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 Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
"I want to take my life to the next level," Daniel Evan Lee told Eric, after the free Jaunty workshop. "I feel like I'm plateauing." After college, he'd gotten a sales job at a start-up. Three years later he kept wondering if there was a better opportunity out there, somewhere that would be a better fit, where he could make more money.
Working in sales, he felt his social intelligence and relationship skills were directly related to the deals he could close. He thought, "If I can advance my awareness and interactions with others," then maybe he could up his whole game.
He signed up for Jaunty's six-week course with the intention of improving his business life and being ready when his big moment came.
"I'm glad I got to take a class with a range of people and not just business people." In college, Daniel pitched multiple business ideas that were all shot down by his peers and executives. He got comfortable with rejection and learning to manage social anxiety. At Jaunty, he says, "One of the bigger skills I've learned is how to make other people feel more comfortable when they're uncomfortable."
This past fall, six months after taking the course, Daniel was "killing it" at work. He felt confident and interviewed for jobs at three companies in different industries.
"There was this one I really wanted," Daniel says. "I put my all into it." He recalls the extreme disappointment when he wasn't hired.
Then, three weeks into the New Year, a direct competitor reached out to him. His big moment had come. He met up for a beer with the competitor's CEO.
"This guy made millions of dollars with his old company. He's very techie and aggressive. What I chose to wear that day was planned and precise. I've noticed when I wear a baseball hat people pre-judge me." So he wore his baseball hat. "He looks me up and down, kind of hesitant. I can feel it. I said, 'Dude, let's keep it transparent. Why did you reach out to me?'" They went right into the opportunity.
"I was that person they were looking for." Daniel didn't have to prove anything to them. "I felt like I was on fire. I was in the zone." Daniel kept a poker face and stayed focused on his moment even after the CEO offered him a job with a salary and commission that he couldn't refuse.
Thanks to Jaunty, Daniel says, "I noticed his body language, the speed of his delivery of words. It happened so fast but so slow. I vividly remember what's going on." Daniel feels all his social intelligence work went into that moment. Feeling high status and confident, he knew how to present himself.
Daniel really believes in his new company and feels supported in his new job.
"Twelve months ago I couldn't tell you that I'd be feeling this way about my life. That feeling of being excited and waking up before your alarm is amazing." He used to commute from the City to Berkeley every day and now that work is ten minutes away, he has an extra ten hours a week of free time. He enjoys going to the gym on his way home. He's looking forward to buying a house. "I can be my own true Jaunty and have fun with life."
"Jaunty has been incredible," Daniel says. "It gave me skills to lead a conversation, to guide the entire feeling of a conversation to where I'd like it to go. It's helped me slow down my life. I'm way quicker on my feet with jokes. We all have opportunities. Now I feel like I'm getting better and picking the best ones."