By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's writer
“When you push yourself outside your comfort zone you really learn who you are as a person,” says Christine Fleming, who recently graduated from Jaunty’s six-week course on social intelligence. A Bay Area native, she’s an administrative assistant at a law firm in San Francisco. “I’ve always been a very very shy person.” She thought of herself as a “homebody”. Before Jaunty, she says, “I wanted to talk or open up to people but it was like there was a block there. I never really went out that much. I hung out at home a lot.” When she did socialize it tended to be, “One-on-one time with the few friends I had.”
“Really I was just too anxious to try and go out and meet new people.”
Last year, Christine was in a relationship she describes as “pretty unhealthy” and destructive to her self-esteem. “My ex-girlfriend had an idea of how things are supposed to be and she was very intense about it. It got to a point where I wasn’t asserting myself and kind of lost my voice.” When she got out of the relationship, she decided it was time for a change. Jaunty was part of that process to work through things and find herself.
She started going to Meetups as a way to get out there and surround herself with positive people and ideas. She did Jaunty’s free workshop on social skills and felt the six-week course could help her become more comfortable in social environments and be herself without feeling anxious.
“I’ve made a lot of really great friends through Jaunty.” Christine says, her classmates, Jaunty’s Founder Eric, and Head Instructor Craig were “amazing”. “It was an amazing experience and I’m really happy I did it.” But she admits, “The homework was definitely hard.” Especially challenging was the direct approach where you strike up a conversation with a stranger. Jaunty teaches specific techniques for the entire flow from approach and openers, to building rapport and keeping the conversation going, and finally the contact exchange.
By end of class Christine had done a few approaches but no contact exchanges. “I loved all the tools I was learning in the class. [And] I knew I had to go at my pace.”
September, two months after the course ended, Christine was at Bawdy Storytelling talking with a guy — something that would have made her “hella nervous” and anxious before Jaunty. She used her new conversational agility skills and humor techniques that had become very natural for her. “Out of nowhere I just blurted out, ‘Want to hang out sometime? I’d love to get your number.’” Before, she would have been in her head worrying about how he might respond. They’ve hung out now and are getting together again next Tuesday.
Christine says, “I am super comfortable with approaching guys now and [doing] contact exchanges. Now the next step is women. They can actually reject me and it might hurt.” She’s planning on practicing at the next Bawdy Storytelling.
“It’s definitely getting easier. Jaunty really did give me the tools to go for it and to make connections with people.” Christine has used her new social intelligence skills to get closer to her co-workers and have more in-depth conversations. Before it was all small talk about the weather. “I feel so much more comfortable opening up to people now.”
Thanks to Jaunty, “My social life basically blew up. With our class being so close, we’re constantly planning things. I’ve gotten super into karaoke. I just love singing. I’m constantly meeting people. I talk to people all the time, everywhere now. I went to a concert by myself last month because my friend got sick.” In the past she never would have gone on her own. But she did and it was great. She met all these people.
“I think really everyone can benefit from Jaunty. Not only does it help with social skills, but I think it can really help with finding who you are. When I got out there and started exploring the social side of me, I learned all this stuff about me that I didn’t know before. I used to be very introverted. I didn’t go out much. I stayed at home. I didn’t like that part of me. I just didn’t know how to change it. Now I have the tools. I go out and meet people. Wow, okay now I know I really like going to bars and hanging out with friends and just talking. I really like hanging out in big groups. Meeting people from diverse backgrounds and learning things about them. I never knew that about myself.”