into ‘Morning …’ but you can see that you do need an introductory word before launching into the request.
      Kate Fox (anthropologist) has a whole chapter in Watching the English on this word.
      But despite my support of the word sorry, I have found the line ‘Never apologise and never explain’ a mantra of mine. To be used with caution, of course, but still useful to bear in mind.

    • Kristy Roser Nuttall

      Thanks for sharing this! We all need to remember this message, but I agree that its especially important for young girls. I’m going to pass it along to my friend who is a Girl Guide in Texas:)

    • Amanda

      I just saw this video at a women’s conference this weekend and it was so impactful! So glad you posted this!

  • TheGirlWhoWoreGlasses

    I bought an address book just for passwords. I write down the name of the account, the username and the password. It is kept under lock and key, but husband knows where to find it.

    • gretchenrubin

      Old school, yet effective!

  • sara

    For passwords, I recommend getting a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password. Then you only have to remember one master password and it fills in all the rest automatically for you. I have LastPass premium and it is only $1/month (there is also a free version) – sooooooooo worth it for no more password annoyances.

    Also — another reason to take kids seriously when they complain is that sometimes they are really hurt and you will not find that out if you just brush them off! I remember vividly one of my elementary school classmates who fell off the jungle gym. He complained his arms hurt but the teacher just told him to stop complaining/be quiet. Well it turned out when he went home that he had broken BOTH his arms and ended up having to suffer through that all afternoon until he got home and his parents believed him that there was a problem — he showed up the next day with two casts!! I’m sure this would not happen today with concerns over liability (this was about 20 years ago), but it still sticks with me that when a kid tells me they are hurt, LISTEN!

    • I second this recommendation. I use LastPass and have it on my browser and an app on my phone. I only have to remember 1 password. Plus, it creates passwords for you that are much harder to figure out.

    • Cori Chavez

      Yes, this is the best solution! It will change your life! I am a web developer and have used “1password” for years. I have hundreds of passwords saved for myself/business and clients. You only need to remember 1 password to enter and it stores the rest for you. I use it on chrome with a 1password extension and have an app for ipad/iphone. It will save loads of time and frustration. It’s worth the few dollars per month.

    • Melissa Ni

      Here’s another plug for 1password!

  • LindaS

    I’m not sure how secure my password solution is but it works for me! Here goes. I have 4 passwords – 1 exclusively for banking. The other 3 vary in their complexity. The first simple one is for all the newsletters and subscriptions. I use the same one and have for years. The 2nd is for any website that might record personal information (like Facebook or LinkedIn), it is more complex and would hopefully be more difficult to crack, the 3rd is very ‘strong’ and used for more important things that I use regularly like Paypal and it’s the one that gets changed periodically. I make a judgement call about the website (and hope my judgement doesn’t change over time) so even if I haven’t logged into a site for a year I’ll know which password my past self would have used. Similar to other commenters – I do have a document with password hints on it for those pesky websites that don’t fit into my above rules. Eg. [simple pw]64

  • Andre Shipman

    For passwords I use small goal statements. This way I am constantly typing a reminder and it can easily meet all the crazy requirements. Figure out a cheat for which one was used. For example websites for companies A-H is $leep4healtH, etc

    • Anna

      I love that idea!

  • Chris Stokes

    I developed a passwords trick when I was working at a company where I used five different systems, each of which I needed a password for. What I found was that the passwords which worked for the more strict criteria would work for others. So I started used place names that stood out for me. I would capitalise the first letter and substitute a number for the last letter. So a 4 instead of an A. Over time, I have expanded the number of place names I use. For banking passwords, I use the place where I worked for a bank, while for emails I use the place I lived in Japan. I find the place names easy to remember and the system keeps it easy to modify them

  • Laura m

    I used to say “I’m sorry” all the time, until a good friend told me to stop being sorry. I hadn’t realized how often I said it and didn’t really even mean it most of the time, I feel like it was a habit.
    I can eat the same lunch everyday for years and actually prefer the ease of it but holiday meals bore me if they are the same every year.
    Please do not take me on vacation to the same place more than twice, I want to see new places.
    I’m a questioner:)

  • Amanda Moon

    Dashlane is great for passwords. I use the free version (one device only), my husband uses the paid version (syncs to all devices.)

  • Robyn Koelling Hurst

    Re: the password question. Someone else may have written this already, but there is a program/app called LastPass that is supposed to help you save all of your passwords and basically logs you in, after you have logged in to IT, with a master password that you have created.
    A computer guru friend of mine recommended it to me a few years ago. He also recommended that I make my master password some kind of long acronym that only I could remember.
    I made it too hard and lost the paper I had written it on.
    LastPass does not have a “in case you forget your password” option…you are just plain locked out…so you have to start a new account with a different email address.

    After doing that with 2 of my three email addresses (maybe a third as well?), and having the same thing happen (I am really not an idiot, but then again, apparently I am), guess who no longer even tries to use LastPass.

    By the way…I actually could never quite figure out how to get all the websites and things connected when I was able to use it anyway. So this is not really an answer…more like a confirmation of our universal struggle. 😉

    loved this podcast! Was attracted by the Stop Apologizing title and it did not disappoint! Will be sharing in my own blog soon!

  • Monica

    For passwords, this Questioner LOVES Dashlane – it creates strong passwords, autofills login info (and personal/payment details if you add them) online, alerts you to any security issues, and the desktop and mobile apps sync their information. The desktop version shows you a security score and things you can change to increase your score – such a great feature. And of course, my Dashlane password is the only one I need to remember. (insert praise hands emoji here!)

    It takes a little time to set up initially, but its just so great – even my mother uses it now. https://www.dashlane.com/en/cs/3bbac8f0

    • Kristen Kravitz

      I second that recommendation wholeheartedly! I LOVE DASHLANE! It also saves payment info for credit cards so you don’t have to store your credit card info in websites, and it makes me much happier to be able to auto login to all my sites or look up passwords as needed. It also creates hard password for you.

      • Kristy Roser Nuttall

        Just want to chime it that Dashlane is AMAZING! My husband and I both use it and it is a life saver and especially handy since it does an auto login for sites you use regularly. It also makes putting in payment info very easy–you just have to remember your master password and Dashlane will fill in the rest. Genius.

  • Sara S

    I discovered the variety vs. familiarity difference when my son started going to school. When I was growing up, my mom sent me the exact same sandwich every. single. day. I got so sick of it that by 3rd grade I simply started throwing it away and going without. So when I started packing lunch for my son, I made sure to include lots of fun different things each day. Tons of variety like I wished I had! Imagine my astonishment when he told me outright that he hated it (luckily for me, he is more outspoken than I was). He’s the kind of kid who likes to know what he can expect and he hated being “surprised” with lunch. He asked me to please just make him his favorite sandwich every day because that is what he loves.

    • gretchenrubin

      Such a PERFECT example of this principle.

  • Mary Norris

    I have a suggestion that hopefully helps the password problem. I read an article years ago that stated passwords that are phrases or sentences are more secure, because they’re more difficult for someone to guess. So now I use a favorite song lyric for my passwords. It’s easy for me to remember because it’s a song I regularly listen to, and the lyric is memorable, so I just sing it to myself whenever I log in.

  • sassysparky

    I’m an upholder and really like systems so I have a password system that uses one fun word followed by the name of the site. The first word is the same for all of my logins. So for instance you could have “rainbowfacebook” and “rainbowbank”. If your password requires a number and symbol you could incorporate those into the first word like r@1nbowbank

  • Joyce Dall’Acqua Peterson

    Re: passwords, the IT security person where I work had the best recommendation I’ve ever heard. Pick out a good, chewy password of 7-8 letters, numbers and symbols. Then, for each website, add a relevant two-character prefix and suffix (like “FB” for Facebook).

  • sassysparky

    My password strategy is pretty simple
    1) Pick a fun word. Example is rainbow
    2) Add the name of the site at the end
    Example: rainbowfacebook
    3) Since most sites require a capital letter, symbol, and number, change rainbow to

  • Kristie LeVangie

    I have a trick for password storage that I have been using for years. I create a file on my computer that is called something generic like “Access” or “Answers.” (Pick a word that means something to you. You can create it in excel or just as a simple text file.) Then, “bury” it in your photos folder, music folder, or somewhere where you will remember where to find it but it’s not apparent if someone should use your computer. (For instance, NOT on the desktop!) If you are savvy enough, you can also password protect the file. In the file, put the website address log-in page, your user name (often these are different too), and the password. This method also works well since you are already at the computer when you need it and don’t have to remember to hold on to something like a thumb drive.

  • Kim Hunt

    I have a password formula as well. I prefer to have passwords different for different sites, for security reasons, so I got this idea from a friend who’s dad was in the army and this was an idea he was given for remembering different passwords: have the same password for everything, but alter it based on the first letter of the website or url. I also always add the same number to the end since most sites require this, and I make the first letter upper case. So if your base password were ‘winter’, it would be WinterF6 for facebook, or WinterA6 for amazon, etc. The only other alteration I’ve had to do was to add another symbol at the end for some logins. In that case, like the number, I always add the same symbol. Ex) WinterF6$. As long as I follow my formula, I’ve been able to guess my password for any site I go to, within 2 guesses, because it either has the symbol, or most often does not. For the base password itself, I do what another commenter said, and use the names of places I’ve visited.

  • Amanda Styles

    On remembering passwords, I adore the 1Password app for iPhone. It’s incredibly secure, encrypted, and I always have it with me. I have tons of passwords and they are all in there and easy to find. It will also generate secure passwords for you if you like.

  • EBennetDarcy

    This really got me thinking about variety vs familiarity, which I found fascinating! When it comes to books I love variety, I rarely re-read. When it comes to movies I’m split — I love my standards but often want to watch something new.

    When it comes to restaurants or experiences, I do like trying new things, but it’s often in the service of finding a “new old favorite.” There’s nothing better than finding a new place that I enjoy so much I want to return to it and can savor the anticipation of revisiting. This seems to overlap with my love of traditions. Now when I visit Saratoga, NY, I have to go to my favorite local brewpub and indie bookstore. When I visit family in Cincinnati I have to eat Skyline and Donato’s pizza and Graeter’s ice cream and goetta. Periodically I’ll declare to my husband that I want to try such and such new restaurant or visit such and such place. But while I do appreciate the novelty of the new, I know I really hope that this new place will become one of our familiar haunts.

  • Rachel Hague

    Not sure I agree with you about not apologizing. When I screw up (i.e. all the time), then apologizing sincerely is hugely therapeutic. Even though what I did rarely seems as serious to anyone else as it does to me, I think that a quick “I’m sorry, that was my bad” followed by a “no worries” helps both parties to build happiness. Also, the humility that comes from being used to apologizing is healthy.

  • Abby Carpenter

    I love my password system. Years ago I started using a password that I really liked. It was a real word, easy for me to remember, and I could type it with one hand. I got used to the pattern of this password and so whenever I needed a new password I would simply shift the pattern over and start on a new key. For Facebook I started the pattern on F. For Instagram I started the pattern on I. It made it very easy for me to remember passwords for sites I use infrequently because I would just try the pattern on the first letter that came to mind. If I need a number or symbol, I usually just extend the pattern up. You could also just always add the same number/symbol/capital to your pattern.

    Examples: freetree5% becomes kiuuoiuu9( or nhggjhgguU

    seaweed1! becomes vgcfggb1! or lpkopp;1! or kojiool1!

    The only issue with this is if I am not at a standard keyboard I sometimes have no idea what my password is because I only remember the first letter and the pattern.

    and Ha! I just made up password that I’ll always remember to comment on this blog post, and started it on the D for Disqus.

  • Julia Rogers

    As everyone else has said… https://agilebits.com/onepassword/ One password is unquestionably the best resource I have used in a long time! I am so glad to have found it! I could be even better with it. You can use the same account for multiple gadgets which is important for work, home, phone needs! And, there is a family discount for multiple accounts!

  • I love Henry’s tip on saving thank you instead of sorry in many situations.

  • Stacey

    Hi guys! Here is my personal solution to the password conundrum. I have about 5 passwords I use for various accounts, reserving a couple more complicated ones for only super important stuff (bank, credit card etc). I will keep a note for the account and password on my phone or a folder in my computer, but with a cryptic hint instead of the password itself. If anyone found the hint on my phone, it would mean nothing to a stranger. Since I only have 5, the hint reminds me right away which password I need to type in. Here’s an example (fake): LeroyStickWedding12, and the hint might be “the turtle one”. The hint would remind me of the time in 2012 that my turtle leroy fell in love with a stick in his aquarium and would show off daily for the stick to impress it. Use stuff that other people wouldnt know, so your hints are safe if someone found them. Just avoid memorable but highly publicized events that someone could see on your social media if its an important account.

  • Louise

    Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth! I am a keen regular listener to the podcast and early adopter of the blog, before the first book came out! First I want to
    say that I love hearing about Elizabeth’s work as a TV writer and I am
    glued weekly to The Family. Is it weird that a show about an abducted
    boy is appointment viewing for my teen son and me? I think we enjoy it so much because aside from the drama and ugh
    factor of his/their victimization, the depiction of the boy(s) avoids the
    tedious cliches and shorthand most TV shows use for teen boys–either nerds,
    studs, delinquents–and instead shows a recognizably complex thoughtful young man in a
    loving network of family and community. Yay! As one mother of a son to
    another, Elizabeth–thank you for your great writing!
    Okay — now on to my comment on this week’s podcast. I adore you Elizabeth, but I have to disagree with your notion of holding off on apologizing for small stuff and here’s why: saying “sorry” is cultural, it’s respectful of others, and it’s a civility. I believe that living in a cordial, civil community contributes hugely to my happiness.

    But when you were discussing over-apologizing with Gretchen, you treated these moments as though the apologizer was always arduously reaching deep into their heart and offering you their raw feelings. No. Nuh-uh. There’s a huge spectrum of “sorry”s, and they should all be said, in my view, because they all contribute meaningfully to our peaceful civil co-existence. Not all of the situations are a big deal, in the way that you might be sorry for having an affair with your best friend’s husband or running over your neighbor’s dog. Nine times out of ten saying sorry is usually just like saying “please” or “thank you” — it just lubricates our social interactions; and actually we *should* signify our regret that we have inconvenienced another person and that we respect that person’s time and space in the world. But the person on the receiving end should not take it as a burst of emotion. It’s just a polite recognition of a social interaction gone awry.

    So, I think Gretchen should have apologized for busting in on the other podcast, because it was the right, civil thing to do. She inconvenienced those other people, and should indicate her awareness of that to settle the bad karma. Of course it wouldn’t have undone the mistake or made a difference, but it would have been the civil, respectful thing to do.

    I think we are on the same page that if do you run over your neighbor’s dog, a different kind of apology is called for. But I’d say most “sorry”s are like the “thank you” that you say to the guy that bags your groceries, not the “thank you” that you say to the friend that dropped off a casserole each day for the three weeks you had pneumonia.

    So all you need to say in response, even to the needy friend who apologizes so often (I know her too–she just has low self-esteem and is painfully sensitive to the social karma around her) is a cheery, “No problem!” You do NOT have to empathize with her, or get into a big thing. It’s the equivalent of saying “You’re welcome!”
    What do you think?

    • gretchenrubin

      Interesting points and observations!

  • theredheadsaid

    i thought I was the only one who used my system! people are smart! What I do is pick a “master” password word, that includes a capital letter, one or more numbers, and punctuation. So let’s say I use Frosting777!. Then I just add whatever site i need a password for:

  • Jeff Ellis

    I manage all my passwords with LastPass (https://lastpass.com/) and it definitely made me happier.

  • I know that many places/people tell us to not write down our passwords anywhere, put it in our phones, computers, etc. What I have found that works for me and my passwords is this: I purchased an address/telephone booklet. This is where I can put the websites in alphabetical order, (since these have the letters of the alphabet sticking out) – this is where I put the websites, usernames and passwords (even if my username is constantly my email account, I write it down). I then put it in a safe place in my office and am always using this and LOVE it!! 🙂 Hope this helps!

  • Samantha Caudle

    I use a pdf download from The Day Designer and save it in a folder on my desktop so it is easily accessible when I have to add or change a password or reference it when trying to sign in a website. It can also printed for those that prefer to paper records.

  • Katie Fabrizio

    Another vote for LastPass! It’s been a life saver because my husband and I both access the same accounts (like a PayPal account) but we can’t keep track of all those different passwords. Sometimes we have to change the passwords but we don’t have to update each other about this change because it’s all managed in LastPass. The old school method of keeping an address book didn’t work for us because we are often accessing things from work or from a coffee shop.

  • Stephanie Gurnsey Higgins

    In our house we’re working on the distinction between apologizing by saying ‘Sorry’ or saying ‘excuse me’ when we bump into someone. We decided this was an important distinction for several reasons. First, I have two young girls – 9 and 10 – and girls tend to over apologize, I think, so we wanted to model good behavior and healthy self-image. Also, our youngest has some developmental delays – significant speech delays that are mostly corrected but which she is still self-conscious, as well as motor planning issues in which she often takes up more physical space or is just flat out clumsier than usual. Add on top of that the fact that she’s a full head taller than the kids in her class and she’s bumping into everyone all the time and we hear a LOT of “I’m sorry”. It turns out though that “Excuse me” is appropriate, too, and while this is still a work in progress I’m hoping it will grow into something that becomes more natural for our whole family.

  • Katie Toner Scullion

    Hi! I am long-time listener and fan and love your work, especially “secrets of adulthood.” Regarding technology, I have finally figured out that if I am going to be so dependent upon technology, I need to figure out how to keep up with it. Gretchen I am sure you can come up with a name for these strategies (teaming? scheduling?), but here is what I try to do now:
    1) Combine learning new technology tricks with the chance to connect to others. I find it is nice to connect to my kids and teens (and their friends) by asking them, “how can I text better?” At kids games, sitting on the sidelines, I sometimes will get help, such as “do you use Siri much?”
    2) I also will pay the computer guy who comes to my house an extra 30 minutes to sit with me at my computer and see how I can do various things better – email, backups. I always learn something that saves me time or trouble!
    3) I’m way overdue to sit with a buddy who will let me absorb new tricks with my desktop applications. Working out of the house means I don’t learn any new tricks unless I go in search of them.
    4) Sites like LifeHacker are very helpful for addressing problems like the password question.

    By the way, I use Dashlane. Not only does it do passwords, but it autofills forms with personal info – such a time saver! One of the few services I find it very useful to pay the premium so I can share it across my phone, IPad and desktop. Love it.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great suggestions!

  • Cindy

    My password method: I keep my passwords in a little “Passwords” binder. It has to be a binder for me because I may need to add or delete pages in the middle. I also have a method for choosing passwords. I pick a type of word (a flower, a pet’s name, etc.) and use it in conjunction with a number that I will remember. For example, tulip23 because we had tulips at our house on 23 Main St. or violet8452 because we had violets at our house with last four digits of phone number 8452. The consistency of my method helps me remember. Then if needed you can add special characters and capitals.

  • Hannah Walsh

    Two password suggestions: First is to choose different passwords for the percieved level of security of the website. Websites that require a login but are not purchasing get a simple “base” password. Medium security sites (social media, etc) get another more complicated password, and high security (banking, etc) get an even more complicated password. That way if you have to log into a site to see content you don’t have to worry about compromising your bank level security password.

    Second echoes something that other users have mentioned and that is to write down the username (I always forget those) and a cryptic hint of the password to a site. I keep these in a locked note (new feature in iOs) on my phone. That way even if my phone gets lost all they have is the username and jibberish.

  • Jennifer

    My tips for remembering passwords – an app on your phone, which is PIN protected, e.g. oneSafe, which is very easy to use. I also have a pattern for all my passwords, e.g. always start and end your passwords with the same particular digit, then use the name of the website in between – so the password for amazon would be 3AmazonWeb2, for Ebay would be 3EbayWeb2 etc.

  • Meg

    ENPASS phone/desktop/tablet app. Works for apple, android & pc. Has a search bar. I use a 4 digit pin and *snap easy access to all my passwords, gate codes, mileage id, insurance info. Truly best option I’ve tried – and I’ve tested a lot of apps.
    On a similar note the (free) app/website Pepperplate is great for storing recipes. It has a bookmark feature that with one click will save an convert to easy to read format that can be accessed on app/website. Plus you can add your own photos if you make the dish which I love because it makes it personal and triggers memories. For those who are inclined there is a easy drag-drop meal planner/shopping list feature as well.
    Thanks for sharing your experiments through the podcast & your books – really feels like a found a kindred spirit and virtual comrade on my own adventures.

  • Kay Vanatta

    Passwords….. I have a couple of suggestions. My husband and I settled on using the date we got engaged…. a date known only to us. We have several versions of the same info… month/day/year or day/month/year….. I also devised a motto for myself – a specific word – using specific caps, characters, etc…. that makes me happy when I key it :-). And to store them? I have a word doc on my computer that has incomplete info per account. The name of the doc is something only my husband and adult children know – and they will also know the missing info. But I am comforted knowing that they [AND I] can access needed info.

  • Beth P

    For passwords, I created an excel spreadsheet with the information, then password protected the spreadsheet. I uploaded the spreadsheet to Dropbox so I can access it from any device in whatever location I’m in. I only have to remember the spreadsheet password and I have access to all my other passwords.

  • Melissa Ni

    I loved this episode! I was with a friend who was in an accident this week (she called me to come to the scene when she couldn’t reach her husband), and I thought I would share part of the experience that really stuck with me.

    She was at fault for the accident, and felt terrible, as any of us would. She quite appropriately apologized to the driver of the other car through her tears, and he said something I will never forget. “Listen, accidents are like colds, eventually we are all going to catch one.” It was just the perfect thing to say, and I feel like it can apply to so many things in life when we are beating up on ourselves for making a mistake.

    Also, Gretchen, your suggestion about validating the feelings of the person apologizing was so spot-on. My friend who had the accident is also dealing with a dying pet. And I could tell she was barely holding it together at the scene, and she kept asking to go home and apologizing to me and everyone else around her. Everyone, the responding officers, the other driver, a bystander, myself, we were all reassuring her it was OK and saying all the “right” things about how the car can be replaced, at least she and the other driver weren’t seriously injured, etc. But once we got into my car so I could drive her home, it dawned on me that what she really needed was validation. The situation sucked, she felt terrible, her world felt like it was falling apart, anyone in her shoes would feel the things she was feeling. So instead of telling her not to feel bad, I gave her verbal permission to feel as bad as she needed in that moment, to cry, to give voice to her anger and fear and sadness. So she let loose, and let me tell you, she was so much calmer after that, it was healthier to let it out, rather than trying to stuff everything inside.

    Keep up the great work. I love your podcasts.

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  • Rachel in SLC

    I agree with Sara- 1Password is a fantastic solution for remembering all the passwords for you. It will also generate passwords for you based on the criteria you give it. You can use iPassword on either your phone or on the web so you will always have the information handy! It is only $7 and you don’t have to pay monthly fees.

  • caitlingracie

    This has been mentioned in a couple of different ways, but my fiance (who works in IT) said he has a secure, long, complex base password and he adjusts it according to the website. Adding FB for Facebook, $ and the name for banking, etc. I also store some of my passwords in a password-protected cloud document because I can access it from anywhere.

    Re: apologizing–I have a friend who often apologizes for small dumb things but almost never for bigger issues. So I find the apologies make me angry because they feel fake and just thrown out there to make her feel better (pointing out a small issue while avoiding taking responsibility for a larger one).

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  • santaclams

    You must watch Amy Schumer’s take on I’m Sorry!! http://videos.nymag.com/video/Inside-Amy-Schumer-I-m-Sorry#c=8680372DVZQXJ0MY&t='Inside Amy Schumer’: I’m Sorry

  • Andrew Hartley

    For the password issue, I’m 100% with sara – I use LastPass (the free version) and I love it. I didn’t realize it was so cheap for the premium version, so I may just go ahead and pay for that so it’ll work on my phone and tablets anstead of just on my laptop/desktop.

    There are other options like dashlane, Enpass, KeyPassX, and Roboform. And that doesn’t even include your browser’s built in password management.

    Sure there are risks to all of these options, but I think the risk is much less than using the same password for everything, or even writing down your passwords physically somewhere.

  • Jenna

    This isn’t the same as the “Stop apologizing” topic but I do think they relate. Saying “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome”:


  • Susan Sanders

    I have recently noticed I apologize when I mean “excuse me” – like when I open the door and am in someone’s way. Trying to correct that.

    Q about wording to drop “sorry….” – I am trying to nicely point out that a client missed a call with me and using it as a jumping off point for an action item. I usually say, “Sorry we were not able to connect…” but am I really filled with sorrow? Do I really need to apologize when I did not miss the call? I dont want to say “Hate we missed each other…” b/c the word “hate” does not always translate in other cultures (and I often communicate with off-shore teams).

    How would I say this without using “sorry”?

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  • Terri Noftsger

    Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth,
    I love your podcast. I do tend to listen in batches though. I may go months without listening and then listen to one right after another for a week. You always give me something to think about.
    For Passwords, I use the app RememberIn on my iPhone. The password for the app is a set of pictures that you choose when you first get the app. Pics are often easier to remember than words. The pics change order each time you open the app. But I always easily find “my pics.” It is free and I put all passwords there.
    I love the new A little Happier podcasts as well. I love Gretchen’s books and feel like I’m getting a little Mini chapter of a book each time I hear one.
    Thank you for the wonderful work you both do.

    • gretchenrubin


  • DCB

    You might be interested in Gary Chapman’s “The Languages of Apology” (I remembered that you did a show that featured his love languages.)

  • DCB

    Here’s the password solution I use. I use a formula: an old nickname + old house number + first two letters of each individual website in caps. Each site has a unique password, and I always remember them.

  • Marialena Gallagher

    Is it polite to apologize for being late, or is that something people should stop apologizing for?

  • Mardee

    I work in IT and actively manage over 100 passwords for different sites. I’m also fond of the unique password for every site (more secure) and complex passwords that are not related to me so very difficult to guess (also more secure but impossible to remember).

    I have a password-protected Excel spreadsheet that contains all my login information. My adult kids and husband know where it is and have the password to open the spreadsheet in case they ever need it. You can also buy password log books at the bookstore, but using the spreadsheet works better for me, and when I’m on my PC, it’s easier too because I can copy and paste, which avoids the question of “is that a one or an O?”

  • With regards to passwords, I worked for an IT guy who used a password pattern at every site. For example, if he were creating a password at the happier website his password would be the name of the site, “Happier” with a capital H, a number combination like 99 and then a special character such as an ! In this way, once he had a pattern established, he could have a unique password for each site, but always know what his password was.