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
How are you doing at life? Where are you right now? Kicking some ass? Struggling a bit? Somewhere in between?
I was recently invited to Vanity Fair's Summit here in SF. I got to see some amazing speakers, people who in a lot of ways are kicking ass and people who are changing the world. One of my favorite speakers was Jony Ive, Apple's top designer. I mean, this guy had a big hand in the design of the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad…etc. Brian Grazer, whose book I recently read about curiosity, was moderating a discussion with Jony Ive and JJ Abrams. Jony Ive said "Curiosity means you are comfortable with being wrong." Maybe we can increase our curiosity and actually be more okay with being wrong.
For me, part of that means taking risks. I've taken big risks like starting Jaunty, asking someone out, raising money from friends and family, and saying no, or sometimes yes. And every day I take little risks, like making a joke with a stranger, even though they might think I'm weird or am being serious. At Vanity Fair's Summit, I was surrounded by amazing people who had all pushed themselves in some way and taken risks to get to where they are now. It was really inspiring.
Kicking ass at life doesn't mean getting everything perfect all the time. That's impossible. But to me it's about having the courage to acknowledge when things aren't working so well and getting curious about how to make it better. Entrepreneur James Altucher focuses on being one percent better a day. I love that.
Get your shit together. Well, what does this mean? As much as I loved being the alternative punk, adored Kurt Cobain, and miss Amy Winehouse, the more I spent time with people who had their shit together, the happier I felt. Don't interpret having your shit together as being straight edge or boring either. If you really want to start to get your shit together or are motivated to learn a few things that can enhance your life, here are my thoughts on some areas to work on:
Money: This is by far the easiest to learn. I spent six years as a financial planner and I only scratched the surface of the topic of Finance. But you don't need to be a financial expert to be smart with money. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, eight in ten Americans have some sort of debt and a Nasdaq study says 34% of Americans have revolving credit card debt. Whether it's student loans or credit card debt, it's not going to go away on its own. Educate yourself. It won't take that long. Whatever your financial situation, there are tools and things you can do to help yourself. Get curious about how you spend your money and how you could save more. Learn about the ins and outs of budgeting, credit cards, and stocks. They don't teach the differences between a student loan and a student grant in our high schools. I think they should. You are not alone.
Relationships: Everyone deserves a rich social life and a loving partner. Get curious about what kind of people you want around you. Having close friends, a partner, and the ability to get along with most people at work and in your daily life is crucial to our happiness. Some studies even show that married people live longer on average than single people. Love and support rules. Take some risks and approach more strangers. If you've already come to one of Jaunty's free social intelligence workshops, then you have some idea of what to say. If you've done our six-week course then you know you can take the conversation wherever you want.
Health: When we take care of ourselves, physically, mentally and emotionally, we feel better and are better able to function. Listen to your body. I love snacking on mochi or a falafel but I usually feel like crap afterwards. What kind of food will nourish you? What kind of exercise is your body asking for? If the gym isn't your thing, go for a hike, dance, or get on top more in bed. Here are some more fun ideas.
Get curious about what you're really curious about. What do you want your life to look like? Are you curious enough to actually do something about it…or are you only curious enough to hope something will happen? Take a step in the right direction, even if it's a small one. One percent a day better!
How are you getting your shit together today?
By Chinh Huynh, Jaunty graduate
"Hey Brian, do you have a second?"
Brian continued looking at the screen, deep in thought.
"Is this going to be quick?"
"Yes. I'd like to let you know that I won't be able to continue working on your project. Thank you for the opportunities that you gave me."
I got Brian's attention. As he was processing the news, I sat there in silence, calm and composed. A promising collaboration went bad. When Brian convinced me to help with the project two months ago, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to work with a senior member in the organization. Toward the end, Brian seemed distracted and things got dragged out for no good reason. After trying everything I could with no progress for a week, I decided to call it quits.
Brian thanked me and shook my hand. He didn't ask me why, I didn't feel like I need to justify myself either. Did Brian lose any sleep over this? I don't know, but that's beside the point. It's Brian's feelings, he will take care of it. As for me, I made a promise in my Jaunty class to live an assertive life, and I need to hold myself responsible for it.
Having options is powerful. Knowing that you have the ability to walk away from a bad situation will give you peace of mind. While everyone knows to look for a competing offer when searching for a new job, they often fail to apply the same principle in the most important aspects of their life: friendships and relationships.
A friend of mine is not happy. She thinks she sacrifices too much and her boyfriend does not reciprocate.
"So leave him," I said.
"That's what I'll do, when I know what I want. I don't know what I want".
I feel for her. I was in a similar situation before. As poetic as it sounds, I learned from Jaunty that I don't need to sacrifice to be in a healthy relationship. What I need to do is talk to a lot of people, invest in the ones that fit in my life and let go of the rest. As I made new friends that treat me well, it became easier to cut loose of broken relationships. When you have the ability to create an abundant social life, you're no longer tied to a relationship that "has to work". You no longer need to sacrifice for love.
People come to Jaunty for various reasons. For me, assertiveness and finding quality people are the key takeaways from Jaunty's six-week program. A month after graduation I made two new friends that I greatly enjoy spending my time with. I stopped interacting with negative people. I no longer say yes when I want to say no. I lost a few friends over this but that's okay because I can make new friends who respect my decisions.
I still feel anxiety when talking to new people. That little churn in my stomach before making an approach hasn't gone away yet. Putting myself out there is hard. It always has been. What kept me going is the Jaunty alumni network that pushes me to continue advancing my social skills even after the class is over. Every ending is a new beginning and my social life has just begun.
"Today I will live a social and assertive life."
Signed Chinh. Witnessed by Jaunty. April 7, 2015.
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 July newsletter after Eric came back to San Francisco after spending a few months living in New York City.
Straight guys and gay women, brush up on your social skills and get your asses to Manhattan. You'll thank me later.
During the past few months, whenever I went out in NYC, I saw way more groups of women than men. (The photo above is a typical NYC night out.) What's up with that? Are NYC's guys all staying in watching the game? Actually, it turns out there are a ton more women than guys there. According to the Census, there's a 150,000 single woman surplus in NYC.
This has created a weird dynamic between the city's straight men and women. Female friends told me about women who believe they need to have sex on the first date or there won't be a second date. They're afraid if they don't, "he'll move on to someone else".
This may seem amazing for straight guys but at a point it actually hurts them in finding a long-term partner. If guys get used to moving on very quickly, it can become a habit. They might find themselves cycling through endless women rather than finding love.
When I was in NYC, whenever I approached groups of women, they were always eager to keep the conversation going. One night, I started talking with a group of beautiful women and as the conversation progressed, more of their friends kept showing up to meet with them. It turned out that many of them were reuniting after not having seen each other for many years. Yet they seemed way more interested in chatting with me and my friend than catching up with each other. It was almost like they hadn't had a great conversation with a guy in a long time.
Let's Jaunty it up with some tips for New Yorkers:
Women - Build sexual tension
Hook up if you want to. But if you want a relationship with a guy, don't do anything out of fear or before you're ready. You think if you don't he'll just run to someone who will? Give yourself some credit. You're awesome! It's better to play it cool and know the guy is really interested in you. Instead, focus on building sexual tension by being really playful with interesting conversation sprinkled in. When you do go for it, the sex will be way better.
Men - Give the gift of time
You've got a sweet thing going on here, but be careful with the abundance and the revolving door mentality. Having such a surplus of amazing women can be overwhelming to the point of paralysis. (Like when you have way too many choices on a menu.) Also it can lead to a "the grass is always greener on the other side" loop, which leaves you feeling empty and alone. So keep up with your Jaunty skills and give the gift of time to every woman. Have some patience and get to know them. Sex with some emotional investment can be pretty incredible.
What's the deal here in San Francisco?
As it turns out we have a surplus of single guys, an extra 50,000 according to the Census. This means if you're a single, gay man or straight woman looking for love in San Francisco, you have NO excuses.
Whoever you are and wherever you live, be bold and approach. Say hi. If you've been to a Jaunty workshop then you have the skills to know what to say next. If you've taken a Jaunty course then you have the skills to do whatever you want. And pay attention to your body language. Make it a habit.
Seriously, how many hotties have you said hi to this month? Be honest. If you're still single and seriously looking for a relationship then that number might not be big enough.
Keep sharpening your social skills, because your moment to meet someone can happen anywhere.
By Eric Waisman
You know, it's been a while since I wore my heart on my sleeve.
It's said that during jousting matches in the Middle Ages, knights wore the handkerchief of a lady in the king's court around their arms. "This one goes out to the one I love," in the words of R.E.M's Michael Stipe - basically dedicating the jousting match to a special lady. These days we post our affections on Facebook, and it's been a while since I've seen anyone joust. But the expression's still with us. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is all about being transparent and open with your emotions. That can be scary and a lot of us try to protect ourselves by being more guarded emotionally.
In the past decade or so I've worked hard to create a lifestyle of abundance. I've been surrounded by a lot of people, friends, and women, which has made it very natural to be busy and invited to a lot of stuff. I feel blessed. I genuinely have to schedule social stuff weeks in advance.
But somewhere along the way, it's become hard for me to wear my heart on my sleeve for anything. I may have come across as super independent. Looking back, I realize in my last two relationships I was a bit distant at times. When I was struggling with something emotionally, I often tried to work through it on my own instead of confiding or seeking support from the people closest to me. Now I wonder if I've closed myself off to deeper emotional connections with people by not letting myself be more vulnerable. I kinda miss a little bit of needy.
It feels really good to be desired and to desire others. Right now I'm working on finding that balance. I'm playing with being much more vulnerable in investing in people I genuinely like and love.
How can you do this?
You can straight up tell the person that they're important to you, ask them out, or even text them back immediately whenever possible. Yep, I said it. It's all about balance and opening up. Being a bit distant and independent can be very healthy and attractive, but make sure you're showing some love, and wear your heart on your sleeve as you joust through life too. Studies have actually shown a correlation between how long relationships last, and how responsive the two people are with each other.
Lately I've been getting lots of phone numbers from new people I'm meeting, and I'm realizing how great it is to establish a responsive behavior with someone. It actually feels contagious where I want to give back that great feeling of an immediate text or phone call. Getting a text back quickly may be a great sign of great things to come.
This Valentine's Day let the awesome people in your life know that you care about them. And remember, it takes real strength to show your weaknesses. Even social dynamos need help sometimes. In fact, "heart on your sleeve" is going to be my Halloween costume this year since it's pretty scary.