Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

What do you say to start a quick conversation in an elevator?

It depends on who is in the elevator with you!

Listen in on today’s episode to find out what to say in an elevator at work.

What to say in an elevator

Aubrey asks Lindsay if she would ask, “What’s shakin?” in an elevator.

Lindsay says she probably wouldn’t.

That expression is a bit playful and would be more appropriate for someone she knows well.

She would use a different expression if it’s a colleague at work.

Aubrey mentions that she asks because today’s topic is about conversation starters in an elevator at work.

She agrees that you would use a different conversation opener if it were a supervisor or someone you didn’t know well.

Today’s episode topic is inspired by a listener’s question.

Today’s question

Hi Lindsay,

It was a pleasure talking with You and Aubrey yesterday at the fluency party. I just wanna tell you that it was super fun, and it was amazing to have the opportunity to hear well known voices from the podcast. I really enjoy your way of teaching English. You are all marvelous.
By the way I have a question that you can use as a topic for a podcast if it will fit you. How can I reply to ‘how are things going?’ greetings if currently everything in my life is a disaster without causing awkwardness and without putting on other people an obligation to ask why, should I lie or pretend that everything is okay? Best regards,

Maks, Poland

Depends on who’s asking!

What you say will be different depending on who is with you in the elevator.

You can use a simple, “Everything is great” if you’re not up for sharing details.

When on an elevator, you have a few minutes to chat.

Therefore, using the right conversation starters is crucial.

You wouldn’t want to start a lengthy discussion in an elevator because you will be getting off soon.

Additionally, there may be other people getting on at any moment.

How to start the conversation

It’s always good to seize the opportunity to spark a conversation, even on an elevator.

You just have to balance a quick conversation with the right topic.

Today we share expressions and phrases you can use as conversation starters with a colleague.

These are perfect when you have limited time while inside an elevator.

With each expression, we share a roleplay perfect for the different relationships.

#1: Someone you know well

For someone you know well, you can be honest if things aren’t going great.

However, don’t get into details since you don’t have a lot of time.

  • Honestly, I’ve been better but I’m hanging in there!
  • Oof, it’s been a rough week but I’m managing!

Depending on their response and the situation, you can give brief details.

Alternatively, make a plan to meet up and chat further.


In this scenario, Aubrey is on the elevator and Lindsay, her good friend, gets on.

Lindsay: Hello! How are things going?
Aubrey: Hey Lindsay. I’ve been better honestly.
Lindsay: Oh no! Sorry to hear it. What’s going on?
Aubrey: My grandmother is in the hospital and I’m having a hard time with my teenagers.
Lindsay: I’m so sorry to hear it. Want to meet this week for a drink and have a chat?
Aubrey: I’d love that.

#2: An acquaintance

You need responses for colleagues you know well but haven’t hung out with socially.

  • Doing alright. How are you?
  • Oh, you know. Life. How are you?

This is a good response when you’re not doing great but you’re not open to share why you’re having challenges.

This may be due to the lack of time, privacy or closeness in the relationship.

You can be honest when things are not okay by using these examples.

This is a discreet way of saying not everything is amazing without sharing all details.


In this scenario, Lindsay is on the elevator and Aubrey, her new coworker, gets on.

Aubrey: Hi! How’s it going?
Lindsay: Doing alright. How are you?
Aubrey: I’m great. Finally feeling settled in.
Lindsay: Oh that’s good to hear. Are you coming to happy hour Friday?
Aubrey: Yes! I’m excited!

#3: Supervisor or client

For supervisors, clients and those you don’t know well, your answer will be more formal.

  • Doing well. How are you?
  • Busy! How are you doing?

You can use these expressions as a response to someone you must speak to very respectfully.

“Busy!” is a great answer that is more work-related.

It has a professional approach.


In this scenario, Aubrey is on the elevator and Lindsay, her boss, gets on.

Lindsay: Hi Aubrey, how are you?
Aubrey: Busy! How are you?
Lindsay: Really good.
Aubrey: Excited for the conference next week!
Lindsay: Yes, me too! It’s going to be great.
Aubrey: I’ve never been to Cincinnati. Have you?


Those few minutes at work on an elevator are a great time to connect.

However, you need the right timing and appropriate conversation starters to build that connection.

You likely won’t have time to start a full discussion.

Instead, you can use those few minutes to connect briefly.

Choose phrases depending on the relationship you have and don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation!

Do you often strike up a conversation in an elevator?

We’d love to hear your story in the comments section.

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