“What are you up to?” is probably one of the most common questions in the English language.
It can serve different purposes and hold various intents and meanings depending on who is asking. As a result, it can sometimes be challenging to know how you’re supposed to respond to the question.
So what details should you include or leave out in your answer?
To help you avoid the awkwardness that comes with not knowing what to say, we’re going to share some meaningful and engaging replies you can give the next time someone wanders what you’re up to.
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This question can mean different things in different contexts. Knowing why someone may be asking what you’re up to can help you discern the intent behind the question and figure out the kind of response the person is looking for.
Let’s look at some of the common meanings behind the question.
It’s not uncommon for people to use “What are you up to?” to mean “ How are you?” It’s just an expression they use to break the ice and ignite a conversation.
They don’t really expect you to answer the question literally or in-depth, nor are they really interested in knowing what you’re doing. It’s just a way to check in on you and see how you are.
Sometimes, the person is asking about what you’re doing at that specific moment. They want to know how you’re keeping busy, and what activities you just finished doing, are doing, or are about to do.
They’re curious to know how you spend your time or what has been going on with you. So providing updates about your life will satisfy their curiosity and help them feel closer to you or get to know you better.
Someone might ask what you’re up to because they want to know whether you’re free to hang out or do something for them.
So instead of simply hitting you up with their request or plan right out of the gate, they will use the question to test the waters and get a sense of your schedule before revealing why they’re asking.
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As you can see, there are many situations and reasons that can give rise to this question. How you choose to respond will depend on the context and your relationship with the person asking.
Here are some of the responses you can give when someone asks what you’re up to.
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Let’s say you’re at a networking event or you run into an old colleague and you get this question. Chances are the person asking is more interested in what you’ve been up to professionally, rather than in your personal life.
Feel free to talk about your job and current role to give them a sense of the kind of work you’re currently engaged in. You can even go a bit further and mention any specific projects that you’re excited to be working on.
Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn and let the person see that you’ve achieved some level of professional satisfaction.
However, if you’re looking for new opportunities, you can also slip that in and ask them to keep you in mind if they hear about any opportunity that you may be suited for.
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Just because someone is checking in on you doesn’t mean you must engage and interact with them right there and then. You may have a lot of work to do or you may be neck deep in chores, or even be studying hard for an upcoming exam.
Instead of going along with the chat, you can respond this way. This lets the person know that even though you want to catch up with them, you can’t do that at the moment because you’re currently occupied.
So it’s better to postpone the conversation to another time when you can give it the time and attention it requires.
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When you haven’t spoken to someone in a while and they broach this question, they’re trying to find out how you’ve been keeping busy since your last interaction. They want to know what changes have occurred in your life or if anything has changed at all.
You don’t have to give them a play-by-play of every event that has taken place in your life. Instead, you can focus on the big moments and occasions that you’ve experienced in that time.
You can tell them about how you got married and had kids or that you left your old job and have taken up a new role in a different company. Talk about the vacation you took, the hobbies you picked up, or the project you’re working towards.
Pick one to three events that you think they’d be happy to know or that you feel are most significant and let the conversation start from there.
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Life can be exhausting at times and it’s okay to own up to that rather than sugarcoat the experience. You don’t have to dress up your life to make it look more appealing or palatable every time you get asked “What are you up to?”
It’s perfectly normal to say that you’re just keeping the faith and hanging in. It means that you’re pushing through and doing what you have to do to survive in the face of the challenges that come your way.
This response tells the person that while you may not be the happiest or most satisfied that you’ve ever been, you’re doing your best.
It leaves room for them to ask more questions about the state of your life and mind, as well as space for them to share their own struggles with you.
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When you’re not sure how to answer the question “What are you up to?” or you simply aren’t in the mood to delve into the happenings in your life, you can throw the question back to them.
Just say something along the lines of “Nothing new. I’m more interested in what you’ve been up to.” This simple response can help you gently shift the focus and attention from you to the other person without creating any tension.
It allows the person to open up and regal you with stories of their past or recent adventures, which can then serve as a segue into other discussion topics.
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Let’s face it, not everyone who inquires about your life deserves to know what you’re up to.
This response is perfect for those times when you don’t feel like sharing details about your activities with someone or when you’re eager to end or shorten the conversation.
It tells the person that nothing too terrible or exciting has happened to you lately. That you’ve just been dealing with the usual demands and struggles of daily life.
There’s nothing juicy or remarkable to report. You’re mainly doing what you typically do over and over every day and you’re okay with that.
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This is a perfect response for when a friend or someone you enjoy talking to asks what you’re up to and you have plenty that you want to tell them.
It lays the groundwork for letting out all your excitement by informing the person that you have a lot of things you want to share with them about your life.
This way, if they’re interested in hearing what you have to say, they can ask more questions or respond in a way that permits you to unload.
Then you can go off and tell them about the things that have been keeping you occupied. But if they’re not willing to hold space for you to share, they might blow past your response or say something to change the topic.
Either way, you’ll know both get some degree of control over how the conversation plays out.
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Use this response when someone asks what you’re up to on a weekday. It suggests that you’re working hard and you’re excited to reward your efforts over the weekend.
Or that you’re having a rough week and can’t wait for a chance to take a break from whatever is stressing you and recuperate.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have anything interesting planned for the weekend and all you want to do is run errands and sleep.
The person is going to get the message and either ask about what’s happening during the weekend or affirm your response to show that they can relate.
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A good way to respond to this question is to tell the person what you’re doing in that instant whether it’s scrolling through Twitter or thinking about what to make for dinner.
You can choose to keep your response brief or go into detail, describing why you’re doing that thing, what led you to do it, and what your plans are when you’re done.
After saying what you’re up to, you can then inquire about why they’re asking. Maybe they want to know if you’re free or not so they can propose an activity with you.
Asking why keeps the chat flowing and allows the person to reveal their intentions or what their plans are.
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This response serves two purposes: it answers the question, providing an update about your life and it spares you from divulging more details than is necessary.
It signals to the person asking that while you appreciate their interest in your life, you’re not quite prepared to burden them with whatever it is you’re going through. It doesn’t shut them out but it also doesn’t saddle them with too much information either.
So if they were just asking what you’re up to in passing, this response will satisfy their curiosity. And if they’re a close friend who wants to know more, they can prompt you to open up and share more by asking further questions.
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Sometimes, people ask “What are you up to?” just to make small talk and not because they’re actually interested in having a lengthy discussion about what’s currently occupying your time.
If you feel this is the case, you can simply say “Not much” and then ask them what they’re up to instead of giving a long, well-thought-out answer.
You can also give this response when you genuinely don’t have much to say. Or when you have nothing new to report about your life since the last time you spoke to them.
Or even when you’re just not in the mood to discuss your day or what’s been going on in your life lately. Keep in mind that this response can suggest that you’re interested in having a conversation at all and lead the other person to shut down.
So be conscious of your turn and ask them about their life instead if you don’t have much to say about what you’ve been up to but still want to keep the discussion going,
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You don’t have to feign humility when someone asks what you’re up to. Feel free to tell them that you have it good and a ton of positive things have been happening to you.
Maybe you’ve finally landed an amazing, high-paying job that allows you to travel a lot. Or you met the love of your life and you’ve been so happy that your heart could burst.
This response makes it known that you’re happy and content with where you’re at and you’ve been up to so many wonderful things. If the other person shows interest in hearing more details, you can go on to describe the happenings in detail.
13. Outline the tasks and responsibilities occupying your time presently
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This is the best way to respond if your manager or supervisor asks you what you’re up to. Even though the question seems casual, stick to a polite, respectful, and formal response to avoid stepping outside the bounds of professionalism.
Assume that the intent behind this question from a manager is to get an update on your current work activities. Or to see if there’s room on your plate to take on an additional task they’re thinking of assigning to you.
Be clear about what you’re focused on at the moment and when you expect to be done with the tasks you’re handling. Make it clear that you’re not just idling about and that you’re making meaningful contributions to the company.
Mention any high-priority tasks that are eating up your attention as well as other activities you may have on the back burner.
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This response is perfect for when you don’t really have great things to say and don’t want to give an honest response that might be kind of a downer for the other person.
It could be that you’ve recently experienced some kind of unfortunate event like someone dying, getting an eviction notice, or receiving a reprimand from your boss.
Whatever it is, you’re not enthusiastic to talk about, especially if the person is only asking what you’re up to to make small talk, not because they actually care.
Instead of launching into a rant about what’s happening, this response gives them a chance to move on to some other topic or dig deeper and let you bare your chest.
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This is a playful and flirty way to respond to being asked “What are you up to?” when the person asking is someone you’re dating or a potential love interest.
It lets them know that they’re on your mind and you’re happy to have the pleasure of their presence in your life.
This response will surely make the person smile and add a little sunshine to their day. They might say something just as cute to you too and you can go on to have a conversation that delights the both of you.
As you can see, there are many different approaches you can take to answer the question when someone inquires about what you’re up to.
It all depends on your willingness to engage and how much information you want to share.
Some responses will invite additional questions and spark honest, fulfilling conversation while others will provide a curt but respectful way to deflect or move on from the question.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.