By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
"Public speaking used to make me really nervous," Jaunty graduate Ashmi Pathela says. She was good at sounding confident, but had to work to hide her nervousness during any presentation.
Ashmi's first language is Japanese, and though she moved from Japan to the States when she was only five, she always felt pressure to speak well and blend in with her peers. Don't stumble over your words. Whether a product of her culture or just her personality, that voice in her head was always getting in the way.
"This year, I've been focusing on personal development," Ashmi says. As a Senior Marketing Manager at an activities and events software company, she felt the best way to develop her leadership skills was to improve her social intelligence. She attended a free Jaunty workshop and saw the six-week course as a great way to build deeper connections with peers, both personally and professionally.
"Approaching strangers is easy for me if it's at an event, like a party or for networking. But approaching someone on the street in broad daylight without having a reason is super challenging." During the course, Ashmi had lots of opportunities to practice overcoming those initial hesitations, and a funny thing happened. When she started approaching and introducing herself to new people, she noticed more people started approaching her too. Maybe she was holding herself differently. Or perhaps she was being more present and noticing more people around her. Either way, the world got a little smaller once she got out of her own head.
Ashmi especially enjoyed Jaunty's segment on humor. Half Japanese and half Indian, Ashmi says, "Japanese people don't use sarcasm or dry humor that freely, including my close family members. Since I grew up without it, it was always hard for me to pick up."
Jaunty's class on humor breaks down different elements of high status humor and explains the science behind it. Ashmi loved trying it out and seeing it work. Now, she looks for ways to be more playful in her daily life, especially through language. Ashmi feels humor is a wonderful way to build rapport with people and "laugh along with the world."
And how about public speaking? At a recent annual off-site, Ashmi presented in front of her entire company. Instead of focusing on her nerves, she thought about the value she was delivering to her colleagues. She used many of her Jaunty skills like slowing down, remembering to pause, and projecting - and it was the most confident she's ever been. "It was the first time I didn't have to hide any nervousness, because I felt confident inside." Afterwards, people came up and complimented her on her speech.
Ashmi feels anyone can benefit from Jaunty. "It's not often that people make the time or effort to invest in themselves. Jaunty can really impact your personal interactions, confidence level, and how you present yourself to the world. I've had so many more meaningful connections by learning how to slow down and really listen." Indeed, Ashmi feels her new-found social intelligence is helping her "build closer relationships with others by living a more present life."
By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
I discovered Jaunty through a housemate. She was surprised I was interested. My mom was too. They both saw me as so social. But I had social anxiety just like everyone does to some degree. I guess I just did a decent job of hiding it.
I had moved to London after college. It was the early 2000s and global perception of the U.S. was pretty low. I felt ashamed of my Americanness and desperately wanted to fit in. Americans were loud and outgoing, so I made myself quieter and more reserved. I made friends through grad school, work and my book group, but rarely approached strangers. There were times I wanted to be more boldly social, but I held myself back because people were guarded and I was afraid of breaking some unspoken taboo.
When I moved back to the States nearly a decade later, I initially felt like a stranger in my own country. I didn't know what the rules were anymore.
After living in San Francisco for a year and a half, I had some friends I liked a lot, but hadn't cultivated the community I really wanted yet. I was a writer, working part-time as a nanny, which meant I was often either hanging out with a toddler, or alone, writing. I'd become good at connecting with people I had things in common with, but wasn't sure how to keep a conversation going with everyone else. Sometimes I felt friendly, outgoing and poised. But other times I felt awkward, speaking quickly and stumbling over my words.
Winter of 2014, I signed up for Jaunty's free workshop which was a total eye-opener. I carried on with the six-week course which transformed the way I interacted with others. I learned to speak slower, play with pauses and suddenly became aware of how much I fidgeted when I was uncomfortable. I practiced uncrossing my arms and became more at ease with stillness. It was hard, but I felt really good starting to hold myself in this new way.
Around week two, I realized for as much as I loved London, I'd picked up some bad habits out there. I'd internalized a laundry list of assumptions about how to behave -- don't interrupt (it's rude), don't approach strangers (they'll think you're a crazy American), etc. etc. These rules might have made sense for London, but in San Francisco they were holding me back from connecting with people.
Jaunty assigned homework and paired us with another student as an "accountability partner". Every day I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, stopping strangers in the street, experimenting with different types of humor and getting people's phone numbers. I felt like I was discovering a totally new way of being in the world. I even learned how to connect with people I had very little in common with. Learning new people skills was exciting and I felt I was making real progress. A huge breakthrough came when I successfully befriended a woman on an elevator, something I never could have done pre-Jaunty.
Now more than a year since the course ended and I'm continuing to work on my Jaunty skills. I feel like I'm getting back to my original, authentic self. I'm more confident and realize if I give in to social anxiety, I'm only holding myself back. I feel like I'm starting to create the community I want. And thanks to Jaunty, I now know I can strike up a conversation with anyone and make friends everywhere I go.
This blog was originally published in Jaunty's September newsletter.
By Eric Waisman
When you own it, some strangeness can impress and intrigue.
Look around you. Most people do their best to conform and fit in...like it's a good thing. But when it comes to being memorable or attractive, blending in spells certain death.
When I studied abroad in Israel, I joined a group of 500 students from all over the world, all excited to establish our places socially. In the first few days, cliques formed and a few beautiful, alpha females and loud, good-looking alpha males, started rising to the top of the social hierarchy. When the alphas got together, they wore tight shirts and used very loud (sometimes drunk) voices. Meanwhile I tried to meet people across all different groups to see who I liked.
I had accidentally enrolled in a Hebrew language class that was way too advanced for me. Instead of learning basic words, this class was already working on advanced storytelling. I felt like an alien. I ended up saying really weird phrases, but owning the fact that I probably sounded ridiculous. This may have come off as independent and creative, I have no idea. Interestingly, I started getting a lot of attention from the other students.
On the weekends, I sometimes disappeared from the group as my cousins showed me around Israel. As I got immersed in the culture, I started dressing, talking, eating, and acting like Israelis. I'd come back to the group, tanned and full of great stories. They listened, eager as I shared tips about the best hotspots around us. I was unknowingly leading, and I started holding very strong eye contact, which Israelis are accustomed to. For an unknown reason I also started to use darker humor.
I quickly realized that almost everyone wanted to hang out with me, including the alpha females. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I was just exploring, experimenting, and doing what was interesting to me. It turned out my being a bit different was interesting to a lot of other people too.
Think back on some of your first few weeks at school while you were growing up. How did you establish yourself socially? What would you do now to either be yourself or try to fit in? Think about the kids you admired in your schools and what they did to stand out. Now I urge you to celebrate your quirks rather than hide them. Have fun expanding and exploiting what is uniquely you. Now, go and be your weird self.
By Elenzia Thompson, Jaunty graduate
How does this happen? How does a socially anxious woman go from hiding in her protective shell, to venturing out, taking risks and allowing herself to be vulnerable to the thing that torments her the most?
"You're unapproachable." "Why are you so quiet?" "You're a snob." "What's wrong, are you angry?" These are a few of the statements I heard from others, at work, social functions, parties, bars and night clubs. Hearing people's assumptions about me became the reason I cowered and closed myself off from the world.
Surely, there was a valid explanation for my aloofness. I kept myself in prison because I allowed the opinions of others to determine my self worth. This definitely wasn't an empowering way to live. Although I feared how people would perceive me, I actually craved human closeness and social interaction. After battling with myself for a number of years, I determined that I didn't want to be in prison for life. I needed to do something different.
I joined a car club after buying a muscle car. I got involved in martial arts. I was featured in a comic anthology. I discovered Meetups. But I struggled to keep conversations flowing, and engaging strangers, especially with men that I had found attractive. I definitely gave myself credit for taking risks, finding new things that interested me, and getting out of my shell to meet new people. But I soon discovered that my fear and social skill deficits, continued to hold me back. I started reading about social anxiety and found Jaunty.
When I signed up for the free workshop, I didn't know what to expect. I knew it was very important to me to get over my fear of rejection when introducing myself to strangers. I knew that I wanted to improve my eye contact and conversational agility, believing it would bolster my confidence. I knew that I wanted to make new friends. Ultimately, I no longer wanted fear to color every social interaction I encountered. When I finished the workshop, I had made significant progress, reducing my social anxiety, and met awesome people who shared similar struggles to my own.
A few months after completing the six-week course, I'm definitely more confident. I introduce myself to strangers, give compliments, ask questions, have strong eye contact, and hold down conversations with ease.
Still, life has its way of throwing social challenges my way and things don't always go like I'd hope. Over the summer, I went on a Meetup hike with a large group of strangers. I made an effort to introduce myself to everyone. Unfortunately some people weren't very friendly and I was left behind. It was a painful experience, but afterwards, I reminded myself of how far I had come. I didn't allow one afternoon with strangers to discourage me from pushing myself socially. I'm proud of myself for being so resilient.
This resilience keeps paying off in wonderful ways. I've participated in a number of activities and events where I've met lots of great people. For whatever reason, now when sharing stories with strangers, they're often inclined to share their food with me -- a touching gesture of friendship. I've also been told that I'm very outgoing, radiant, and easy to talk to. People tell me my smile is beautiful and inviting. Many people actually start conversations with me now.
I've discovered that I have the power to choose who I want in my life, so it's no big deal if one stranger isn't receptive to my offerings of friendship. That's their choice. Challenging my fears and misconceptions about social interactions has resulted in powerful changes in my life. There is nothing out there that will keep me from being open to meeting people. I have an amazing story to share because of where I was and where I am now. I look forward to sharing this story with new friends and I'm excited to hear their amazing stories too!