By Alex De Carvalho, Jaunty Grad
When I heard about Jaunty, I thought: “Social intelligence? This is not for me, I don’t need this, I’m from France, it’s in my blood”. After all, I had never had any problems making new friends or getting dates wherever I lived (France, Spain, Portugal, the U.S.). I was extraverted and knew all about being social. Furthermore, professionally speaking, I had been very successful per our society’s definition as I had climbed the corporate ladder quite fast. I had directed teams and complex work with numerous prestigious Fortune 500 companies and provided business advisory to senior executives across the globe. I had also had gone to many presentations and corporate sales trainings that had talked about social intelligence to some degree. So, would you agree that I did not need any class on social intelligence skills? Well, on the contrary!
You see, despite all of this, I had reached a point in my life where I felt completely lost. I had recently moved from Minneapolis to San Francisco, and shortly after, lost my corporate job as being remote was not a long-term option for my employer. At that point, I felt like an outcast, like I did not fit as everything in SF was so tech-oriented and I had zero background or expertise in this field. I could not find another job and felt it was because my corporate background was not valued here. I thought that because I was not in tech, the tech world was rejecting me.
But the truth was that I did not know what to do next with my life anyway and was finding it very hard to connect with people for friendship or business. It’s like I had completely “lost” my social intelligence skills that had helped me be so successful my whole life. I’ll admit that at that moment, I had lost confidence in myself, in my abilities and got quite depressed. I did not recognize myself and was having probably what society would call a midlife crisis.
This is when I heard about Jaunty’s social intelligence class. After overcoming some initial cultural reluctance, I decided to sign up. And can I tell you something? It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I started to gain back confidence and assertiveness with the first crazy homework. I had to ask complete strangers (people I had never talked to): “What do you think about me?” As you can imagine, I got quite nervous at first. People were going to think that I was crazy, needed to be medicated and put in a straitjacket. Then, I got excited because I had never done this before. To my surprise, the answers I got (e.g. confident, driven, loves fashion) helped me realize that I was just creating and projecting fears and thoughts that were not real. It was all in my mind! After this exercise came the theory in class around frames (my frame/reality versus other’s people’s frame). It all made so much sense!
When I look retrospectively, I got so much more out of this class than what was written on paper. First, I met some truly unique and special people that I’m now honored to call friends (and yes, some are in tech!). Second, there is truly a Jaunty “alumni spirit” that made me feel part of a community of people from all walks of life. They all came to take this training because, like me, they struggled at some point with social anxiety or self-worth for various reasons. Third, I did recover my social intelligence skills through various simple and effective frameworks and tools that were taught during the class.
I recently went on my own to an important business networking event where I did not know anybody. At first, my inner gremlin voice came up. But I was able to shut it down through 1) replacement thoughts and 2) by applying some of Jaunty’s framework. The result? I’m currently working on projects with three people I met at the event.
And most importantly, Jaunty was a lot about personal development if you were open to widening your perspective and see the bigger scheme of things. It really helped me re-wire my brain and shift my mindset by tearing down limiting (self)-beliefs and barriers that I had created. My key learning from all of this? Possibilities are limitless in this life! Anything is truly possible as we individually are the creators of our own path. And social intelligence is one of the most powerful skills to help just do that. Who would not want this?
With many on-going life projects (such as writing a book, building my company), I now look ahead with strong confidence, self-belief and a re-ignited fire. No matter where I go or what I do, I now have a secret weapon in my back pocket to help me (and others) thrive along the way. Yes, you guessed it right: social intelligence!
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.
This blog post was originally published in Jaunty's December newsletter.
Interview with Jaunty graduate Su Pang, by Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
Su Pang is a graphic designer and traveler with a dry sense of humor. Though folks wouldn't have known it, she used to worry about what to say, if she'd gel with people, or if she'd be able to hold a conversation. After social interactions, she worried if she'd done the right thing and if people liked her.
She believes these insecurities stemmed from her family. Growing up in Singapore, her mom was always second-guessing her.
"She's very protective," Su explained. "It's like Asian culture times ten. She always told me not to do things because I was going to fail. Now I'm in my forties and she's still doing that! I grew up worrying people might not be very accepting or that things were bound to not work out."
But now she trusts her instinct and feels like things always work out.
Su realized she had been attracting a lot of toxic people into her life. She was in therapy to work out issues with her mother and boost her confidence, with the goal of creating a healthier social circle. More confident, and with more positive friends, Su discovered she still didn't have the social skills she needed. She wasn't sure how to work the group and couldn’t continue a conversation for more than twenty minutes. That's when anxieties kicked in.
Su found Jaunty one night when she was looking for something fun to do. She went to the free workshop with a friend and signed up for the six-week class.
"Jaunty really pushed me," Su said. It was hard for her going out and having to talk to people for homework. But the hard work has paid off and now she has more social skills to play with.
She used to start conversations with a negative slant. Now she's more aware of that tendency and starts with something positive. Also the class reminded her that you can be super friendly, but not everyone is going to accept you.
"But that's not about you," Su said. "If you're talking with someone and they're not really welcoming or warm, just move away and talk to someone else. I used to think about it for days and feel really bad about it." Now, she just moves on and doesn’t worry about it. "That's a big deal for me because I'm a thinker." These days she tries not to get too attached to the outcome of any one interaction.
Since discovering Jaunty, she's gotten a new job and started dating a passionate woman. Incredibly, she got the job within three weeks of being back from a two month vacation in Iceland. During the interview, she used high status humor and other Jaunty skills. Her honey has told her she was most attracted to Su's confidence. Su said she'd never heard that from anyone before and used to feel nervous dating.
"Especially when you have parents who don't reassure you, it means a lot to hear something like that," Su said. She knows she's worked hard to build that confidence and is proud of how far she's come.
"This class teaches you confidence but it also teaches you to love yourself," Su said. She believes Jaunty is helpful for everyone, even if they don't have social anxiety. "This could easily be a class for public speaking and leadership. It's a class to help you live the life you want to lead."
By Eric Waisman
Does being around happy people make us happier? About half of our subjective happiness is influenced by circumstance and genetics. The other half is by behaviors and environment.
A huge part of your environment is the people that surround you. To someone who's just getting to know you, you probably look like a microcosm of the people in your life. Remember the old, "You are what you eat"? Well I think "You are who you hang out with" is even more true.
Since we're so affected by the people closest to use, it makes sense to choose our friends thoughtfully since they'll end up rubbing off on us! If you're around people who consistently prioritize work over everything else, then you may find yourself working longer hours and checking your work email at the weekend too. If you hang out with negative, cynical people then those aspects of your personality will probably become more pronounced.
At Jaunty we think a lot about consciously building a social circle that enlivens and nurtures us. Since we teach social intelligence skills to help people approach anyone and actively build the meaningful relationships they want, the sky is the limit for how you want your social life to look.
Besides becoming more like the people we spend a lot of time with, we learn so much from them too. We learn what to do in certain situations and what not to do. I'm a big fan of continuous education as a form of personal growth. My favorite thing to study is people. Right now I'm reading about Ida Eisenhower and Francis Perkins in David Brooks' inspiring book "The Road to Character". We also learn from people in the news. I was touched by how Kanye helped Kim accept her stepdad, Olympian Bruce Jenner coming out as transgender. We also learn from watching and learning from people's mistakes, including our own.
How would you respond if you were suddenly laid off from work? It's easy to imagine feeling scared, angry and frustrated. "How could they do this to me? After all I've done for the company, this is how they repay me?"
I've actually had two friends get laid off and it was wild to see how differently they responded. One friend reacted very emotionally. He got super angry at his boss and managers and totally burned that bridge. My other friend took it in stride. She reacted positively, feeling it wasn't a personal decision against her and seeing it as a great opportunity for bigger and better things. She ended up getting a great referral letter from her boss that helped her land her dream job.
She totally inspired me. And those two incidents helped teach me to put a wedge in my negative emotions and not respond habitually. Being more aware of the big picture and being thoughtful in our responses are an important part of emotional intelligence. My friend getting her dream job also taught me to be more patient in my own life. This has helped me with other relationships where I felt there was a strain, but realized that patience is king.
What's a social strategy you've learned from someone in your life?