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 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 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 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."
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.
By Adrian Robinson, Jaunty graduate
What is a social economic immigrant? How can someone born in a country be unaware of its social norms, cues, and customs? Where do you learn these social skills?
I was born in Washington, DC. You might be picturing the US Capitol, the White House, and the Monument. Unfortunately, I was not born in this part of DC. Imagine a neighborhood rife with drugs and violence. As a result, social interactions were driven by people suffering from anger and depression. People were trust-averse and therefore unable to fully emotionally invest in social interactions.
I attended urban public schools until I entered the University of Maryland. Suddenly I realized my upbringing hadn't prepared me to interact with conventional society. I was able to navigate academic and professional interactions, but socially I could be awkward. My sophomore year, I was eating dinner with floormates in the cafeteria, when one of them reached over my plate to grab the salt shaker. In my old neighborhood, reaching over someone's food is a sign of disrespect and I responded with a confrontational, "What's up?" Everyone at the table was shocked. It was clear that I had overreacted. It did not feel good.
My sense of humor turned out to be my saving grace in college. After graduating, I interned on Capitol Hill and performed stand up comedy. I moved to Colorado to work on the Obama 2012 campaign, where I loved interacting with campaign staff, volunteers, and voters. The campaign was the first time I felt like a member of a social community, not a visitor. After helping to organize the inauguration, I moved to San Francisco. Suddenly I couldn't hide my social awkwardness behind politics and public policy, so I hid behind business and technology.
My professional life excelled while my social life failed. I needed to change. I researched social intelligence and discovered Jaunty. I attended the free workshop and signed up for private coaching which was a better fit for my schedule than the six-week course. Each session felt empowering, as Eric coached me on conversational agility, body language, and touch. Immediately, I was able to connect with people on a social level. Complete strangers from coffee shops and bookstores invited me to their parties and social events. The social dynamic of my existing relationships expanded too. I felt like a member of a community again, but my community was not limited to political thinkers.
Wanting to test my social progress, last September I traveled to Portland, OR for a week. It was a birthday gift to myself in the form of a social challenge: to visit a new city and use my social skills to find fun activities. I spent my days approaching strangers to find the best places to eat, drink, and party. On my birthday, I met some local artists in a bar who invited me to their art show, a tribute to the 20th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready to Die" album, one of my all time favorite albums. The event was the best birthday gift and the trip was the best week of my life. I avoided social awkwardness without using politics or business talk as a crutch. After returning from Portland, I felt like an immigrant who was awarded his green card.
By Adrienne Fraser, Jaunty graduate
My close circle of friends know me well and probably wouldn't have seen me as someone with social anxiety.
But in big groups and work events I used to drive through any anxiety by gritting my teeth. "Just get through it, just get through it," I'd tell myself. And I did, but with very little joy.
I have always been an introvert and preferred to make deeper "one on one" connections in lieu of having many acquaintances and a large social circle. But as I've grown older, this preference has not always served me well.
Recently, I found myself in a time of transition. Close friends had moved away, I was recovering from burnout, two knee surgeries and a break-up. Additionally, I was pursuing a new tangent of my career at a much larger company. I needed to quickly establish connections with my new co-workers. I was missing out on important off-the-clock conversations - things I needed to know about.
Yet, despite having made some crucial changes for the better, I was still on the defensive and my various stressors exacerbated my social anxiety. I knew I needed to find new ways of interacting with people and move on with my life.
Every week, I set my goals and pushed myself to meet them. About halfway through the course, my friends and family said, "Wow, you seem so different and happy! It's great!" I felt lighter. I was actually having fun approaching new people, engaging in interesting conversations with ease and was invited to lunches and happy hours at work. I was brought onboard for new projects, presented business plans to directors and even received top marks in "people skills" on my annual review.
With the help of Jaunty, I blazed down my new path of social freedom. I went from stiff, guarded, introvert to a smiling, confident, woman of the world in six weeks! Now, I feel amazing and self-assured that I can approach anyone and talk to anyone. In fact, I'm off now to make dinner for new friends. We're having enchiladas, tonight. Sounds good, right?
So there I was, sitting at home, cat in lap, searching for classes on Meetup that might help. I had dreams of dinner parties and arranging intimate gatherings where friends meet friends and maybe even fall in love. You know, things we read about in books set in France. Then I came across Jaunty.
The six-week course seemed perfect, an individualized experience with the support of a classroom environment. Just what I needed!
There I was on my first day of Jaunty, crossed arms and stiff jaw, in essence protecting myself from strangers in an unknown environment. But with the support of Jaunty and my classmates, I learned to slow-down, release tension and allowed myself to open up to my dream of a new and improved social life.
I used to have so much fear in approaching new people and starting a conversation. I was scared people would think I was bothering them, or that strangers might be mean to me. Through Jaunty, I realized that my belief was not grounded in fact, and usually quite the opposite was true. Over time, my old belief was replaced with my new belief; in essence, there are people out there in the world just waiting to meet me!
By Eric Waisman
"Most awkward date ever," my friend told me. On a first date she'd gone to see "Fifty Shades of Grey." She said they were both really uncomfortable and couldn't wait for the lights to come up.
We definitely advocate that you don't go to any movie on a first date, and maybe not early on either. After all it's hard to get to know each other if you're just sitting quietly in the dark.
But if there's one thing I like, it's testing boundaries and pushing limits, and maybe I was feeling lazy. Also, I hadn't been to a movie in a long time. I had a second date coming up and suggested we see Birdman or Fifty Shades.
We all know what she chose. We actually had an amazing time, and I kinda liked the movie. As soon as we met, we set a very comfortable frame. You can do this by putting yourself in the mindset that you're meeting up with an old friend. Take the pressure off them by talking a bit more early on instead of asking them a lot of questions. Create trust by opening up with stories and using touch. We are not acting...we're bringing out the part of ourselves that does feel this way.
It's only awkward if you make it awkward.
That's a golden rule here at Jaunty. Something we pride ourselves on is creating frame. Listen up because this shit is the most important thing in your life. Frame is how you see the world. We talk about this a lot because having the right frame changes everything.
Have you ever had a whole new world of possibilities opened up to you in a short amount of time?
Finance: If you won the Powerball and educated yourself on managing money, your frame on wealth, resources, business, and stress would change.
Health: Imagine you live in a fast food town where most people drive everywhere and spend their free time drinking beer in front of the TV. Then you move to a health conscious city, join a gym, and create healthy eating, drinking and sleeping habits. Your frame on what you can do physically would completely change.
Social: If you work on interpersonal skills and learn to manage your social anxiety, your relationships frame completely changes.
They key is seeing slow but sure progress and validating results. Before long, you get so good that you can make going to Fifty Shades of Grey with a newer friend the most normal thing in the world. And you can make it comfortable for you and the other person. As for things with me and my date, we totally connected and want to see each other again soon. Possibly tonight.