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
Raise your hand if you like people watching. I love people watching. I can't see you but you'd probably be raising your hand if I were there. Most people I meet like people watching.
Recently, I was at the Grove, a coffee shop in SF. While I was in line I checked out a young, tattooed woman working behind the counter. She laughed full heartedly with a couple of the other employees. It was intriguing watching her glide throughout the coffee shop and I was really curious about her life. I was happy to see her get in front of the register when it was my turn to order. We spoke, laughed, connected, and exchanged numbers. We now hang out. She keeps me curious.
Being curious about others is a hell of a motivator to meet new people.
I used to play a game with people, from old friends to first dates. We would create stories about the people in the environment and guess what their life was like. Sometimes we would go up and talk to them to try to confirm. At first I found myself way off the mark, but I later got a bit more consistently close to the truth. You should try this.
The top things I've always been most curious about are: people, romance, travel, history, finance, and music. People is by far the biggest one. How the hell did he or she do it? How did Marilyn Monroe seduce the world? How did Elon Musk reinvigorate space and energy? How the fuck did that guy get "Gangnam Style" to reach the top?! There is a story behind it all. The answer usually has something to do with Persistence, Preparation (skills), and Luck.
It all starts with curiosity though. Write down a list of the things you're most curious about. How can you welcome more of those things into your life this summer?
By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
During "smoke stops" the train stopped long enough for passengers to get off for some fresh air (or a cigarette). My favorite smoke stop ritual involved racing back and forth along the platform with Tyler and four of our new friends.
Tyler and I were on our way to DC for the holidays. Because we had the time and like an adventure, we decided to take the train from California instead of flying. We planned to break up the three-and-a-half day trip, visiting friends in Madison, Wisconsin, where Tyler used to live. Everyone we told thought it sounded really cool. Folks who had taken the train before, told us how social it would be.
And it was. I Jauntied my first passenger in the Emeryville station. On board, I chatted with a few people, but spent most of the first day relaxing. I kept my phone off, enjoying being unplugged. I read and ate clementines. Initially, I didn't have the energy to socialize much.
The second day, I was ready to put myself out there, and connected with lots of people. It was a good reminder to be gentle with myself and not feel like I have to be social all the time when I need to recharge.
Passing through the Rockies, I successfully "cold read" Laura, a woman in her sixties who is into long-distance, solo hiking. Kat had just finished a year at an educational farm and decided to take the train back to Pennsylvania, rather than flying, to ease into the next chapter of her life and figure out what to do next. It was touching seeing her draw monsters with Emma, a seven-year-old Australian. I loved talking with the Aussie family who were starting a fifteen-month trip through India and Nepal.
In connecting with people, I discovered everyone was taking the train for one of three reasons:
1. They were afraid of flying.
2. They wanted an adventure. Or in a few cases,
3. It was cheaper.
Tyler and I fell into the second category. Here, people in the first group could talk openly about their flying phobias and no one would make fun of them. But apparently they'd gotten a lot of flak from people at home.
"Why on earth are you taking the train?" People scoffed. "So you had some bad turbulence once? Get over it."
This got me thinking about "frame." When Tyler and I told friends and family we were taking the train, they all thought it was really cool.
Yet when the anxious fliers mentioned their plans, people made fun of them. It's the same trip. The difference is perception. Tyler and I framed our trip as a fun adventure and so everyone we talked to saw it that way. The flying phobics framed their trip in terms of their fear. They were not flying as opposed to embracing the train.
Similarly, everyone on the train was so friendly, approaching strangers felt totally normal. I hung onto this frame off the train too. Our longest smoke stop was in Denver, where Tyler and I ran off the train into the grand, new station. I laughed with the woman in the ice cream shop and struck up a conversation with a South African photographer. I felt like I was bursting with magnetism and didn't think it was remotely strange to talk with anyone. And because I believed it was totally normal, so did they.
"All aboard!" Choo-choo!
By Jaunty Social Trainer, Craig Gibbons
I was never a naturally social person. Throughout my life, I've struggled with some social anxiety. I had fear in dating as well as making friends. I often had interactions where I didn't know what to say or felt a lingering awkwardness. Making connections with others was extremely important to me, but for some reason I was unable to do so. I felt like I was in a hole, unable to dig myself out. In my early adult life, I read up on tips for self-confidence and dating as well as magic tricks that I could use to start conversations or impress people at parties. Through my personal training and experimentation, I felt pretty confident in my abilities to meet others and make connections. But I soon realized that my skills were not enough.
In 2012 I moved to San Francisco for school, and knew all of four people living in the city - my three roommates and an ex-girlfriend. Being shoved into an unfamiliar environment I was overcome by my own anxiety and clung to what was comfortable. I went from home to class and straight back home so that I could avoid awkward social interactions. Rather than making any new friends, I spent my free time Skyping or calling my hometown friends. Once again, I found myself in that same hole.
When I heard about the free Jaunty workshop, it promised the ability to connect with people and create a social circle. It sounded exactly like what I was looking for. I went to the workshop and fell in love with Eric and the skills he taught. I followed up with a six-week class, and fully immersed myself into the world of social intelligence. Focusing on the approach, assertiveness, building status, and making connections, I rapidly changed my own world. My hole became a staircase which led to the top of a mountain. With my new skills, I began coaching my friends and working with Eric, coaching other students so that I could more fully understand how it all works.
Seven months into working with Jaunty, I finally realized something. I paused my life and stepped out of my body for a moment to see. I was at school, sitting on the grass during a hot day. I was surrounded by friends. Not just friends, but people whom I called family. I'd always known that I wanted to belong, and at that moment I realized that I did.
Developing those relationships has created a home for myself. Keeping my status high has turned many of my friendships into mentorships where people in my life look up to me to lead or give advice. This has turned into business opportunities, more introductions, loyal and giving friendships, as well as a dating life of abundance. It's all felt like magic. Most importantly, my journey has led me to a place of social freedom where I belong.
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 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!
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?
By Eric Waisman
This blog was originally published in Jaunty's June newsletter while Eric was living in New York City for a few months.
I'd like to share the trick I have been using to explode my social circle. In the first few weeks here, I have already been invited to countless rooftop parties, been asked to speak at two large events and was invited by the head of the air conditioning mafia to his mansion for a dinner party. Yep, that happened. Here's what I have been doing and you can do it too.
Using our Jaunty skills I have been meeting a ton of people through WeWork, my roommates' friends, at parks, bars, cafes, on the subway, and of course...on the street. At some point in the conversation I bring up that I am new to NYC.
If you are not new to your city you can say, "I'm looking to get out and meet new people", or that you are always looking out for a new adventure.
Then I say I would love for them to let me know about all of the great events they know of in the city. I frame it as though they are connected to insider stuff, (which everyone is to a certain extent,) and that they have status by having such cool resources. So I straight out ask them to invite me to everything! If you are using your conversational agility skills as we teach at Jaunty, a good percentage of the people will start inviting you to stuff.
Now here is where the magic comes in. Let's say I met 20 people and asked them all to invite me to their fun events and let's say five start inviting me to things. I will invite everyone (all 20 minus the person who invited me) to all of the events from the five (unless it's a private house party). So even for all of the other 15 people that have not invited me to anything, now I am, out of the blue, inviting them to a bunch of cool stuff. That makes them start inviting me to things too.
Plus, I am now showing up to the events with a bunch of people I know and I can start introducing people to each other. This has been a crucial piece of my building my social circle here. My new and old friends here are calling it "Eric's Posse."
This is the power of showing vulnerability up front. You ask people to take you under their wing, and turn it around and take them under your wing. Getting invites feel great and being able to invite people you've just met to events feels awesome. Try it out and let me know how it goes.