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Often when I start talking to people they say "What's up?". How do I respond to this?

Should I say "What's up?" back? I typically can't think of any good response and usually settle with "hi" or "hello"; is that ok?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Ælis, avazula, OldPadawan, Anilla, ElizB Mar 5 at 16:10

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I've seen people use this in different ways. For instance, sometimes "What's up?" is used as a greeting akin to "Hi" and there's no intent to start a longer conversation. In other cases, "What's up?" is used as an actual question, and the person does want a longer response. The inflection in their voice might be a key thing to look at. – HDE 226868 Jul 15 '17 at 14:35
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    This really should march up to the top questions - I can't emphasize enough, how perfectly this question fits the theme of the site. – Zoltán Schmidt Jul 17 '17 at 13:28
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    I think this is highly location dependent. In north America, it seems to be more like "Hi". On the other hand, in some parts of Europe, it invites a detailed answer – user2159 Aug 4 '17 at 8:46
  • FWIW, the correct response to the old English greeting "How do you do", is also "How do you do". Something akin to "Very well, thanks", is not the correct response. – Jezen Thomas Jan 13 '18 at 12:09
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"What's up?" is typically used in a phatic manner as opposed to actually being a question with an expectation of an answer. The purpose of this phrase is to indicate interest in the other person.

Because of this, "Nothing much" is a perfectly valid response. If this is too boring you can try one of the variations like, "Same old, same old". This is perfectly fine.

That said I usually try to give out a bit more info, even if it's just, "Nothing much, I just got myself a drink" or "Nothing much, sadly I've been a bit too busy to do anything interesting (compare to the same phrase with the nothing much; in this case, the other person is more likely to feel obligated to respond to what you've said, instead of moving it to the topic they'd actually like to talk about). I prefer these versions because by making an effort to provide at least some answer to the question you are showing that you are more engaged with the conversation.

That said, I generally try to provide a reasonable conversation hook like, "Oh, not that much, I've just been watching a bunch of videos from Crash Course". This also has the advantage of making look like a slightly more interesting person.

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    I'd vote to accept this answer, because it explains, why "nothing much" is a good response, while by common sense, it seems bland. – Zoltán Schmidt Jul 17 '17 at 13:30
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    I typically wait a week or so before accepting answers. This one does seem to be the best so far though – 10 Replies Jul 18 '17 at 21:11
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"What's up" is another way of asking "How are you" and "what's going on". To reply, you can usually start the conversation with something interesting that's happened since you last spoke, or, if nothing interesting has happened you can simply say "not much, what's up with you?".

Saying "What's up" back or also saying "hi" would be a little awkward as they're asking you a question. If you can't think of anything interesting to reply with (i.e. nothing has happened), you can just say "not much".

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You can answer in the way you like to do.

Sometimes, I respond:

  • All good, thanks. And you? / what about you?
  • Fine, and you?
  • Fine, thanks.

In your case, since you usually say "hi" or "hello", you can add:

  • Oh, hi, how are you?
  • Hello there I think I read this response from a PSX videogame calle Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories :)
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Depends on who's asking and the setting.

I'd say this ideally should be asked by someone who you have shared some sort of experience with (a work colleague, close friend, etc.). If it's just some random person, then I think the question is a little awkward; the reason being that "What's up?" is an invitation to offer a conversational hook. If I don't know who you are, then there's really no common ground and it puts me in an awkward position. If I'm sociable, then no big deal, but the person asking "What's up?" doesn't know that.

I'd go even further and say that if you don't have a casual, joking relationship with that person, then they shouldn't be asking that. Of course, it wouldn't be rude, but there would be many other ways to acknowledge the person/setting without putting them on the hook. Proper response in this case: "Not much" with politeness and neutrality in expression.

One exception to this is if you're in a room of people that you don't know and you were just introduced by someone you do know. In this case, "What's up?" is an icebreaker for you to meet and greet the others, not to be extended to any conversation, but to go down the line to acknowledge each person. This should be used in a casual setting only, and is typically seen in a group of guys hanging out. In this case, it's more about responding back with confidence and enthusiasm since you're giving a first impression.

On the other hand (used one-on-one), asking "What's up?" to a friend should imply some sort of casual response that somehow recollects a moment/shared experience that you both can relate to and that is unique to your experiences together.

For instance: My buddy and I periodically meet up for happy hour at the same bar on Fridays. When he's texting me "What's up?" at 3pm, I know exactly what he's talking about. Another example would be if I haven't seen a friend who I haven't seen in a while, but who's got a great sense of humor. I this case, I'd answer it with some sort of off-the-wall answer that will make him chuckle and get the rest of the conversation going on the right footing.

  • This is a great first answer; welcome to Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange! Feel free to take the tour and check out the help center. – HDE 226868 Jul 19 '17 at 13:31
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Try to respond with what is happening in your life, like if you got a new pet since you last met with the person, or the conversation will look like this

Them: What's up?
You: Nothing much, you?
Them: Nothing.

Keep the conversation going. :)

(Be sure though that you don't ramble)

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I've used "the sky" as a response myself to catch people's attention. But with a different twist than the other poster.

Usually I will follow it up with something "serious," like the business of the day, or what's on my mind. Occasionally I won't. But if you do this more than "occasionally," it will "get old," as a commenter to the other post wrote.

It's like betting in poker. Usually you will have a real hand. Occasionally, it will be a bluff. That keeps things "off balance" and puts you in control. But if you always bluff with "nothing," you will lose, because people will always "call" your hand.

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As per all my answers here, this is based on what I'd do. That may or may not be useful to actual humans with social skills :-)

Think of a conversation like a friendly tennis match but without all the sweat, unless you're so horribly introverted you get the shakes just thinking about it.

The idea is still to win but winning in this case is allowing your opponent to hit the ball back rather than not hit it at all.

So ... nothing like a tennis match at all, really :-)

That means everything you say should ideally both convey something and invite something. The conveyance doesn't have to be earth-shattering, the first thing that popped into my head with "What's up?" was "The cost of everything I need to buy, apparently" (I consider myself a bit of a humorist though my wife and kids would beg to differ) (a).

However, that on its own (though incredibly witty) does nothing to help out the other party in keeping the tennis ball conversation aloft. So you should probably append a question of some description to help out:

First party: What's up?
Witty Pax:   The cost of everything I need to buy, apparently. How 'bout you?

(a) In fact, any response that suborns the normal meaning of the question could be used:

  • the sun this morning;
  • it's a word meaning "the opposite of down";
  • only about 17% of the quarks (if your partner is intellectually inclined);

Depending on how well your partner maps to my family, this will be met with a smile or a blank look.

0

If I know and trust them, I usually just nod and smile and patiently wait for them to either be more specific, or tell me something interesting.

If I don't know or don't trust them for some reason, I just nod and smile and keep going, preferably in a direction that creates more physical distance between us.

Usually when people say "What's up?" They are just seeking a little bit of warm, friendly attention or light conversation. Rather than immediately taking the reins, I prefer to first give them the chance to speak whatever may be on their minds. That way, I get a sense of their motivation. Then my response feels more natural and appropriate.

However, there are rare occasions when the person is someone I've been meaning to speak to anyway. In which case, their greeting offers me an opening to tell them whatever is on my mind.

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