By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
Jaunty graduate Paula Spiese describes dealing with "social shyness" her whole life. She laughs saying, "I don't really have this problem at work at all. And if you were to ask my friends they'd say, 'She's not shy! She plays on stage.'" Indeed, Paula plays guitar and percussion, with a large circle of musician friends, playing traditional European dance tunes, North African music and the blues.
Paula is a project manager and website content specialist. She's also writing a mystery novel and an illustrated kids' sci-fi book she's working on with a friend. "I've always loved to write, ever since I was little kid I loved writing like crazy," she says.
She'd been trying to push through her shyness for the past couple of years, but felt she still had a ways to go.
"My social group is awesome, I'm really fortunate," she says. "But I would sometimes be at a party full of people I knew and still feel awkward. Unless some of my best friends were there, I'd look around and still feel like I was by myself." Paula dreamed of being able to, "Walk in anywhere and approach anyone, and talk to them.
This goal became especially important last fall when she heard about the San Francisco Writers Conference in February. She really wanted to go, but had a vision of herself standing against a wall and not talking to anyone.
She discovered Jaunty on Meetup and was so delighted by the free workshop she signed up for the six-week course.
"That whole coursework is really thought out," Paula says. "I consider myself a funny person, but seeing the humor broken down like that was really interesting! I got something out of every single class."
Before Jaunty, she could start a conversation if she had a clear reason, but says, "Walking into a bar and just talking with someone would be impossible."
To work on their cold approaches, Paula and a classmate went to a business networking Meetup. Paula spotted a man standing off by himself. "I had no reason to talk with him." But she knew she needed to go up to him. "It was scary. My heart was pounding. And then of course he was perfectly nice and everything was great."
These days, Paula says cold approaches aren't that big of a deal for her. "It's like jumping into a cold pool. Once you go up to someone and say, 'Hey, so what have you been up to today?' It's not that bad."
At the Writers Conference, Paula spotted one of her favorite authors signing books after a workshop. "I waltzed right up to him and sat down, and engaged in this fifteen or twenty minute conversation with him. We talked about doing a trade where I could do some SEO stuff for his website and he could help me with some editing." She feels she never could have done this before Jaunty.
Paula was so inspired by the conference that the day she got back to work she handed in her two-week notice. Now she's focusing on her music and fiction writing, and consults part-time.
Paula enjoys going out with her new Jaunty friends and has been making connections with musicians from her larger circle who she'd previously felt too shy to talk with.
"I think no matter where someone is on the social anxiety or shyness scale, they'd get a lot of benefit with Jaunty, whether it's the six-week course or a one-on-one," Paula says. "I was amazed by what a huge change it's made."
By Craig Gibbons, Jaunty Social Trainer
Sometimes I can't stand to watch a Michael Cera movie, like Juno, because his juvenile awkwardness is just so uncomfortable. Thinking about it, though, I realize that I'm uncomfortable because I can relate so much to the situations that he gets caught in. I'm empathizing with him and can feel the anxiety that awkwardness causes in the situation – almost enough to make me to want to turn off the movie. It's funny – empathy can be the cause of stress, but it's also the way we make a connection with others. By being aware of our own empathy, we can use it to connect to others and take advantage of the situation for the better.
For instance, when I was in college, I was studying in the library when a woman walked in and sat at the table behind me. She was talking loudly on the phone and being kind of obnoxious. I looked back and saw the woman, who seemed very wrapped up in her own little world. A young man was seated across from her trying to read a book. I could see an annoyed look on the guy's face before I turned back toward my own work and tried to block out the woman's talking. After a few minutes, the aggravated young man finally made a request for the woman to go outside. The woman immediately became defensive and hostile toward him. The two began to vocally fight. The young man was not handling the situation in the best way, and the woman seemed to intentionally be trying to start something.
Outside of the tension of their situation, I realized that I was feeling stressed out just having to listen. I was empathizing with the discomfort of their public argument. But then I stopped listening and turned my head to look at everyone else in the room. In the immediate area, I could see about ten people either looking directly at the scene or visibly showing anxiety from the tension. As the fight went on, all our tension went higher and higher until I couldn't take it anymore. I didn't want to feel the tension, and I didn't want anyone else to feel it either. I realized that I could do something about it, and assertively interrupted them.
I said, "Hey guys, I don't think it's your intention, but your arguing is causing us a lot of tension. What can we do about this?"
Afterwards, I could feel the release of tension among myself and all the people within earshot. I suddenly became the hero of the room. I wouldn't have known that it was affecting everyone else if I hadn't taken a second to be aware of everyone else's feelings. I could sense that the nearby students were grateful that the situation was over. Afterwards, someone sitting nearby turned and expressed their gratitude that the argument was over.
Recognizing how other people are feeling, and identifying with those feelings allows us to take action in a way that will positively affect our status. You can become the hero of conversation. You can make someone's day. You can even stop something that's negatively affecting the emotions of others. Empathy is a tool that we can use with strategy and intuition to benefit us. You may not be the best at empathizing, but you can learn. What kind of situations have you been in where you could empathize with someone else, and what could you have done to help?
By Adrian Robinson, Jaunty graduate
What is a social economic immigrant? How can someone born in a country be unaware of its social norms, cues, and customs? Where do you learn these social skills?
I was born in Washington, DC. You might be picturing the US Capitol, the White House, and the Monument. Unfortunately, I was not born in this part of DC. Imagine a neighborhood rife with drugs and violence. As a result, social interactions were driven by people suffering from anger and depression. People were trust-averse and therefore unable to fully emotionally invest in social interactions.
I attended urban public schools until I entered the University of Maryland. Suddenly I realized my upbringing hadn't prepared me to interact with conventional society. I was able to navigate academic and professional interactions, but socially I could be awkward. My sophomore year, I was eating dinner with floormates in the cafeteria, when one of them reached over my plate to grab the salt shaker. In my old neighborhood, reaching over someone's food is a sign of disrespect and I responded with a confrontational, "What's up?" Everyone at the table was shocked. It was clear that I had overreacted. It did not feel good.
My sense of humor turned out to be my saving grace in college. After graduating, I interned on Capitol Hill and performed stand up comedy. I moved to Colorado to work on the Obama 2012 campaign, where I loved interacting with campaign staff, volunteers, and voters. The campaign was the first time I felt like a member of a social community, not a visitor. After helping to organize the inauguration, I moved to San Francisco. Suddenly I couldn't hide my social awkwardness behind politics and public policy, so I hid behind business and technology.
My professional life excelled while my social life failed. I needed to change. I researched social intelligence and discovered Jaunty. I attended the free workshop and signed up for private coaching which was a better fit for my schedule than the six-week course. Each session felt empowering, as Eric coached me on conversational agility, body language, and touch. Immediately, I was able to connect with people on a social level. Complete strangers from coffee shops and bookstores invited me to their parties and social events. The social dynamic of my existing relationships expanded too. I felt like a member of a community again, but my community was not limited to political thinkers.
Wanting to test my social progress, last September I traveled to Portland, OR for a week. It was a birthday gift to myself in the form of a social challenge: to visit a new city and use my social skills to find fun activities. I spent my days approaching strangers to find the best places to eat, drink, and party. On my birthday, I met some local artists in a bar who invited me to their art show, a tribute to the 20th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready to Die" album, one of my all time favorite albums. The event was the best birthday gift and the trip was the best week of my life. I avoided social awkwardness without using politics or business talk as a crutch. After returning from Portland, I felt like an immigrant who was awarded his green card.
By Eric Waisman
This blog was originally published in Jaunty's July newsletter after Eric came back to San Francisco after spending a few months living in New York City.
Straight guys and gay women, brush up on your social skills and get your asses to Manhattan. You'll thank me later.
During the past few months, whenever I went out in NYC, I saw way more groups of women than men. (The photo above is a typical NYC night out.) What's up with that? Are NYC's guys all staying in watching the game? Actually, it turns out there are a ton more women than guys there. According to the Census, there's a 150,000 single woman surplus in NYC.
This has created a weird dynamic between the city's straight men and women. Female friends told me about women who believe they need to have sex on the first date or there won't be a second date. They're afraid if they don't, "he'll move on to someone else".
This may seem amazing for straight guys but at a point it actually hurts them in finding a long-term partner. If guys get used to moving on very quickly, it can become a habit. They might find themselves cycling through endless women rather than finding love.
When I was in NYC, whenever I approached groups of women, they were always eager to keep the conversation going. One night, I started talking with a group of beautiful women and as the conversation progressed, more of their friends kept showing up to meet with them. It turned out that many of them were reuniting after not having seen each other for many years. Yet they seemed way more interested in chatting with me and my friend than catching up with each other. It was almost like they hadn't had a great conversation with a guy in a long time.
Let's Jaunty it up with some tips for New Yorkers:
Women - Build sexual tension
Hook up if you want to. But if you want a relationship with a guy, don't do anything out of fear or before you're ready. You think if you don't he'll just run to someone who will? Give yourself some credit. You're awesome! It's better to play it cool and know the guy is really interested in you. Instead, focus on building sexual tension by being really playful with interesting conversation sprinkled in. When you do go for it, the sex will be way better.
Men - Give the gift of time
You've got a sweet thing going on here, but be careful with the abundance and the revolving door mentality. Having such a surplus of amazing women can be overwhelming to the point of paralysis. (Like when you have way too many choices on a menu.) Also it can lead to a "the grass is always greener on the other side" loop, which leaves you feeling empty and alone. So keep up with your Jaunty skills and give the gift of time to every woman. Have some patience and get to know them. Sex with some emotional investment can be pretty incredible.
What's the deal here in San Francisco?
As it turns out we have a surplus of single guys, an extra 50,000 according to the Census. This means if you're a single, gay man or straight woman looking for love in San Francisco, you have NO excuses.
Whoever you are and wherever you live, be bold and approach. Say hi. If you've been to a Jaunty workshop then you have the skills to know what to say next. If you've taken a Jaunty course then you have the skills to do whatever you want. And pay attention to your body language. Make it a habit.
Seriously, how many hotties have you said hi to this month? Be honest. If you're still single and seriously looking for a relationship then that number might not be big enough.
Keep sharpening your social skills, because your moment to meet someone can happen anywhere.
By Adrienne Fraser, Jaunty graduate
My close circle of friends know me well and probably wouldn't have seen me as someone with social anxiety.
But in big groups and work events I used to drive through any anxiety by gritting my teeth. "Just get through it, just get through it," I'd tell myself. And I did, but with very little joy.
I have always been an introvert and preferred to make deeper "one on one" connections in lieu of having many acquaintances and a large social circle. But as I've grown older, this preference has not always served me well.
Recently, I found myself in a time of transition. Close friends had moved away, I was recovering from burnout, two knee surgeries and a break-up. Additionally, I was pursuing a new tangent of my career at a much larger company. I needed to quickly establish connections with my new co-workers. I was missing out on important off-the-clock conversations - things I needed to know about.
Yet, despite having made some crucial changes for the better, I was still on the defensive and my various stressors exacerbated my social anxiety. I knew I needed to find new ways of interacting with people and move on with my life.
Every week, I set my goals and pushed myself to meet them. About halfway through the course, my friends and family said, "Wow, you seem so different and happy! It's great!" I felt lighter. I was actually having fun approaching new people, engaging in interesting conversations with ease and was invited to lunches and happy hours at work. I was brought onboard for new projects, presented business plans to directors and even received top marks in "people skills" on my annual review.
With the help of Jaunty, I blazed down my new path of social freedom. I went from stiff, guarded, introvert to a smiling, confident, woman of the world in six weeks! Now, I feel amazing and self-assured that I can approach anyone and talk to anyone. In fact, I'm off now to make dinner for new friends. We're having enchiladas, tonight. Sounds good, right?
So there I was, sitting at home, cat in lap, searching for classes on Meetup that might help. I had dreams of dinner parties and arranging intimate gatherings where friends meet friends and maybe even fall in love. You know, things we read about in books set in France. Then I came across Jaunty.
The six-week course seemed perfect, an individualized experience with the support of a classroom environment. Just what I needed!
There I was on my first day of Jaunty, crossed arms and stiff jaw, in essence protecting myself from strangers in an unknown environment. But with the support of Jaunty and my classmates, I learned to slow-down, release tension and allowed myself to open up to my dream of a new and improved social life.
I used to have so much fear in approaching new people and starting a conversation. I was scared people would think I was bothering them, or that strangers might be mean to me. Through Jaunty, I realized that my belief was not grounded in fact, and usually quite the opposite was true. Over time, my old belief was replaced with my new belief; in essence, there are people out there in the world just waiting to meet me!
By Eric Waisman
"We met at a speed-dating event."
Have you ever heard anyone in a successful, long-term relationship say this? I haven't. I also can't remember the last time I heard about a great deal or connection being made at a networking event, you know, the kind with nametags.
Kind of weird, right? These two types of events seem like they should work wonders because everyone is "qualified," meaning they're available and looking. But there can be something stiff and unnatural about networking. Maybe it's a little too obvious that everyone's looking for someone who can help them get ahead. Also, both events actually ignore a very important element of attraction: serendipity.
Meeting someone by chance feels like pure magic. There's a thrill to meeting someone special on an airplane or during a lunch break at a park. And business deals made on the golf course often seem to work out better.
Throwing a veil over the exchange can create a much more genuine connection. Think of the cliché of people who join a country club and barely exercise. And (for those who do want to exercise,) there are lots of dating Meetups with a fun layer like, "The Singles Hiking Group". It could just as easily be called "The Hiking Group". The key is anything can act as an excuse to start talking with someone new.
I would almost say that online dating or posting your resume online has a little more serendipity than speed-dating or a networking event. At least you still have to find each other, and there is some intrigue and uncertainty when you do finally meet.
A networking event, by the way, is not to be confused with a charity event, art opening, gala, launch party, or cocktail party where great networking really can happen. I guess having a label stuck to your shirt kind of kills any serendipity. "Hi there...um, Bob. So what do you do?" Nooo! Run away!
Something we found at Jaunty is that serendipity is everywhere and a huge part of what we call "luck" is actually awareness and skill sets. Looking for people around you in any setting, can be like networking anywhere!
My last two long-term relationships were from meeting on the street and at a chill bar. These both felt very spontaneous, especially the latter, since I wasn't even looking for a relationship since I'd just gotten out of one. But that little hello turned into us talking for hours that seemed to fly by. You can't plan for that stranger to be there at the right time so it feels pretty special.
My last trip to NYC was a great success due in part to a conversation I had with a stranger, years ago at a NY bar. The woman has since become a wonderful friend and when she heard I was frantically searching for a place in Manhattan, she set me up with a family member's apartment that was walking distance of the Jaunty office. You really never know where a bold approach will take you.
Stop and think about your last serendipitous moment. If you're struggling to think of something, I'd suggest changing some social behaviors to help encourage them.
The way I see it, technically there are way more magical moments around you than planned opportunities. Walking through downtown, getting a coffee in your local café or grocery shopping, all have a surplus of spontaneous moments. On the other hand, there are a limited number of singles or networking events in anyone's calendar.
"But Eric," you say, "At least I know that they're looking."
Sure, if you meet someone at a speed-dating event you know they're single and folks at a networking event want to talk business. (Though I would argue they might be there because their social circle may be a bit weak.)
Okay, so maybe you find out that the person you chatted up at the beach isn't single or doesn't need your services. That's cool. Maybe you can be friends and if you did a great job in your interaction, then they might have a cute friend or the perfect business connection which comes to mind down the road.
Here my social dynamos, is your friendly reminder: Be open to serendipity and opportunities 24/7. Creating these opportunities takes practice, but as we found out at Jaunty, it's all learnable. Plus, it's always nice to have a good answer to, "How did you guys meet?"