How to Respond to “How Was Your Birthday”

You have taken time off for your birthday, and every person you meet the following days wants to know how your day went. It is not always a genuine interest but often serves as a general conversation starter.

If asked, “How was your birthday,” you can give as much or as little information as you think is suitable for the situation. Most people will ask this question while anticipating a pleasant response, so you should only emphasize positive aspects.

Give a Quick Summary

A quick summary is often a good idea when someone asks you, how was your birthday. They might call on the phone, text, or speak to you in person.

However, as long as they only seem to have a few minutes, a brief description is best. In many cases, people who ask how your birthday went want to be sure that you feel appreciated and celebrated. [1]

They want to know that you had a relaxing day and that everything you experienced was satisfying. So, an answer that assures them of this will be fine.

For example, you can say:

“It went well. I enjoyed myself.”

“I enjoyed every minute of my day. Thanks for asking.

“Thanks for checking. I had a very good birthday.”

All of these responses are brief. Still, they let the person know that you enjoyed your day. Many people will simply respond by nodding, smiling, or otherwise showing their happiness that you had a good day.

If they’re in a hurry, they’ll then move on. By observing how a person responds to your question, you’ll know whether they have time to discuss your day further.

However, whether you extend the conversation also depends on you. You might not always want to talk much about your birthday.

Add a Few Details Where Appropriate

Sometimes it’s appropriate to give a few details about how your birthday went. For example, if you’re in a lunchroom and you have relative privacy, you might want to share with your co-worker that you were taken to a restaurant for dinner.

However, this would depend on who is asking the question and how comfortable you feel with sharing that type of information with them. Similarly, even in situations where you’re comfortable with a person, the context might not be ideal for sharing that type of information.

For example, if someone asks you how your birthday went while you’re in an elevator with several other people you might want to keep your response brief.

So, in a work setting or in other settings where you would want to protect your privacy, even if you share details, these will be limited to specific areas.

For example, you might say that you went somewhere. You might say that you had a relaxing evening at home. You might say that everyone in your department got together and gave you a small gift.

Although you only give a few details, this still makes the person asking to have a better idea of what made your birthday so enjoyable for you.

You might say:

“Thanks for asking. I spent the evening with family.”

“I had a great day. I went to the park with friends.”

“Thanks for checking. I was surprised when my department gave me a small gift I really appreciated it.”

Keep Some Details Private

You might want to keep some details private. In fact, even details that might not immediately seem private should be kept confidential because they can indirectly reveal too much.

They might also lead to questions that are uncomfortable for you if the other person is not immediately aware that they might be prying.

For example, if you went to a romantic dinner after work, you might not want to share that with your work colleague since they might pry more than you want to. That might lead them to ask who you were with and at that point you might not be interested in sharing the details of your relationship with them.

Similarly, while you might have enjoyed receiving a thoughtful gift from a colleague, you might not want to share this with another colleague. Some people might be a little envious of the type of gift that you received.

Others might feel jealous of the fact that you received a gift when their department doesn’t have a tradition of making the same effort for members.

So, it’s important to be cautious about the type of information that you share in your response. Unconsciously sharing too much information can cause problems.

If You Missed the Person, Say So

Sometimes a person will ask how your birthday went but they missed your birthday celebration. This may have been unavoidable on their part. In that case, ensure that you let them know there are no hard feelings.

You can let them know that you miss them and you appreciate them asking. Sometimes people can’t be at a special occasion but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t in their thoughts.

However, they might still feel uncomfortable about the fact that they weren’t able to attend.

You could say:

“I had a good time Carla. I’m so sorry that you couldn’t have been there.”

Thanks for asking Juan. Everything went well. I hope that if I have a celebration next year you can be there. I missed you.”

“Thanks Lisa. I had a great day. I’m sorry that you couldn’t have been there but I have a slice of birthday cake for you.”

Keep Your Tone Positive

Always keep your tone positive when you’re answering questions like this. Even if someone isn’t concentrating fully on what you’re saying because they’re distracted by thoughts of work or other responsibilities, your emotional state is likely to register with them.

Ensure that you think positively about your birthday and everything that happened. If you’re focused on problems at work or other issues while you’re answering them, that might come out in your voice.

Although it’s unconscious, the person who is listening to you might subconsciously associate the emotion with the discussion about your birthday. It’s important to be intentional with the type of emotion that you project.

Ensure that it matches the words that you’re choosing. At least, do so as far as possible. Even if the day after your birthday is bad, select a positive memory of your birthday and keep that in your mind.

Even people who don’t ask about your birthday went will be observing you. If you are choosing to project the best of the day, be conscious of what you’re thinking.

Negative Remarks

There are cases in which someone may ask how your birthday was but they say it in a negative way. In that case, you can still choose to respond positively by letting them know that you had a good day.

You might not always be sure of why the person sounds that way. You could be jumping to conclusions about their thoughts.

Even if you think someone doesn’t wish you well you don’t have to adjust your feelings about your special day. Let them know you had a great day. Don’t discuss any details with them if you don’t want to and move on.

Keep It Age Appropriate

If a child knows that you are celebrating your birthday, they’ll usually ask how it went. Sometimes it seems like children are even more likely to ask about birthdays than adults are.

Children look at the time a little differently than adults do and will even count down to birthdays with enthusiasm. You can usually count on a child in your life to celebrate your birthday with you with joy.

Children carry less of the negative emotions that are sometimes caused by measuring adult milestones against things that society says should have been achieved, such as trips around the world or millions in the bank. With a child, you can emphasize facts about your birthday that they will enjoy.

Keep it simple and stick to the descriptions of things that they will enjoy. For example, if your birthday was spent taking a long hike through rough terrain until you reached a lake, you might want to emphasize the fact that you went to a lake if that’s what a child would understand best.

Similarly, you can talk about an exciting gift that a child can relate to, such as chocolate or a cake. Adults might sometimes be better able to understand the significance of other gifts, such as making a dent in your debt for your birthday or buying yourself some stocks.

Always try to show sensitivity towards others. Even with adults, you can keep your response appropriate to the stage of life that they’re at. For example, if you know that a retired friend is missing work, it might not always be a good idea to underline the birthday wishes that your boss has thrown your way.

That might cause them to reflect on their own working days and miss that aspect of life. Instead, you can emphasize the gift of freshly cut flowers that you received from someone’s garden. Ensure that the details you share are something that a person who is asking can easily relate to and will keep both of you in a good mood.


References:

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-is-trip/201806/why-your-birthday-matters