By Josh Kohansamad, Jaunty grad
I strode into the interview room with poise and intention. My eyes were fixed, soft, and warm as I met the interviewer and made my way into the interview room. As I lowered my body into my seat, I slowly looked around the room with curiosity, blinking back at a snail's pace to meet the interviewer with a half-smile.
Four years prior I was in Honolulu for New Year's. I was with my family, meandering along the pristine coastline in Waikiki. As we walked, I began to wonder if a memo had gone out to beautiful women everywhere to congregate there that night. My brain started rapidly churning, trying to come up with a natural way to meet someone there. But it was a lost cause. Not only did I have that weird "mom's watching" feeling, I realized I knew very little about how to approach and connect with strangers. In that moment I vowed to make a change. I needed an education in social intelligence: an education that, unfortunately, only few of us ever actually receive.
As with any living creature, humans are constantly interacting with one another. If we are going to be social – which we are unless we live in a dark cave the rest of our lives – then it seems sensible to me to understand how to create relationships from a place of abundance. It seems wise to know how to initiate any conversation, anytime, anywhere, with anyone, and learn how to move on after rejection. It is increasingly important in an age of self-criticism to understand how to improve oneself whilst showing compassion and thoughtfulness for the efforts made. Jaunty has been an education in all of this and more. No longer am I playing pin-the-tail on the donkey with social interactions, aimlessly trying to hit a moving target. The blindfold is off; my actions are simultaneously calculated and intentional, playful and spontaneous.
During Jaunty's six week course, I gained skills that have given me external success. However, I believe Jaunty's true power lies in the internal shift created. What blows me away on a daily basis is that the more I practice the suggested behaviors, the greater my own self-image becomes. Behavior wags the tail of feelings. Whether you are anxious, excited, sad, mad, happy, sleepy, or any other feeling (or dwarf) the principles outlined at Jaunty can help now, so long as you work at it slowly, steadily, and persistently. Over time, initial unruly thoughts and feelings are likely to change or, even better, they won't matter.
My mind, like any properly functioning one, tends to want to control and predict events and avoid discomfort. The problem is that the information it's telling me is outdated and not as problematic as it thinks. Unlike the cavemen days, a botched approach is not life-threatening. Even if someone told me to go eat dirt, life would go on. But this rationality rarely wins the battle with feelings; here, survival instincts have the upper hand.
At Jaunty, one of the most basic, yet fundamental, lessons we learn is slowing down. In speech, movement, eye scanning, everything. I soon realized that slowing down what I did in the external world slowed down what happened inside me. Sauntering over to someone as if moving through honey makes it a lot more difficult to be anxious during the approach. The "threat" is perceived differently, likely because I am moving as if there isn't any.
My initial desire to improve my romantic interactions has now morphed into a skill-set that is applicable in any social situation. I had a wonderful interview that morning and, more importantly, developed an authentic connection with the interviewer whom I am grateful to now call boss. It appears that every day I am getting better at portraying the strongest, most sincere version of myself – what more could I ask for?
By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
Imagine you're walking down a busy, city sidewalk. Someone who happens to be walking your way, looks at you and says, "Hi, how's your day going?" Yes, they said it to you!
Right there, how did that make you feel? Before you had time to think, where did your emotions go? Did you feel defensive, excited, or neutral? All are totally legit reactions. Yes, I know, context matters. Sure you might react differently if it was a dude in a trench coat, holding a pigeon, or a hottie with a nice smile. But regardless, your three possible reactions are either negative, positive, or neutral. Well, the same goes if you'd been the one to initiate with that question. Would you be comfortable with all three reactions that may come your way?
We think about this at Jaunty. A lot. Our students have seen all of these reactions. We also know what to do in any of these situations and how to not take it personally if someone doesn’t want to talk.
Where did your mind go when you imagined this city sidewalk scenario? Did you automatically think the person wanted something from you? Seriously, like they were trying to sell something or trick you? That's fine if you did. We get asked for money a lot on the streets these days and it's understandable if you’re a bit guarded.
The saddest situation is when someone says hi, and the other person is actually a great person, but they're so nervous that they react negatively because they aren't comfortable. There’s a difference between letting the person know you’re not interested vs. being anxious and coming off as a jerk because you don't know what to do.
At Jaunty we teach social intelligence to help people feel comfortable in any situation. Our goal is for more and more people to be at ease starting and contributing to conversations. People skills are definitely learnable and you can learn what to do.
I recently went to the Flying Falafel (best falafel in SF) across the street from the office. I commented on how the lady who got her falafel after me got way more hummus than I did. We laughed and dove into a great conversation about travel and then connected on Facebook. I was really impressed with her reaction to my approach and her positive additions to our conversation. So many people in SF are quick to put their shield up. Yep, it turned out she was from Texas and visiting for the week!
I believe San Francisco can warm up too. Just as we're learning to hone our social skills and approach strangers, let's be more open to interactions that other people start too. Be open to the next "hello."