Avoiding weekend questions
July 7, 2019 3:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I politely respond to the inevitable “how was your weekend?” that was in fact very shitty?

I haven’t been in the office since last Tuesday as I was able to work from home on Wednesday and Friday of the 4th of July holiday weekend. People will inevitably as how the weekend was or what I got up to. In fact, I had an incredibly shitty weekend where I found out an old friend passed away, likely from suicide, and I messed up my back and spent the weekend on muscle relaxers that didn’t really do anything for me other than make me groggy and sleep 15 hours a day. What can i say that’s polite and ends the conversation surrounding the holiday weekend?
posted by raccoon409 to Human Relations (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think just redirecting the convo if you don’t feel like talking much is fine. Shrugging and saying “eh, it wasn’t the best. Can’t believe it’s monday again, Gotta get back to working on [whatever]” is enough for more people to read your cues and not dig deeper

.if you DO feel like being chatty. just say “didn’t get up to much, how about you?” And ask them follownup questions about their weekend.
posted by nuclear_soup at 3:32 PM on July 7, 2019 [18 favorites]

Seconding the redirection; though I personally favour being a little more direct. Ie: "Pretty crappy; how about those TPS reports".
posted by mce at 3:35 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Shake your head as you say: "Don't ask."
posted by Carol Anne at 3:36 PM on July 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

"Pretty quiet, how was yours?"
posted by kitten magic at 3:45 PM on July 7, 2019 [27 favorites]

I think this is one of those situations where you don't have to be 100% honest. I wouldn't count it as an immoral kind of untruth to just say, "fine" or "okay" in order to end the conversation. I think any kind of negative response can be perceived by some people as an open door to ask follow-up questions.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:45 PM on July 7, 2019 [22 favorites]

I *always* answer "Oh, you know.... same ol', same ol'".
posted by Wild_Eep at 3:45 PM on July 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

Really, there's nothing wrong with: "Fine, how was yours?" It's a workplace pleasantry, not a deposition.

For a little more truthiness:
"Could've been better."
"Not the best, but there's always next weekend."

I'm sorry about your friend.
posted by bunderful at 3:46 PM on July 7, 2019 [16 favorites]

I'm really sorry about your friend too. Whatever is easiest for you is fine, you've been through a hard time.
posted by kitten magic at 3:47 PM on July 7, 2019

I think any kind of negative response can be perceived by some people as an open door to ask follow-up questions.

*raises hand* That is me. If I ask about your weekend and you say "not great," I will think that you expect me to ask "Why, what happened?"
posted by bunderful at 3:48 PM on July 7, 2019 [29 favorites]

“Fine, how was yours?”
posted by katypickle at 3:55 PM on July 7, 2019 [16 favorites]

No one ever really cares about your weekend. It’s just a pleasantry. Just say “good, thanks/fine thanks,” unless you want to talk about your weekend. As a reminder, people don’t care about your weekend, so whether or not the conversation continues is in your control.

If you say, “pretty shitty/not so good” people will talk about your weekend. If you say “totally amazing beyond words” people will talk about your weekend.

“Fine, thanks. You?” Done and done.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:56 PM on July 7, 2019 [22 favorites]

If your back is obviously still bad, I'd just go with, "Spent it with my back thrown out, so it wasn't great." You may not be able to get away without politely asking how theirs was, but at least you have already established your reason to not be super engaged about it.

I would otherwise just lie and say it was fine or I got some rest or whatever. Nobody's going to get points taken off for a small lie about their terrible weekend.

I'm sorry about your friend.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:57 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Or the always useful and non-committal, "Too short. How about you?'
posted by Dolley at 4:07 PM on July 7, 2019 [16 favorites]

Condolences on your friend; that sucks. I like the suggestion about focusing on your back. When I want to share exactly zero information of any kind, my go-to response is "Uneventful," which nips follow-up questions in the bud, followed by a redirect.
posted by carmicha at 4:11 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thanks all, I’m part of a group that’s pretty chatty and likes to use chats as a way to break up the day. The redirect is very helpful.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:23 PM on July 7, 2019

When acquaintances ask about your weekend, it’s just a perfunctory greeting. They don’t actually care about your weekend. Just make up a generic answer.

To avoid these questions, preemptively ask them about their own weekend.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:25 PM on July 7, 2019

I just got back from two weeks spent with my family as my father died and I fielded approximately 9000 questions about where I went and whether I had a good time on my vacation. I tried various formulations to cut the conversation short but contrary to popular wisdom, people did care about my vacation, weren't just asking to be polite, and did want to chat about it - at least until they found out why I was away, at which point they mostly wanted to have serious conversations I would have preferred not to have in the office. A weekend is easier to handwave away than two weeks, so I really recommend you just say something dull like "oh, very quiet, how about you?" You have to actively give them a reason not to be interested.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:34 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

I rarely have a problem with transparency in this sort of situation: "Thanks for asking, but it was pretty crummy, and I'd rather not talk about it. How about yours?" or some variation depending on how much gratitude you actually have for their interest and how interested you are in hearing about theirs.

That said, agreed with the above that "Fine." is a perfectly socially acceptable way to say that whatever the contents of your weekend were, you won't be discussing them further in this conversation. And I'd add that given that understood context of what it means for that sort of conversation, it isn't even really lying.
posted by solotoro at 5:53 PM on July 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


...causes some raised eyebrows but nobody has ever asked for more info, and in fact I feel the slightly unusual word choice helps in that.
posted by aramaic at 6:08 PM on July 7, 2019

I've always used the Pee Wee Herman non-committal method - when asked "How was (thing)?" I answer "(thing)y." and move on. For instance:

- How was lunch?
- Lunchy.

- How was your weekend?
- Weekendy.

It generally leaves 'em baffled enough to be disinclined to try to follow up (then or even in future conversations, which suits me fine overall with chatty co-workers); but if that doesn't stop the truly persistent then doggedly sticking to the "fine how was yours" response suggested in previous comments seals the deal.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:55 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

"Well -- next weekend will probably be a lot better."
posted by Rash at 7:21 PM on July 7, 2019

“Always nice to have a holiday weekend.”

It’s ok if you try to redirect it and get choked up or look sad and someone presses you on it. Sure, people just ask to be polite, but it’s also ok to admit you had a tough weekend involving the loss of a friend.
posted by sallybrown at 7:54 PM on July 7, 2019

Oh pretty quiet, just rested and caught up with chores. You?
posted by bleep at 7:58 PM on July 7, 2019

“I’m glad it’s over.” Any follow up questions can be answered with “I’m not ready to talk about it”
posted by itesser at 9:16 PM on July 7, 2019

"Pretty rough, actually, but I'd rather not talk about it. How about you?"
posted by waffleriot at 10:15 PM on July 7, 2019

I've had better.
posted by AugustWest at 12:00 AM on July 8, 2019

This. Is why I chose to start following a sport.

“Fine. See the game? [insert inane observation about highlight/low point here]”
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 2:59 AM on July 8, 2019

It's actually a little tricky to find the vague answer that doesn't invite follow ups. Even "it was nice to have a long weekend" invites "oh yeah? what'd you use those extra days to DO?" I think you might want to paint what appears to be a complete picture, like "good, mostly just relaxed, got caught up on some things." (Mowing? Cleaning out the garage? Health insurance reimbursements from your beneflex plan? Getting paperwork in order so next tax season isn't as bad as this one?) Also, you need an answer to what you did specifically on the 4th, along the lines of "saw the fireworks at the fairgrounds," "watched our neighbors set off fireworks and tried to keep them from setting our lawn on fire," or "actually fell asleep before the fireworks!"
posted by salvia at 6:53 AM on July 8, 2019

I've found that close to 90% of people who ask me about my weekend or holiday time off - unless I told them what I was doing before I left, so the question was a follow-up coming from a place of interest or knowledge - are actually either just looking for something to talk about so as to be social, or because they really want to talk about what they did on their break (or were about to do). So you can get away with a really abrupt shift without it seeming impolite.

How was your weekend? / Do anything fun over the holiday?
Oh, it ended up not being anything (or Oh, I just stayed in). How about you? Did you do (are you planning) anything fun?

And you've passed the baton and they generally take it and you're off the hook.
posted by Mchelly at 8:17 AM on July 8, 2019

"Eh, it was a weekend," is my go-to choice when I can't summon up enough enthusiasm to say "Fine, and yours?" Nobody's ever asked me to expand on it. They usually just chuckle and say "Yep, been there," or something.
posted by telophase at 9:07 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I find it useful to have some generic topics available for distraction. My weekend was busy, too much yard-/ house-work, did you see that story about that thing? There's a reason people talk about weather; somewhat interesting, shared experience, avoids minefields. I used to try to pay attention so I could ask followups like How was your kid's game? which is a thing that shows you listened for at least a minute. and turning the focus back on them lets them talk about their weekend so you don't have to talk about yours.
posted by theora55 at 9:21 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I remember once a barista at a coffee place asked how my weekend was after a long-weekend and I gave some response along the lines of "it wasn't bad but it felt like I didn't do as much as I should have" and they had no idea how to respond. I learned then and there that no one wants a discussion about my weekend unless it was something light and fun and interesting so now I'd either say something to deflect discussion, lie, or say something positive about one aspect of it, so in your case something like "I got a lot of sleep".
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:36 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hey all, I was able to just let people know that I hurt my back and since I was able to make it to the doctor this morning it wasn’t too frustrating to talk about. That gave people enough of a feeling that they heard how I was doing that I wasn’t pressed for further details. Thank you for all your suggestions.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:45 PM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

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