11 Creative Ways To Answer ‘How Are You?’

You probably have been asked the question, ‘How are you?’ a fair bit in life. On some occasions you may have wondered how to answer it.

It’s a classic, common question you hear when meeting someone for the first time. It’s a question someone uses to introduce themselves to you and start a conversation. It’s a question where your friends ask when you’re catching up.

Confused Face

There are different variations to ‘How are you?’. For instance people also say, ‘How are you doing?’, ‘What’s going on?’ and ‘What’s up?’ and mean the same thing.

Many tend to reply with ‘Good’, ‘Well’, ‘Not bad’ or ‘Fine, thanks’. These are short, stock-standard responses, pretty much formalities and what people expect to hear.

But perhaps you don’t want to respond with these plain answers all the time. Perhaps you want to be really honest with your answer. Maybe you want to add humor to your reply to trip others up and see how they react.

Here are 11 creative and witty ways to respond to ‘How are you?’. While some of these interesting responses work better in certain situations, it can be fun to keep all of them in mind.

1. ‘That’s a loaded question.’

On the surface ‘How are you?’ is a general, broad question that is open to interpretation. Is someone asking how you’re feeling right now? Or are they asking what have you been doing these past few years?

The question is often asked with good intentions. But it’s also a question that sizes you up. The person asking it might want to get to know you personally, drawing out a piece of you.

Words are powerful and the words your hear can shape your reality. Coming from those whom you know that genuinely care about your well-being, maybe you won’t think much of the question. But coming from a stranger or asked within a group ice-breaker setting, you might not know what to share openly on the spot about yourself.

2. ‘What do you mean?’

It’s such a broad question so why not prompt the other person to explain where are they coming from.

In return they might ask more specifically, ‘How’s your day?’ or what you had for breakfast or what you were up to a few moments ago.

3. ‘Fantastic! Like a shining star!’

You could be extremely optimistic in your response, all happy, loud and sharing your joy around. That’s not hard when you’re having a good day.

You can then watch the other person try their darndest to match your enthusiasm. An outgoing extrovert might have no problem responding equally chipper. After all, happiness is known to be contagious and has a ripple effect.

Confused Face

4. ‘I’m a weirdo.’

If you rarely fit in with others, this could be a fitting response to ‘How are you?’. As the odd one out on countless occasions, this could be the perfect description of you – literally telling the truth about yourself as you feel uncomfortable responding to someone’s question.

5. ‘So good to see you!’

You could be very excited to see the other person, such as a good friend. Bypass answering the question and show how greatful you are to see them. Putting the focus on others often makes them feel valued, seen and feel like they have meaning in their life.

Make the other person feel important and appreciate them. Make their day, have a good time together.

6. ‘I’m…umm… Oh wait, I don’t want you spreading rumours about me. So how are you?’

Avoid the question and ask the question back. You might want to keep to yourself when meeting people you don’t know well.

You just don’t know if they will misconstrue your words and create a problematic perception of you elsewhere. Maybe saying a simple ‘Fine’ is the best response.

Confused Surprise Face

7. ‘Existing. It’s pretty obvious.’

Similarly you could reply with, ‘Fine like the shining sun right now’ or ‘Fresh as this breeze’.

State the obvious around you. Given that so many of us live with nose to the grindstone, stating a fact about your surrounds might not be what they are expecting – and you could enlighten them about the world.

8. ‘Who do you think you are, stranger?’

It’s no one’s business how you are in a given moment in time. There’s no need to an answer if you don’t want to.

You might be fond of using this response if you don’t want to get too personal or want to move on with your day.

9. ‘I’m Chewbacca! Hakuna Matata!’

Pretend you’re a character or someone else for fun. If the other person goes along with it, chances are they are a good egg with a good sense of humour. You could have many laughs together after that.

Happy Face

10. ‘Do you really want to know? Can you handle the truth?’

Say this with glint of mischief in your eyes and tempt someone into getting to know you.

Say it deadpan if you’re having a bad day, giving them a sign you could emotionally unload on them. The other person might get the hint and be careful around you.

11. ‘Hello, stranger. Goodbye, stranger.’

If you really don’t want to answer ‘How are you?’ and don’t want a conversation, make it known bluntly. It’s perfect if you’re an introvert wanting alone time.

*  *  *

Most of these responses may seem biased towards turning someone away, like strategic on-hand exit responses during unwelcome, unexpected face-to-face or online interactions. They come naturally to my mind as I’m an introvert, prefer to keep my circle small and not keen on stereotypical small talk. Even with those I know, I don’t always want a chat and so don’t always welcome the question.

‘How are you?’ is a complicated question. As I’ve written similarly on ‘How To Answer Where Are You From?’, the question is not only open to interpretation but has layers of depth and the potential to unveil a character assessment (or assassination) of someone.

How we respond to the question depends on circumstances. Different situations call for different answers to ‘How are you?’. At work and occasions like interviews or presentations, formal responses tend to be more appropriate. When you’re hanging out with friends, colloquial responses are more natural.

In everyday social settings, arguably people who genuinely ask ‘How are you’ are offering you their time. Chances are they are wanting the best for you and hope you are well.

Confused Happy Face

When someone asks you ‘How are you?’ and they warm towards your response, you’ll probably get along with them. You’ve probably found a like-minded person who accepts your response in good nature and shares some similarities with you. Interestingly enough, research has found we seek similarity in relationships, suggesting we’re drawn to like-minded people right at the start of relationships.

In addition, ‘How are you?’ can be a sensitive question, drawing attention to hierarchies and social inequalities. For example if English is your second language, answering ‘How are you?’ in English could be harder due to cultural barriers. There’s the challenge to get your point across in unfamiliar language and not offend.

When you’re going through a time of turbulent change, a rough patch or living in a pandemic for instance, it can be an unwelcome question. You might not be ready to open up about what you’re going through.

On the other hand, sometimes in these situations you just want someone to listen or reach out. ‘How are you?’ would then be a great segway to connect and help you feel better.

There’s no right or wrong way to respond to this greeting of a question. At the end of the day, each of us have our own choice in responding.

How do you respond to ‘How are you?’

68 thoughts on “11 Creative Ways To Answer ‘How Are You?’

  1. Hi Mabel, Nice to hear from you. I suspect tone and inflection of voice also makes a difference with this question. You make a great point how responses work better “in certain situations.” I like #5. I used to say these words when I was seeing patients and co-workers. Also, a nice way to end a meeting. Another great point about “offering you their time.” A gift. Thanks for sharing a great post. By the way….how are you? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a great point, Erica. The tone and inflection both can influence how we respond to ‘How are you?’. I think #5 is probably the most friendly out of the lot. It is lovely that you said that to patients and co-workers. I am sure they always appreciated your presence and help. Hehe I see what you did there…been busy doing some writing over here 😄 Hope you have been well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Mabel for a fun and thoughtful review of this classic question. Yes, it’s a complicated question loaded with possibilities and challenges. I try to gauge if the person is sincere about the question and how deep real they are interested in. And other times, I deflect if I’m not interested in sharing or don’t believe they want a real answer.

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  3. Someone recently posted that right now, none of us are doing very well and proposed that we change the question to, “Are you hanging in there?” which at least acknowledges the crappiness of this year.
    Last year my response was often, “As well as can be expected when trapped at home with my wakeful child and his boundless energy while a malignant narcissist attempts to turn our Republic into a white supremacist dictatorship.” Some people thought that was TMI, but you’re right, it is a rather intrusive question. I enjoyed your funny deflection suggestions.

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    • Last year was definitely upside down, and this year seems to be a continuation of that. Can definitely see why people aren’t a fan of ‘How are you?’ lately. I like the honesty in your response – sums up the real reality of many of us stuck at home. Things have been pretty great for me over the last year, and when I respond how things have been great…oh my, the shock in other people’s faces. I wish I had kept my mouth shut. It is a very sensitive question as your respond can really rile up other’s emotions.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So nice to see a new blog post from you my friend! I laughed at the Chewbacca answer! I would love to answer as Chewie or try his cute growl in response. I typically just say good how are you even if I’m not so good. If it is a stranger I don’t want to go into personal matters. If it’s a close friend, I will probably be more truthful. This was such an interesting blog post idea! Cannot wait to see you soon xo

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    • It is nice to see you my friend! I also like the Chewbacca answer a lot and think it’s funny. Chewie himself would be so happy to use it. Always good to change your response depending on who you are talking too. Miss you my friend and catch up very soon x

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  5. Those are some pretty creative answers, but what I want to know is, have you tried any of them yet? 😉

    I don’t mind the question as I see it as a greeting and a nice well-meaning one at that. And for my Thai students, it’s a way for them to express they are engaging in the culture of English and vice versa. Many teachers teach different and creative ways to answer. One of my colleagues insisted that her Ss answer in the positive affirmative. And I thought this was a good way to get them out of mumbling ‘fine’.

    Normally, because I’m a smart ass, when my fellow teachers ask me, I say, “I’m here [insert name]. I’m here. What more do you want?”

    P.S. cute photos!

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    • Yes! I have tried a few of them, the ones appropriate for when I am not looking for a conversation 😀

      That is great the question is a way for your Thai students to express they are engaging in the culture of English. Maybe some of them have some clever responses.

      LOL your response to your fellow teachers is so sassy. Love it 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Definitely a loaded question, especially in western culture. All too often people ask this rhetorically, which – ironically – I find quite rude because the question itself implies an attempt to be polite. Depending on the person asking and the circumstances, I wish people would sit down to really have the time to hear me answer them honestly.

    Because of this tendency for people in western culture to not ask this question sincerely, I’ve had people ask me the question then a moment later ask ‘okay, now how are you *really* going?’ Those rare cases where people genuinely care for me I’ve really appreciated.

    It’s been a while since we’ve heard from you Mabel, so I ask in all sincerity – how are you going? (: I hope you had a nice Easter weekend of rest or whatever it is you enjoy doing (writing? relaxing?)

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    • That is a good point, that some people ask the question rhetorically. I have encountered people where they start of with ‘How are you going?’. Before I can say a word and without a beat, they jump to talking about something else altogether. And I just go along with that something else they are talking about. It makes such a conversation like a transaction. Nothing wrong with that, but yeah, it’s a rhetorical question alright – like a sign to grab someone’s attention regarding a matter. Not sure if this is rhetorical way of greeting is exclusive to Australians, but I guess it happens elsewhere too.

      It is nice to get some people who genuinely are interested in your well-being, Simon. They sound like good people to have around. It always is nice to have these kinds of people around and have honest chats.

      Lol, that is great time to ask how I am. You might be pleased to hear I am doing book writing full steam ahead. It is an exciting time. Now I might also take the opportunity to ask, and if you are willing to answer, how are you over there, Simon? 🙂

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      • That’s exactly what I’m referring to! Without skipping a beat – without even giving you a chance to respond – they launch into whatever it is they want to say. That, to me, says that the question is completely not genuine and is only being said because of social convention rather than any care from the person asking it.

        I doubt this behaviour is exclusive to Australians but I only really noticed this habit here… although that may just be a product of having lived most of my life here anyway.

        I think I’ve mentioned before that putting others before ourselves is part of how we’re designed to be, and life works for the best that way. (:

        Nice to hear that your writing is going well. Has it always been the same book that you’ve been working on? Or have you had a bunch of ideas that you’ve been working on concurrently?

        I answer as how I normally answer when I have this question: not much changes for me. That can be both positive and negative. But you may recall that I said a few months ago that I was moving work teams – that happened a month ago to the day and things have been going well so far. And I’m due back in the office two days a week starting next Monday (I was in the office for one day a couple of weeks ago, first time since restrictions started last year, it felt strangely familiar and unfamiliar at the same time).

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        • I think it happens a lot, that people launch into what they want to really say after saying ‘How are you?’. So it’s really more a greeting than a question, and strips away the meaning and essence of the question. Personally I’ve never gotten used to this. Having spent a lot of time in Asia, ‘How are you?’ was rarely a form on a greeting here except among friends and family. In Asia, it is not common to get greeted at ‘How are you?’ at, say, supermarket checkouts – and that’s because it’s generally considered unsafe talking to any stranger. Here in Australia I tend to take ‘How are you?’ very literally here, even if it’s coming from a stranger and then get taken by surprise when they just ramble on. So I guess in short, there are cultural differences surrounding the question.

          Yes, we’ve certainly talked about others before ourselves. Our cultural background or faith can influence that to a large degree.

          I started writing my book about 7-8 years ago. Initially there was a draft which I didn’t like at all. Sometime in 2019 I restarted writing the book seriously again. Then I decided to take a break from writing. I liked what I wrote in 2019, so right now I’m picking up where I’ve left off with an outline of chapters. In between I’ve also been reading around on what makes a good book and how to write a good book. Quite a process 😂

          That is amazing your new role is going well for you. Very happy for you. Hopefully you get to settle in back to the office, get things done and also interact with the team. Sounds like you had a good routine going for you WFH, which is hopefully here to stay. I actually like your response, not much change. Seems like a neutral response without giving too much away.

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          • That’s a good point – because the phrase has been so commonly (mis-)used simply as a greeting in itself instead of an actual question, for some (perhaps for those for whom English is not their first language) it is used innocently without intending any disrespect. Ah, the wonders of language that is constantly ‘evolving’.

            I’m not sure if you commented on it specifically elsewhere, if not here, but how do those in Asian cultures greet each other? Presumably there’s no equivalent of this ‘how are you?’ because of the cultural differences. It reminds me of my introduction to Indigenous Aussies – I was taught that trust and familiarity is built up with proximity and time, not through asking of personal questions. Approaching a newcomer but not saying anything might be considered rude in Western culture, but I’m given to understand that it’s a polite way of introducing oneself in Indigenous culture (at least for some peoples, I suppose, and clearly not for those who haven’t been influenced by Western culture in the first place).

            So writing a book is not just about having the right or useful content but also presenting it in a good way. I can imagine it’s a lot of work! I suppose there’s more flexibility on ‘what’s best’ for fiction as opposed to non-fiction (which I think is what you’re working on…?)

            Well, usually it is truthful for me. Often I feel down because things that I hope to change don’t happen. But I suppose by the same token the lack of change can be a measure of comfort and stability, especially how things can often change for the worse. While the pandemic and our response to it has certainly changed a lot of things for a lot of people, for me the only real difference is that I can’t travel when/where I want to and I WFH full-time (at least until next week). I try to be grateful that I haven’t lost my job or taken a huge pay cut as many have – or even worse, lost health or even life. If people care to probe for more details then I can explain as such. If people don’t, then the answer stands.

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  7. Mabel, an interesting post about a question uttered by so many without a thought and often not really expecting an honest answer! As words matter to so much to me I find this question a bit lazy. As you eloquently point out, is it about your health, state of mind, actual existence on this planet?! At the same time, I appreciate that people are trying to make a connection, be friendly and with so many barely having time for one another it is heartening that there is care and concern. I like your suggestion of a fun silly answer as per #9! That would have both parties smiling away.

    Depending on who is asking the question I will answer with a ‘fine, thanks’ if at eg, a bank and asked by a bank teller. A family member will get a longer response.

    Your post brings to mind a conversation with a guy at the garage who was fixing my car. As I asked him how he was he started off on a rant that I couldn’t care less about him, why ask if I didn’t want a response etc. At first I was thrown but this but took his point that many ask without even listening to his response but that I really wanted to know. An in-depth twenty minute conversation ensued where he explained his family woes … and then he asked me and I answered truthfully too. A day of revelation!

    It’s great to see your post and always a delight to read your thoughts… finally, how are you, my friend?! ❤️

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your reflections, Annika. I really enjoyed reading it. Really like how you describe ‘How are you?’ – that it is a lazy question and many of us don’t expect an honest answer. While some people genuinely ask it, many others don’t expect much of an answer. I’ve had so many people in Australia ask me the question and before I can answer, they are on to talking about something else – and these are usually strangers or some random people on the street wanting to sign me up to a mailing list.

      I also like the #9 Chewbacca response suggestion a lot too. It is very upbeat and probably not what anyone is expecting.

      That sounds like an interesting conversation you had with the guy at the garage. It sounded like the guy was really up front about how he felt about the question at first, and probably opened up to others previously who showed they didn’t care less. It was very nice of you to listen and it sounded liket the both of you had a really good conversation.

      As for how am I…I am writing my book. As a writer you know that is progress 😀 How are you, Annika? Hope to catch up on your blog soon 😛❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks, Mabel. I normally say I’m well. I was taught never to say I’m good.
    Regardless of how I feel, I usually respond that I’m well.
    When someone I care about who I know is genuinely asking after me, I answer honestly with the details.

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  9. Since I saw the wonderful Monty Python musical, “I’m not yet dead!” has been my usual response,
    (especially since much of my past year has been hospitals, surgery, therapy & meds, in addition to Covid19.) But my favorite response, if I think of it, is to throw the question back, as, “The question is -How are YOU?!” I feel there’s justice in making the person who put me on the spot feel what it’s like to be put on the spot. Bouncy questions don’t need to be answered, (if bouncy enough).

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    • That is amazing you got to see the Monty Python musical. It must have been such a treat. It sounds like you have been through a challenging time lately. Throwing the question back is a response if you want to put the other person on the spot if that is what you want to do. Hopefully they don’t go ‘No, how are YOU?’ right back.

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  10. Interesting post, Mabel. You’ve certainly provided some creative ways of answering the question. I don’t often ask people how they are, unless they are a relative or friend and I am genuinely asking the question about their health – physical or mental. At the supermarket checkout, I’m more likely to ask, ‘How is your day going?’ or comment that it looks either busy or quiet. Most respond to my question and seem to enjoy the brief chat that ensues while dealing with my purchases.
    By the way, Mabel, how are you? I’m doing fine, thank you. 🙂

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    • Lovely to see you, Norah. I like your approach when asking others how they are by asking about how their day is. It’s definitely a more definitive question, and the person responding can talk about about something that happened that day. For instance, the cashier at the supermarket can respond with, ‘It’s been really busy today’ without getting too personal.

      Also lovely of you to ask, Norah. I have been writing, and that has been making me happy. It is lovely to hear you are doing fine. I hope you are really doing well over there 🙂

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  11. It is a very Aussie thing to say, isn’t it? I noticed we all preface our conversation with How Are You? It is a form of greeting, and not usually a serious question but opens up the conversation and shows you care about the other person’s wellbeing. It can be intrusive and culturally insensitive in some countries, can’t it?

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  12. Mabel, these made me laugh and smile. Love the responses. I have had people ask me this inane question at inopportune moments. Also while I’ve been grieving a loss, but I fake smile and say I’m okay, how are you…blah, blah, blah. It’s the niceties that are habitual I guess. Great post!

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    • Thanks, Lisa. Glad you enjoyed this. It is brave of you to put on a facade when you are not doing too well. Sometimes this is probably the best response – chat with the other person as soon and as briefly as you can, and then move on with your day. Hope you are doing well and take care ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Mabel. Good to “see” you. This simple question used to annoy me, because whenever I’d answer the question honestly, it was like people didn’t really want to know the answer. I didn’t understand why they’d ask. Eventually I learned that people, at least here in the states, tend to use the question as a passing greeting, like “hello.” They aren’t really looking for an answer. They just want to say ‘hi.’ So now, when people ask me how I’m doing, I just say “hi” or “hello” in return. If they actually stop and start talking to me for a period of time, then I’ll listen and respond.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. Good topic.

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    • Likewise, it is good to ‘see’ you too, Lori. It definitely must be frustrating when people don’t want to hear how are you doing – sort of makes the question pointless and they might as well say ‘Hello’ instead. It’s great you say ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ these days and you’re comfortable with that. Hopefully you come across more people who want to engage with you and say the question genuinely. Take care and look after yourself, Lori.

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  14. Mabel as is often the case when I visit your blog, I leave with reflecting on my extroverted manner and increased sensitivity to those who are not. Even I have found that ‘How are you’ can cause discomfort for others. I have moved to “How is today going?’. It seems less intrusive, at least I hope so. I’d certainly welcome your thoughts.

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    • That is so kind of you to say, Sue. Thank you for your nice and encouraging words. I like to think of you as someone extroverted who asks ‘How are you?’ which much sincerity. It is very thoughtful of you to prefer to ask ‘How is today going?’ – it’s a bit more specific and the person answering can pick one part of their day to talk about. Hope you are staying safe over there. Hugs across the miles to you.

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  15. Haha I need to memorise Nr 4 and Nr 11. They work well for a person who hate small talk like me. Nr 8 sounds a bit arrogant, but I will save it for annoying distant relatives 🙂

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    • Haha number #8 does sound arrogant and quite rude! I think you can always busy yourself with your camera and take photos of your surrounds, Len. Then maybe people won’t come to you for small talk 😛

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  16. Haha, there are some great ones on this list that are sure to start conversations and get attention, Mabel! I like the shining star one the best. I would also answer, “Better than ever” to see what someone replies 🙂

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    • I like your answer ‘Better than ever’. It is so positive and fitting if you really are doing well. Sometimes it’s always nice to start off a conversation who is positive and upbeat 🙂

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  17. Hi Mabel :). Nice to hear from you. I’m a ‘Fine thanks’ kind of person, although if I know the person well my response is usually ‘Awesome’ :). When I ask the question i usually hear – ‘Yeah. Good mate; yourself?’
    Stay safe warm and happy 🙂

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    • It is nice to hear from you too, Andy. Sounds like you like to keep your responses short and sweet, and polite too. You stay warm too but I don’t think you will have any trouble with that ☀😄

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  18. I generally lie and say I’m okay. I rarely say how I really am. I find it so awkward to give or even hint at the truth because I don’t think the other person really wants to hear it and it’s difficult for me to say what I want to. So stick with the pleasantry of “I’m okay thanks.”

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