By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
"Public speaking used to make me really nervous," Jaunty graduate Ashmi Pathela says. She was good at sounding confident, but had to work to hide her nervousness during any presentation.
Ashmi's first language is Japanese, and though she moved from Japan to the States when she was only five, she always felt pressure to speak well and blend in with her peers. Don't stumble over your words. Whether a product of her culture or just her personality, that voice in her head was always getting in the way.
"This year, I've been focusing on personal development," Ashmi says. As a Senior Marketing Manager at an activities and events software company, she felt the best way to develop her leadership skills was to improve her social intelligence. She attended a free Jaunty workshop and saw the six-week course as a great way to build deeper connections with peers, both personally and professionally.
"Approaching strangers is easy for me if it's at an event, like a party or for networking. But approaching someone on the street in broad daylight without having a reason is super challenging." During the course, Ashmi had lots of opportunities to practice overcoming those initial hesitations, and a funny thing happened. When she started approaching and introducing herself to new people, she noticed more people started approaching her too. Maybe she was holding herself differently. Or perhaps she was being more present and noticing more people around her. Either way, the world got a little smaller once she got out of her own head.
Ashmi especially enjoyed Jaunty's segment on humor. Half Japanese and half Indian, Ashmi says, "Japanese people don't use sarcasm or dry humor that freely, including my close family members. Since I grew up without it, it was always hard for me to pick up."
Jaunty's class on humor breaks down different elements of high status humor and explains the science behind it. Ashmi loved trying it out and seeing it work. Now, she looks for ways to be more playful in her daily life, especially through language. Ashmi feels humor is a wonderful way to build rapport with people and "laugh along with the world."
And how about public speaking? At a recent annual off-site, Ashmi presented in front of her entire company. Instead of focusing on her nerves, she thought about the value she was delivering to her colleagues. She used many of her Jaunty skills like slowing down, remembering to pause, and projecting - and it was the most confident she's ever been. "It was the first time I didn't have to hide any nervousness, because I felt confident inside." Afterwards, people came up and complimented her on her speech.
Ashmi feels anyone can benefit from Jaunty. "It's not often that people make the time or effort to invest in themselves. Jaunty can really impact your personal interactions, confidence level, and how you present yourself to the world. I've had so many more meaningful connections by learning how to slow down and really listen." Indeed, Ashmi feels her new-found social intelligence is helping her "build closer relationships with others by living a more present life."
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.
By Jaunty Staff Writer and Sunny Basra, Jaunty graduate
Sunny Basra has always been a bubbly person. A constant center of social gravity, she's your prototypical, natural extrovert. Originally from the Central Valley, she went on to study communication in college and now works for PepsiCo. "I'm in sales," she explains. "My job is to meet new people."
While she's always felt socially "above average," in early 2014 she wanted to add new depth to her conversation skills. This was right after she moved to San Francisco, where she found herself in social environments where she knew no one. She wanted to get past the shallow conversations that are standard fare at parties, those that feel "very surface, almost
like an interview."
Sunny found out about Jaunty and was intrigued by the free workshop. "I've always been really interested in why people behave the way they do. Any opportunity to get to learn more about this is like winning the lottery for me." After being impressed by the quality of the workshop, she signed up for Jaunty's six-week course.
While her college communication classes were "theoretical and intellectual," Jaunty's course was experience-based, with real-time feedback from the instructors—no textbooks needed.
Interestingly, when she told her colleagues, family and friends she was taking a social intelligence class, they said, "Why would you need that?" Sunny's confident and sociable demeanor had always disguised the anxiety she'd felt at times. "That's why people were so surprised... Whether you think you have social anxiety or not, everyone has some social anxiety. Some people feel a little more nervous when they're talking to new people. Other people feel more nervous with public speaking. Jaunty gave me the formula for how to communicate with others," Sunny says. "Now whatever social situation I'm in, I know I'm going to be generally successful using this formula."
With the new conversational skills she learned in the course, she no longer feels the jitters that used to come with the challenging new client cases. Now, when encountering a new client, she has an added edge in dealing with them. "My job is to build relationships over time. With cold reading and threading, I can dig deeper much quicker than before."
These skills and lessons have also been helpful in her new role as a manager. As she coaches her employees on selling strategies, she makes sure to impart key nuggets from the class. For example, she teaches them the difference between being assertive and aggressive. "It's all about your intention and your approach," she explains.
Whether at work, or a small dinner party, Jaunty's lessons have been guiding and influencing Sunny's life in subtle but impactful ways. As Sunny's journey shows, even the socially gifted can benefit from some good old fashioned education.