By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer
"I started drifting away from people," says Jaunty graduate, Issam. Eight years ago, fresh out of college, he moved to the Bay Area from the East Coast, where he'd lived since moving from Syria when he was ten. In California, he made "deep friendships". Then in 2010, something shifted.
"I was busy; I was a working professional now." He felt he wasn't so ready to interact and speak with people. "I'd only go out by myself to events or to enjoy nature. It was good. I liked it in the beginning, but then I felt it was beginning to have a negative effect on people's perceptions of me."
He felt people saw him as a "loner guy." "I made very little eye contact at work," Issam remembers. He had trouble connecting with his co-workers who he felt were trying to force him out of his shell. "I found it really intrusive that they wouldn't just let me keep to myself."
At a new company, Issam hoped for a fresh start. He says he, "Tried to be a little more social, but felt really awkward doing it." Sometimes he forced himself to talk with people or go out to lunch with his new co-workers, but he usually just wanted to be alone and do his job.
Issam got really into spirituality, and spent a lot of time thinking about what he was learning. However, the less we interact with others, the harder it can become to be social.
"I didn't mean not to be social. But I felt some people were hostile to me because I preferred spending time alone. Maybe they thought I thought I was better than them. But really I was just in my head."
During this "period of prolonged introspection," Issam says, "I felt the quality of my interactions with people wasn't as good as I really hoped for in my life. I was giving a lot of time for myself at the expense of my social life and meeting people, and gaining new experiences."
"It started bothering me not having friends. So I went to Meetup.com, to be social with like-minded people. Somehow I found SF Freeschool on Meetup." He went to Jaunty's free workshop and everything started to change.
Issam found workshop's eye contact exercises, "quite challenging." Then, "The next day I felt more openness in looking at people and feeling fine with it. That really made it for me."
After a group session with Eric and a few other people from the workshop, Issam signed up for Jaunty's six-week course.
How has Jaunty been for him? "It's helped me. Approaching people and keeping the conversation going. You just follow the formula. Also I feel my voice projection is better and the way people look at me." He uses conversational agility techniques because he feels they're effective and people respond positively to them.
"I think about anyone would benefit from Jaunty," Issam says. "One of the benefits I experienced in the class, is slowing down. Don't answer too fast. Give that two second thought before you respond to someone. That's something I want to keep working on, slowing down and being more present. Before everything was rush, rush, rush, do, do, do. I'd lost that slowing down, trying to meet deadlines and goals. People expect you to have the answer right away. Nobody has the answer right away. I'm not afraid of sounding stupid. Let me slow down, let me give you the answer."
Issam works as a contractor and has been using his social intelligence skills during job interviews. "I feel like it's helped me to leave a better impression." He finds he can carry a conversation a lot longer than before the class. And he's rocking the eye contact.
By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
Everyone has ups and downs. The best of the best, whoever that means to you, do too. Here at Jaunty, we often work with people at the top of their game, and literally at the top of the economic, social, and psychological food chain. When we read their bios or blogs, or watch documentaries about them, we learn about times they were at a low point in their lives and how they got through it. It's inspiring. Someone else's highs and lows might be more dramatic than ours, (I'm looking at you, Cinderella.) but it's cool thinking how life is a bumpy road for everyone, and there's a lot we can learn from people who have successfully gotten themselves out of a bad place.
A great first step to making positive changes in our lives is taking an honest look at where we're at and figuring out what we want to change. Every New Year's Eve, the ball drops. Are you dropping the ball in your life? Remember, the ball is in your court.
For the past decade, I've rated each year in my life.
These days I use something called the Wheel of Life. Not to be confused with the "Circle of Life" (What's up, Lion King?), the Wheel of Life is an exercise a lot of life coaches use to take a snapshot of where their client's life is at the moment. A circle is divided into eight sections, like pieces of a pie. The slices are big categories like family/friends, partner/romance, career, money, health, physical environment, fun, and personal growth. You can pick whatever categories you like, but you get the idea. The whole circle is marked up like a dart board or a radar screen, with numbers going out from the center to the edge. The dead center is zero and the outer edge is ten. You decide how satisfied you are with each slice of your life and draw a line around the edge to give it a numeric score.
When I do this exercise, I don't think about how things were in the past, or how I'd like them to be in the future. Instead I score each slice of my life, as honestly as I can, for how it is right now. Then I step back and look at the shape I've drawn. Are some sections a lot bigger than others? If this was a real wheel, would it be a really bumpy ride or pretty smooth sailing?
Then I decide what I want to work on in the coming year. Maybe I scored myself an eight for family/friends, but health is only a seven. I might decide to start eating better, spend more time at the gym, and be better about doing daily exercise.
If you like, you can add up all your slices and divide by eight to get a sort of rough average for your life at the moment.
I also write out my high-level priorities for the next year. Here's what I'm thinking for 2016:
Time with family and friends
Exercise and eating healthy food
A lot can fall under these, but if I ever need to make a decision, knowing my priorities are critical. These are ranked in order and the order changes sometimes. Also, there are some things that I've been thinking about, but that aren't on the radar yet. For example, I'd like to get back into American Kenpo Karate and survival skills training has also been something I've been intrigued with for a long time, but these will have to wait.
Overall, 2015 felt way more stable than past years and I feel good that my list seems to have gotten less naughty.
What did 2015 look like for you? What are your high-level priorities for 2016? Take a spin on the Wheel of Life and let me know what you discover.