Mingling at a work event inevitably means being asked the question “What do you do?” over and over again. After years of repetition and conditioning, most of us respond with “I’m job title X at company Y.” And while this is the answer people expect, it’s also likely to linger in your new acquaintance’s mind only until it’s replaced by what the next person says to them.
“Answering with your title and company is the cultural norm. But when you do, you’re missing out on an opportunity for the other person to know who you actually are. You are not just your job,” says Joanna Bloor, CEO of Amplify Labs. She specializes in helping people discover and articulate what makes them distinctive so that they can form deeper connections with others.
And it all starts with how you introduce yourself.
Bloor’s own answer demonstrates the power of an original response. If she answers “I’m CEO of Amplify Labs,” her questioner will probably go on to ask about what it’s like to be a CEO or what is Amplify Labs. But those lines of conversation don’t really allow a person to really know Bloor. So, when she’s asked “What do you do?”, she replies: “Do you like your own answer to the question ‘What do you do?’?” People invariably admit they don’t. She then says, “I know — everyone struggles with it, yet the answer can have massive impact. I work with people on crafting an answer that is bold, compelling, authentic and unique. I help you tell people why you’re awesome.”
Introducing yourself this way isn’t just about standing out in a crowded room or cutting through extraneous jargon and chitchat. By naming your special sauce upfront, says Bloor, you’re increasing the chances that the other person will bring up an opportunity, relationship, business or idea that could help you. As Bloor puts it, “When you get your introduction right, the opportunity is not only to genuinely connect with people, but you’ll also be allowed to do the work you really want to do.”
Be warned: crafting your intro takes a bit of time and effort. But as the world of work continues to change in ways we can’t anticipate, knowing what sets you apart from the pack is crucial. Here, Bloor tell us how you can come up with your new response to “What do you do?”
Greeting: “Nice to meet you” in Polish
When you meet a Polish person—whether for the first or the hundredth time—you’ll want to use an appropriate greeting to start off the conversation on the right foot. To learn about all the ways you can greet others in Polish, take a look at “Hello” in Polish: 7 Polish Greetings to Sound like a Native Speaker.
Once you’ve said “hello” and shook hands, it’s a good idea to follow it up with “nice to meet you”. The most universal way to do this is to simply say miło mi.
Before discussing other essential phrases, it’ll be helpful to draw the distinction between informal and formal contexts in Polish.
- When talking to family, friends or colleagues in Polish, you’re expected to use the informal forms of address. These will almost always involve the pronoun ty (regular “you”) in various grammatical cases—you’ll mostly see the forms cię, ciebie, and tobą.
- When talking to strangers or people you’re in a professional relationship with, Poles will almost always use the formal forms of address. Depending on who you’re talking to, these will contain forms of the formal “you” pronoun pan (for male addressees), pani (for female addressees) or państwo (for multiple addressees regardless of their gender).
A quite informal way to say “nice to meet you” in Polish is to say miło mi cię poznać, which is a literal equivalent of the English phrase.
To say “nice to meet you” in a formal situation, use a formal pronoun instead and say miło mi pana poznać (when addressing a man), miło mi panią poznać (when addressing a woman), or miło mi państwa poznać (when addressing more than one person).
Cała przyjemność po mojej stronie is a polite and graceful Polish equivalent of “the pleasure is mine”.
Finally, if you’d like to wrap up a greeting with a Polish person by asking how they’re doing, you can learn the most appropriate phrases in “How Are You?” in Polish: 6 Friendly Polish Phrases and When to Use Them.
Age: “I am … years old” in Polish
Though inquiring about someone’s age is often considered impolite, at some point, you might still need to ask or answer the question “how old are you?” in Polish.
To ask about someone’s age in Polish, say ile masz lat? (formal: ile ma pan/pani lat?)
The standard answer is mam ___ lat(a)*, which corresponds to “I am ___ years old”.
One clear difference is that while in English we “are X years old”, in Polish we say that we “have X years”.
*Here’s a quick cheat sheet to using lat/lata:
- For numbers from 10 to 21, we use lat.
- For 22, 23, 24 and all higher numbers ending in 2, 3 and 4, we use lata.
- For 25 to 31 and all higher numbers ending in 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, we use lat.
I know it’s a bit complicated, but this isn’t the place to get into the nitty-gritty of the Polish numeral system.
Language: “I’ve been learning Polish for … years” in Polish
Ah, the fun part! If you’re introducing yourself in Polish, your new Polish friends will love to hear about how long you’ve been learning their native language and what led you to take it up.
First, the question jak długo uczysz się polskiego? means “how long have you been learning Polish?”
To answer this, say uczę się polskiego od ___ lat/miesięcy (“I’ve been learning Polish for ___ years/months”).
Chances are you’ll also be asked dlaczego/czemu uczysz się polskiego? (“why are you learning Polish?”)
To prepare to answer the question, take a look at these common examples:
Uczę się polskiego, bo … (“I’m learning Polish because …”)
- … mój mąż jest Polakiem. (“… my husband is Polish.”)
- … moja rodzina pochodzi z Polski. (“… my family comes from Poland.”)
- … chcę pracować/studiować/mieszkać/robić interesy w Polsce. (“… I want to work/study/live/do business in Poland.”)
If you’d like to talk about your progress, you can use one of the example sentences below:
- Mam problemy z wymową/gramatyką/przypadkami. (“I have some problems with pronunciation/grammar/cases.”)
- Chodzę na kurs polskiego. (“I’m taking a Polish class.”)
- Nadal się uczę. (“I’m still learning.”)
Hobbies: “I enjoy …” in Polish
This might not be the first topic you’ll touch upon when introducing yourself in Polish, but it’s certainly the most extensive one.
Two simple ways to ask someone about their hobby in Polish are co lubisz robić w wolnym czasie? (“What do you like to do in your free time?”) and jakie jest twoje hobby? (“what is your hobby?”)
The question can be answered in a few ways. You can say interesuję się ______ (“I’m interested in ______”), as well as moje hobby to ______ (“My hobby is ______”) or simply lubię ______ (“I like ______”).
Here is a bunch of examples:
- Interesuję się starymi samochodami (“I’m interested in old cars.”)
- Moje hobby to gotowanie. (“My hobby is cooking.”)
- Lubię podróżować. (“I like to travel.”)
Example introduction in Polish
|Cześć, mam na imię Susan, miło mi cię poznać! Mam 34 lata. Pochodzę z Wielkiej Brytanii, ale mieszkam w Polsce.||Hi, my name is Susan, nice to meet you! I am 34 years old. I come from the United Kingdom, but I currently live in Poland.|
|Mój mąż, Michał, jest Polakiem. Mamy troje dzieci: dwie córki i syna. Co ciekawe, mój pra-pradziadek też pochodził z Polski.||My husband Michał is Polish. We have three children: two daughters and a son. Curiously enough, my great-great-grandfather also came from Poland.|
|Pracuję jako menadżer w dużym banku w Warszawie. Mój mąż pracuje jako nauczyciel, chociaż z zawodu jest dziennikarzem.||I work as a manager in a large bank in Warsaw. My husband works as a teacher, although he’s a journalist by profession.|
|Uczę się polskiego od dziewięciu lat. Chociaż nie mam już problemów z gramatyką czy wymową, nadal uczę się nowych słów.||I’ve been learning Polish for nine years. Though I no longer struggle with grammar or pronunciation, I’m still learning new words.|
|W wolnym czasie lubię robić piesze wycieczki i grać na gitarze. Interesuję się też historią i literaturą klasyczną. A ty?||In my free time I like to hike and play the guitar. I’m also interested in history and classical literature. And you?|
Introducing Yourself to New People
If I’m honest, introducing yourself can be the most challenging part of a conversation. Even native speakers feel a little shy when approaching someone new.
That’s why you usually practice the easiest way to introduce yourself in beginning English classes:
- Hi! I’m _____________. What’s your name?
However, there are many other ways to introduce yourself. These expressions sound a little more natural. Make sure you pay attention to your tone so that you sound friendly.
- Hi there! My name’s _________. What’s yours?
- I don’t think we’ve met. I’m ___________.
- I don’t believe we’ve met before. My name is __________.
- Have we met? I’m ____________.
- I think I’ve seen you around, but we haven’t officially met. I’m _________.
Don’t forget to say, “Nice to meet you!” after the other person says his/her name!
Introducing People to Each Other
At any social event, you are probably going to introduce other people to each other and talk with more than one person at a time, which makes conversation much more interesting.
Here are some good ways to introduce two people who haven’t met:
- I’d like you to meet ____________.
- This is ______________.
- I’d like to introduce you to _______________.
- Have you met ____________? (This phrase was made famous by Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, as you see in this video!)
Small Talk Topics
When meeting someone new, we usually stick to very basic conversation topics until we get to know the person better.
While you may want to learn a lot about an interesting person, you need to be careful not to ask too many personal questions the first time you meet.
Please note: in the United States, it is rude to ask, “How old are you?” Age is not a common topic of conversation with people you have just met.
Americans are well-known for almost always asking these three questions:
- What do you do for work?
- Where did you go to school? (This question means, what college or university did you attend?)
- What brings you to __(this event/this party)__?
In general, people will ask you about work or school as soon as they meet you.
They may ask “What brings you here?” to find out more about you without being too direct.
This question encourages you to talk more about yourself and give reasons for attending the event. (Watch the video lesson on the question “What brings you here?” for more details.)
Similarly, if you live in a city like Boston with a lot of neighborhoods and nearby cities, another neutral topic is asking for more details about where you live.
- Do you live in __(this city/this neighborhood)__?
- What brings you to __(this city/this area)__?
- Where do you live?
- Where are you living?
- What kind of place do you live in? (Is it an apartment, a house, a dormitory, etc.?)
- What’s your place like?
- How do you like living here/there?
If you are just visiting or are not from the United States, people will usually ask you more questions about your background and for your opinion about their city.
- Where are you from originally?
- Where are you from in __(your country)__?
- What are you doing in __(this city)__?
- How do you like living here?
- What do you think about __(this city)__?
- Do you like it here?
Asking about Romantic Partners and Family
Let’s be honest: if you are single and talking to someone attractive, you probably want to know whether they have a boyfriend/girlfriend or romantic partner, are married, or have kids.
However, it’s best not to be too direct when asking questions about the other person’s relationships. You can ask in a more indirect way:
- Are you here with anyone?
- Did you come here with anyone?
- Did you move to __(this city)__ on your own?
- Do you live with anyone / with roommates? (Note: In most countries, people live with their parents until they get married, but this is not that common in the United States. If you ask someone older than 20 if they live with their family, they may be confused or assume that you think they are married with children.)
If you have been talking to this new person for a while, you can ask more direct questions:
- Is there anyone special in your life?
- Do you have any kids?
Americans also really like their pets, so it’s common to ask, “Do you have any pets?”
Remember that you should not make someone feel bad for being single. Americans get married later than people in many countries. If the person you are talking to says that he/she is single, you can always talk about the good things about being single, like the freedom to travel!
After learning basic information about the person you have just met, you can continue the conversation by asking him/her more general questions.
This also enables you to find something in common! Here are some basic questions to start with:
- What do you like to do?
- What do you like to do outside of work/school?
- What kinds of things interest you?
- What kinds of things do you do in your free time?
- Do you like/watch/follow any sports/TV series?
Deciding to Continue or End the Conversation
As you can see, making small talk with someone you’ve just met is easy if you remember to stick to neutral, general conversation topics.
After you’ve talked for a while, you may want to continue the conversation and can ask for more details about their work, studies, or interests. (Get some suggestions in my free guide to more interesting small talk.)
If you don’t want to continue talking, you should end the conversation politely:
- It was nice meeting you. See you later!
- There is someone I want to say “hi” to over there. Nice talking with you!
- I’m going to get a drink/some water. Nice to meet you!