A Few Common Questions Socially Awkward People Have A Harder Time Answering
There are questions that commonly come up in conversation that more shy, insecure people often have a tough time responding to:
"So what's new since we last talked?", "How's life?", etc.
When they get this question people often worry that they're being a bad conversationalist when they have to answer with, "I dunno, nothing much really..." They may also fear they're showing how boring they are when they don't have a bunch of exciting updates to report.
Don't feel you always need to have an amazing response to this question. Our lives often fall into stable patterns and we just don't have big developments to share each week. If that's the case for you it's fine to say, "Not much is new really." Just don't leave the other person hanging after that. Change the topic to a more fruitful one, or see if they have anything going on in their lives they want to catch you up on.
If there are no bigger changes you can still fill the other person in on smaller things that are new with you. If you're close to them, and you've been keeping them in the loop about the details of your life, they're likely interested in these tinier status reports. You could say something like, "Nothing big is happening... but I got a little bit more done on that essay I've got due next week... " Or if you often talk about films with them you could say something like, "Not much is new really... Oh, but I finally saw Blade Runner for the first time the other day. I thought it was..."
Realize that even between good friends and family it's not strange to have this exchange at the start of the conversation:
"Um... not really, you?"
"Nope... nothing new with me..."
"... ....um, anyway... so did you end up getting your bike fixed?"
Sometimes neither person can think of anything to say to this question, and then they both have to think for a minute about where to take the discussion next. It's mildly awkward for a beat, but not the end of the world.
Of course, if you dread being asked this question because you're dissatisfied with the fact that your life is stale and you never have anything to say about it, that's a sign you might need to get out and spice things up a little.
When you have an answer, but can't remember all of it
People can also get flustered when they're asked a question like this and have plenty to report, but can't recall it off the top of their head. It's actually common to not remember everything right away, and nothing to stress out about. It just seems to be how our memories work. This point applies to some of the questions below too.
"What did you get up to this weekend?"
Here the fear is usually, "I didn't do much, I never do really. I'm going to seem so boring", maybe with the added worry of, "They're going to find out I have no social life." When people are embarrassed about answering this question they may give a simple reply like "Not much", but in a tone that seems guarded or evasive.
Saying you didn't do much is perfectly fine. There's no law that says you always have to have an action-packed weekend. If you did little by choice then be comfortable with it. However, if you go with this answer, also add something to keep the conversation going like, "What about you? Do anything interesting?" or "Anyway, how did that meeting with your boss go on Friday?"
Realistically though, you didn't literally stare at the wall all weekend, so another option is to briefly mention what you did do, even if it's not incredibly novel (did you run some errands, work on the house, read any books?) Again if you're not thrilled that you consistently don't get up to much on the weekends you may need push yourself out of your routine and do more with your free time. If your social life isn't the greatest at the moment there are still lots of fun things you can do on your own.
"What are your plans for this weekend?"
The worries this related question brings up are "I don't have any plans. If I tell them they'll know I have no life" and "I don't have any interesting plans. They'll think I'm boring." If you don't have any plans yet it's fine to say so. People often don't nail down what they're doing until the last second, or purposely like to keep their options open. Saying you don't have plans yet won't instantly unmask your isolation. If your plans are "boring" that's okay. It's not realistic to be able to do something amazing each week. Whatever your answer is, own it for now and work to get more going on over the long run if need be.
"What do you do for fun?"
Typical insecure thinking: "All my hobbies are mundane and boring. No one wants to hear I like watching TV. No one is going to think I'm worth getting to know unless I have some super-unique interests." That thought process usually leads to a reply like "Not much" delivered in a hesitant or self-deprecating "I sure am boring aren't I?" tone.
Better way to answer: You obviously do some things for fun, so say what they are, even if they're "unexciting". Don't feel you need to be riding dirt bikes and visiting art galleries whenever you get a spare moment. Plenty of charismatic people do ordinary things for recreation. Even common interests like enjoying TV shows, movies, reading, sports or games can be good jumping off points. Though rather than saying something general like, "I like watching TV" give the other person some more specific details to respond to, e.g., "What series are you following these days? I'm really into ___, have you seen it?" If you still feel your answer to this question isn't 'good' enough, then you can give it anyway, then move on to something else.
"What do you do for work?"
Two lines of thinking get in the way of answering this question: 1) "My job is boring / embarrassing. They'll think less of me when I tell them." Like with the previous questions this can lead to cagey or self-pitying-sounding responses. 2) "Ugh, it gets so old to have to the same, predictable back-and-forth with everyone about what I do. I don't want to have to talk about this." Those kinds of thoughts can lead to answers that are also vague, or ones delivered in an unenthusiastic 'Can we please talk about something else?' manner. That may not outright kill the conversation, but it rebuffs the other person's well-meaning interest and puts more pressure on them to find another topic.
Assuming your job is just a little unglamorous, and not anything you'd legitimately have a reason to keep from people, I think you should try to be straightforward and comfortable with it when you tell people. Like always, they probably aren't judging you for it as much as you imagine they do. If you're really concerned about how people will view it you can always add a tag on the end after like, "...but, I'm in the middle of applying to colleges" or "It's to pay the bills while I try to get my photography business off the ground" or "...Ha ha, but don't worry, we accountants aren't all boring and uptight like the stereotype. " It's not necessary to explain yourself like this in most cases, but the option is there.
If you find it tedious to have the same conversation about your job all the time, just accept it's a topic that's going to come up a lot. If you can answer quickly and change the subject, do so, but be a good sport if the person wants to ask you about it in more depth. Try to keep yourself entertained by mixing up how you describe what you do.
"What are you taking in college?"
This is the younger person's equivalent to "What to do you do?" The concerns are the same; Worrying what people will think of your major (or the fact that you're not in university), and not wanting to have the same exchange all the time. The advice above applies.
How's it going? / What's up?"
I devoted a whole article to this one:
The main issue with this question is it's hard to tell if the other person actually wants to know how you are, or if they're using it as a ritual greeting. If they actually want to know, answer them of course, perhaps by using the ideas under the "So what's new since we last talked?" heading above. If they're just using the 'How are you? Good, how are you?' exchange as a greeting then just play along. If you can't tell how it's being used it's fine to reply in the 'wrong' way. The conversation will sort itself out soon enough.
"So are you dating anyone right now?" (when asked between friends, not when someone is trying to gauge if they could go out with you)
You may not get this question from everyone within the first five minutes of chatting to them, but it can come up in conversation fairly early. It's a pretty standard piece of information people like to know about each other, and it can be a way to open a discussion about the topic of dating and relationships in general. If you're inexperienced and have never dated, or are in a dry spell, you're likely scared of this question, and worry you'll be thought of a loser if the truth comes out.
If you're not dating anyone just say so in a casual, matter-of-fact way. Plenty of people are single so that answer alone won't set off any alarm bells or reveal your secret. What if it's the same person who regularly asks you the question and you're embarrassed that you always have to reply with a 'no'? Here it's tempting to try to continually dodge having to answer honestly, but I think that's more trouble than it's worth. It's stressful and gets you in the habit of being too secretive. If you feel at least a little close to them you could be more open and say that you haven't been dating anyone for a while because you're shy or have trouble meeting people. If you really don't feel like sharing too much you can again be straightforward and say, no, you're still not seeing anyone. Odds are they'll leave it at that, but if they want more information you can just say something technically true, but not too revealing, like, "I just haven't met the right person."
"What are your friends up to these days?"
You'll hear this most often from family, because they want to feel tuned into what your overall life is like. If you don't have any friends to tell them about you may not want to share that. Again, if that's the case I think it's better to just be straight up about the fact that your social life isn't very lively at the moment. We can all have periods where things are slow in that department. That's ultimately simpler than continually having to make up lies or deflections about how your phantom friends are doing.
"Why are you being so quiet?"
This isn't a question that people regularly drop into their day to day questions, but if you're more shy or reserved you probably know and hate it well. I wrote a whole article about this one too: