By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer
"I started drifting away from people," says Jaunty graduate, Issam. Eight years ago, fresh out of college, he moved to the Bay Area from the East Coast, where he'd lived since moving from Syria when he was ten. In California, he made "deep friendships". Then in 2010, something shifted.
"I was busy; I was a working professional now." He felt he wasn't so ready to interact and speak with people. "I'd only go out by myself to events or to enjoy nature. It was good. I liked it in the beginning, but then I felt it was beginning to have a negative effect on people's perceptions of me."
He felt people saw him as a "loner guy." "I made very little eye contact at work," Issam remembers. He had trouble connecting with his co-workers who he felt were trying to force him out of his shell. "I found it really intrusive that they wouldn't just let me keep to myself."
At a new company, Issam hoped for a fresh start. He says he, "Tried to be a little more social, but felt really awkward doing it." Sometimes he forced himself to talk with people or go out to lunch with his new co-workers, but he usually just wanted to be alone and do his job.
Issam got really into spirituality, and spent a lot of time thinking about what he was learning. However, the less we interact with others, the harder it can become to be social.
"I didn't mean not to be social. But I felt some people were hostile to me because I preferred spending time alone. Maybe they thought I thought I was better than them. But really I was just in my head."
During this "period of prolonged introspection," Issam says, "I felt the quality of my interactions with people wasn't as good as I really hoped for in my life. I was giving a lot of time for myself at the expense of my social life and meeting people, and gaining new experiences."
"It started bothering me not having friends. So I went to Meetup.com, to be social with like-minded people. Somehow I found SF Freeschool on Meetup." He went to Jaunty's free workshop and everything started to change.
Issam found workshop's eye contact exercises, "quite challenging." Then, "The next day I felt more openness in looking at people and feeling fine with it. That really made it for me."
After a group session with Eric and a few other people from the workshop, Issam signed up for Jaunty's six-week course.
How has Jaunty been for him? "It's helped me. Approaching people and keeping the conversation going. You just follow the formula. Also I feel my voice projection is better and the way people look at me." He uses conversational agility techniques because he feels they're effective and people respond positively to them.
"I think about anyone would benefit from Jaunty," Issam says. "One of the benefits I experienced in the class, is slowing down. Don't answer too fast. Give that two second thought before you respond to someone. That's something I want to keep working on, slowing down and being more present. Before everything was rush, rush, rush, do, do, do. I'd lost that slowing down, trying to meet deadlines and goals. People expect you to have the answer right away. Nobody has the answer right away. I'm not afraid of sounding stupid. Let me slow down, let me give you the answer."
Issam works as a contractor and has been using his social intelligence skills during job interviews. "I feel like it's helped me to leave a better impression." He finds he can carry a conversation a lot longer than before the class. And he's rocking the eye contact.