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I've lived in USA only for a while and people sometimes say to me (when we meet):

How's it going man?

Or

How you doing man?

What do I answer? Do they ask me how is it going? I try to say:

Thanks, it's going good, and you?

Or

I'm doing fine thanks, and how are you?

But it always gets somehow awkward. Is that right way to answer? I'm trying to figure out how to just get past this and answer it quickly and effortlessly.

Sometimes I hear people just not respond anything and keep the conversation going.

I'm very confused. Thanks for help!

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    That's fine. But keep in mind that many people regard "How's it going?" to be a simple replacement for "Hello", and will regard any "Fine, thank you" response as equivalent to saying "Hello" back. – Hot Licks Oct 10 '15 at 20:47
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    (It's important to understand that when a relative stranger says "How's it going?" he doesn't really want an honest answer, especially if things are not going well. At most you might reply "Great!" if it's true, "Pretty good" if not quite great but good, "Could be worse" if things aren't quite up to "good", and "Don't ask!" if your wife just presented you with a divorce petition.) – Hot Licks Oct 10 '15 at 20:53
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    I would say Good, you? – Anonym Oct 11 '15 at 0:06
  • I always answer “How’s it going?” with “[It’s] going great.” and “how[’re] you doing?” with “[I’m] doing great.” unless it’s a close friend or family member who I think is genuinely interested. – Jim Oct 11 '15 at 3:02
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I'm very confused.

It's not just you; this is a common source of consternation even for people who've lived here their whole lives. Many people treat "How's it going?" as equivalent to "Hello", and consider "How's it going?" to be an acceptable reply to "How's it going?"; many others treat it as equivalent to "How are you?", and expect a reply along the lines of "Good; you?" or "Fine, thanks" or whatnot. (Either way, it's a pretty empty greeting; they're almost never expecting an actual explanation of how you are doing, unless the "it" is referring to something specific: "I hear you've been working in the construction industry. How's it going these days?")

Sometimes you can tell by the intonation; but often not.

A few generalities:

  • Even someone who treats "How's it going?" as "Hello" will never mind if you respond with something like "Good; you?"; so that's generally a safe reply.
  • Use of "How's it going?" to mean "Hello" is more common among younger men than among other groups.
  • "Hi, how's it going?" is almost always an actual question, expecting a reply along the lines of "Fine" or "Good".
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    Also, "sup" or "wassup" can be responded by "sup" for teens. Also, answering "how's it going" generally is meant impersonally and expects a "fine". – Tyler Kropp Oct 10 '15 at 22:57
  • I've linked to this video before, but it might be time to do it again. It's an amusing take on how, in some parts of the U.S., "How ya doin'?" is nothing more than quick hello, while in others, it's a invitation to start a conversation. (No wonder the people there are "so nice!") – J.R. Oct 10 '15 at 23:43
  • @J.R.: I don't think it's a "some parts" vs. "others" thing. I mean, there are presumably some parts of the U.S. where it's exclusively one or exclusively the other, but I don't think either one is particularly regional. I've regularly encountered both usages, both in Ohio (where I lived for over a decade) and in Washington State (where I've lived for the past few years). – ruakh Oct 10 '15 at 23:48
  • @ruakh - Based on the mannerism, accents, and clothing in the video, I'd guess that the regulars are from the NYC vicinity, while the visitor is from Dallas – how people interpret "How ya doin'?" is quite different in both areas. This commerical wiouldn't be as funny if the visitor spoke with the same Jersey accent as the regulars and wasn't wearing his cowboy hat. Sure, there may be places where you might find both interpretations prevalent – but it's quite evident that this bar isn't one of those places. – J.R. Oct 11 '15 at 7:58
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Both of your greetings are clearly very informal, and so do not require formal (or even terribly grammatical) responses. You could try,

Pretty good. How about you?

Can't complain. How've you been?

Hey, what's up?

Note that the last response isn't actually an answer, but in the circumstances that doesn't matter.

And all of this assumes a normal conversational tone and milieu. If you're sitting on the sidewalk with blood pouring down your face after having been mugged, "How you doing, man?" is probably more serious, and you can ask the questioner to call 911.

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