By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
Imagine you're walking down a busy, city sidewalk. Someone who happens to be walking your way, looks at you and says, "Hi, how's your day going?" Yes, they said it to you!
Right there, how did that make you feel? Before you had time to think, where did your emotions go? Did you feel defensive, excited, or neutral? All are totally legit reactions. Yes, I know, context matters. Sure you might react differently if it was a dude in a trench coat, holding a pigeon, or a hottie with a nice smile. But regardless, your three possible reactions are either negative, positive, or neutral. Well, the same goes if you'd been the one to initiate with that question. Would you be comfortable with all three reactions that may come your way?
We think about this at Jaunty. A lot. Our students have seen all of these reactions. We also know what to do in any of these situations and how to not take it personally if someone doesn’t want to talk.
Where did your mind go when you imagined this city sidewalk scenario? Did you automatically think the person wanted something from you? Seriously, like they were trying to sell something or trick you? That's fine if you did. We get asked for money a lot on the streets these days and it's understandable if you’re a bit guarded.
The saddest situation is when someone says hi, and the other person is actually a great person, but they're so nervous that they react negatively because they aren't comfortable. There’s a difference between letting the person know you’re not interested vs. being anxious and coming off as a jerk because you don't know what to do.
At Jaunty we teach social intelligence to help people feel comfortable in any situation. Our goal is for more and more people to be at ease starting and contributing to conversations. People skills are definitely learnable and you can learn what to do.
I recently went to the Flying Falafel (best falafel in SF) across the street from the office. I commented on how the lady who got her falafel after me got way more hummus than I did. We laughed and dove into a great conversation about travel and then connected on Facebook. I was really impressed with her reaction to my approach and her positive additions to our conversation. So many people in SF are quick to put their shield up. Yep, it turned out she was from Texas and visiting for the week!
I believe San Francisco can warm up too. Just as we're learning to hone our social skills and approach strangers, let's be more open to interactions that other people start too. Be open to the next "hello."