People ask “What’s going on?” to start a conversation, greet someone, or catch up with someone they haven’t seen in a while. It can get awkward if you don’t know how to respond to “What’s going on?”, or if you simply don’t answer.
It’s not that you don’t know what’s going on. The problem is summarizing it into a clear, concise sentence. It can also be an issue if you don’t feel like sharing details about your life with that person. In either case, the response you choose should match your relationship with the person and how you’re feeling.
Let’s explore how to respond to “What’s going on?” when someone you know is trying to check in with you:
How to respond to “What’s going on?” : 7 polite responses when you just don’t feel like talking about it
It’s okay if you don’t feel like divulging the status of your life at the moment, especially if it’s to someone you’re not very close to like a coworker, classmate or an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a long time. You aren’t obligated to.
You can choose not to answer, or say it’s none of their business, but that would be rude. Here’s how to respond to “What’s going on?” when you don’t feel like talking about it, but you still want to be polite:
01“Oh nothing much, hanging on and holding on.”
This is a generic response to “What’s going on?”, or “What happened?”.
You aren’t letting too much out, but you’re giving an answer that should suffice. In other words, you’re fine.
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Use this when you want to get away from the conversation. When you give this response, the person isn’t likely to have any follow-up questions.
It can also mean you’re up to the same things you always are, whether it’s being busy with work, school, family life, etc.
03“Life. It could be worse.”
Everybody should understand what this means.
It means that you’re just getting by like everyone else. There’s nothing special happening at the moment, and there’s nothing you have to complain about either.
This is another way to say you’re fine, or nothing’s wrong.
It is good to use this when you don’t feel like going over the details of your current life, but you still need to give an answer.
05“I’m just taking life one day at a time.”
This is another way to say you’re hanging in there.
It doesn’t give any indication that anything’s wrong, so the person is unlikely to ask you about it. It also means you’re dealing with things as they come, and you don’t have any complaints, or at least, any you wish to share.
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06“In my head a lot right now.”
Use this when you want to say you don’t want to talk. It means you’re internalizing some things in your life and you don’t want to talk about them until you’ve figured it out for yourself.
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07“I’m a little busy, but we should catch up later.”
Say this when you want to get away from the conversation or follow-up questions. Don’t even stay still, just say it as you’re walking away. The person should get the hint.
How to respond to “What’s going on?” : 7 responses when you want to keep things light and positive
Everyone strives for happiness and contentment in their lives. A life free of drama, stress and negativity is always welcomed.
If things are going well in your life, and you have nothing to complain about, your response should reflect that. It should say that you are content, and you are in a good mood.
Use this as a guide on how to respond to “What’s going on?” when you want to keep things light and positive.
08“I’ve been doing a ton of exciting things lately and I can’t wait to tell you about them.”
Use this when you want to have a follow-up conversation with the person who asked you because you’re excited about what’s going on.
It says that you want to share your good news with this person.
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09“I’m good, thanks for asking.”
This is one way of how to respond to “What’s going on?” when someone you don’t know very well asks you what happened.
It’s straightforward, to the point, and you don’t have to reveal too much information. This doesn’t mean you’re not close friends with the person or you’re never going to share.
It just means you’re not ready to talk about it yet because you don’t want to ruin the mood.
10“All good, you?”
This is also good to use when you don’t want to reveal too much information.
This doesn’t mean you don’t want to hear details of their life. It returns the question to the asker and gives him/her the opportunity to share what they have going on.
11“I can’t complain because life keeps blessing me.”
Use this when nothing specific has happened to put you in a good mood, but you have a general feeling of well-being and are thankful to be alive.
Many people don’t get to see the next day, so you see the privilege you have and are grateful.
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12“It’s not that bad, you know. How are things with you?”
Use this when you want to let the person know you still have a positive outlook on life in spite of anything that has happened. It says you are not broken and will continue to fight.
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13“I’ve gotten a ton of good news lately. I am [insert news].”
This is good to use when you have something exciting you must share with the person now. Just customize it to what’s happening now, and go as deep into it as you want to if it’s a close friend or relative.
14“Living the dream.”
It is good to use this when someone you are not very close to asks about what happened.
You don’t want the person in your business, but you’re not going to tell them to stop being nosy. It can also go both ways, and act as a sarcastic response when you’ve been having a lot of problems in your life.
6 responses to “What’s going on” when you want to go into more detail and tell them about your problems
Bad things happen, and in life, there are problems. Everyone has tough days, and it’s nice to have someone to vent to about what’s going on.
It doesn’t make sense to bottle things up sometimes. At the same time, you really have to be careful because you can’t share your problem with everyone, for fear of being judged or gossiped about.
If this is someone you can trust with your business, go ahead and share. Here are some ideas of how to respond to “What’s going on?” or “What happened?”.
15“Things have been pretty rough for me since the loss of [someone close to you], but I’m trying to stay positive.”
Use this when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. When grieving, it can be more helpful to draw nearer to people than to isolate yourself and deal with it on your own.
16“I’ve recently been laid off and the bills are piling up. Do you know anywhere that’s hiring?”
This is good to use when you lose your job. It says that you’re looking for something urgently because you have no backup and you’re struggling financially.
Photo by fizkes on shutterstock
17“Just got some bad news. I’m hanging on by a thread.”
Use this when you find something out that ruins your day, or puts you in a bad mood.
It lets the person know you’re not doing well, so they know you want help. It also invites the question of “What happened?”, so you can go into more detail and tell them about your problems.
18“I’m just wondering what’s next. It seems like life is out to get me.”
This is good to use when you’ve been the victim of a series of unfortunate events and you feel like someone put a hex or curse on you. It makes the person aware that you are close to your breaking point, and you can’t take on any more issues.
This will hopefully prompt him/her to be a shoulder to lean on.
19“It’s not going so well right now. I really need someone to talk to.”
Use this when you want to make it clear that you want to talk about what’s happening. It lets the person know you are going through a tough time and that you hope they can be a listening ear.
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20“Life hasn’t been kind to me. I just can’t believe this is happening.”
It is good to use this when you’re going through a bad spell. Use this when you feel like you’ve been cursed with bad luck and you don’t know why things are going so badly for you.
When someone asks “What happened?” or “What’s going on?”, they’re usually interested in our well-being and want to be there for us. The way you respond depends on how you are feeling and the relationship you have with the person.
Ask yourself, “Am I willing to share all this with xyz? Can I trust him/her?”. If you believe so, you can go into details, seek advice, and get support.