By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer
Small talk always came easily to Varun Kaushik, who recently graduated from Jaunty's six-week course. "I dabble in a lot of different things and get to meet a lot of people," Varun says. He goes to Meetups for hiking, networking, biking, improv, tennis, Spanish, wine tasting, etc. But he wanted to learn how move beyond the basic get to know you chit chat and build a lasting connection.
There was another issue too. Varun has to travel a ton for work in his job as a chemical engineer. During the first six months of the year, he was only in home for six weeks. Understandably, being away so much and working long hours makes it hard to nurture friendships.
Varun has always moved around a lot. With the exception of a year and a half in the Netherlands, he lived in India until he was twelve. During seventh grade, he moved to the U.S. with his family. Since then he's lived in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, "A Smallville-like town in Michigan" and now the Bay Area. He speaks four languages and is currently learning a fifth. He's nothing if not adaptable.
"When I moved to the U.S., I spoke British English with an Indian accent. Now I can also speak American English with a Mid-Western accent, if it helps me fit in."
At some point, Varun realized that he had never instigated friendships or relationships. His past friendships happened by chance rather than deliberately choosing them. Varun was great at putting himself in fun situations with interesting people. Now he wanted a higher conversion of turning those encounters into real friendships.
Varun went to the free Jaunty workshop through Meetup and signed up for Jaunty's six-week course.
He enjoyed learning new ways of interacting with people. "And doing it in a fun way that makes you memorable. Conversational agility, all those things where you at least make a good impression and feel you can continue it."
Jaunty teaches specific humor formulas and even now after the course, Varun keeps a humor hypothesis diary where he keeps track of what works in different situations and what doesn't. He's curious and motivated to keep experimenting with his new social skills.
Varun has discovered that some people connect through conversation, where others are more into activities. This came through an interpretation of one of Jaunty's uses of open ended questions. At Jaunty we're taught about empathy and learning other people's interests. Now Varun likes to, "Treat people like they wanted to be treated."
If Varun is on a hike with a new friend, he'll adapt to them for thirty minutes. "If they want to talk, talk. Then use your assertiveness and change topics to something you want to talk about." He appreciates the "give and take of how you adapt to people. It's really about finding some kind of balance of asserting yourself and letting the other person lead."
So how is Varun doing instigating friendships and building connections?
"I did a Meetup bar crawl after Jaunty. I live in Oakland and met three people who literally live ten blocks from me." He went through the conversation structural script. They talked about the Warriors and more people joined in until it was a "social cyclone" with eight people. "I told myself I'll just get two contact numbers and I'll call this bar crawl a success." He left with three numbers and became friends with two of their friends. He introduced them to some Jaunty people. Now they meet up all the time and have become good friends.
When asked who he thinks would benefit from Jaunty, Varun says, "I think anyone could, theoretically. But the ones who would benefit the most are the ones who know what they're looking for. I wanted to get past the small talk. Other people in my class wanted to get more clients at a business meeting, other people want to talk with a potential date."
Knowing his travel schedule for work wasn't sustainable, Varun interviewed for a new job so he wouldn't have to travel so much. He used a lot of the social intelligence skills he'd learned at Jaunty, including "cold reading," being aware of his body language, "And a job interview version of the conversational formulas. People like that. The moment the interview becomes a conversation you know you're doing something right." Varun actually got a job offer and starts in February.
,By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
Big family meals, office holiday parties, and festive happy hours. There's this misconception that only introverts need alone time and extroverts can just keep going and going. Well guess, what? We all need time that's just for us. As we move into the holiday season it might seem counter-intuitive to think about alone time. But with all the awesome craziness that comes with the end of the year, it could be just what you need.
I love meeting new people, joking around with strangers, and connecting with people I care about. But as social as I am and as social as our students become, alone time is still vital. My close friends can attest to me freaking out and needing alone time after social binges.
Imagine you're lost in an underwater cave and then discover an air pocket. That's how Eric Time feels to me. Precious. Most of my best ideas, music and thoughts have come when I was alone. I think a lot. (Maybe too much, but I'll have to think about that.) Chilling out on my own, I've come up with unique ways to solve business challenges or handle relationship issues. These moments of insight come when we quiet our surroundings and our minds.
Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth century French philosopher, said, "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." So apparently we had a hard time just being on our own way before we had smart phones and the endless internet to distract the hell out of us.
Choosing to spend time alone is different from loneliness. Alone time can be really fun and you get to do exactly what you want. When I make time for myself, I love reading, playing the guitar, exploring, having adventures, and meditating (to quiet that monkey mind). I just booked a getaway for three days in beautiful Kenwood, up in Sonoma County. I'm bringing a laptop, two books and my guitar. I hope to get some good work done and plenty of relaxing, while throwing FOMO in the wind. Will I miss out on parties, brunches, and cool events in the city that weekend? Sure. But I'll be breathing in that sweet air of Eric Time and I know I'll come home feeling recharged and ready for more.
This holiday season, in-between time with family and friends, remember to take care of yourself and make time for you too.