By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer
Becki Bowers is a Bay Area native who was ready for a change. "I always had a good, small group of friends," says the office manager at a legal consulting firm in Oakland. But she felt anxiety meeting new people and sometimes found it difficult keeping conversations going.
About three years ago she had what she describes as "a conscious shift." She remembers thinking, "'I'm happy with my life, but it wasn't the life I wanted to be having. I'm doing it this year. I'm going to take a leap.' Maybe I was watching too many lifetime movies, who knows," she laughs.
Determined to put herself out there, she tried online dating, and learned about Meetup.com through her dad who was part of a bocce ball group. She started going to The Oakland East Bay Happy Hour Meetup group to meet new people and to learn about the Oakland downtown area. The group was a great fit for her and she appreciated how inclusive it felt. Becki says, "Everyone is welcome and folks are accepting even if you are a non-drinker."
In the group, some folks come back week after week and others are new. She worried about sounding not interesting and wasn't sure how to keep the conversation going. She must have done something right because she became an organizer for the group. But, she explains, "Then the pressure got even higher. I have legitimately high status in the group and I have to talk with people."
She heard about Jaunty through Meetup. She loved the free social intelligence workshop. She did the one-on-one and says, "[It] sounded like the class would be a good thing for me." Her work offers financial support for professional development and they paid for half of the six-week course.
When people heard she was taking a class on social skills, they were surprised she wanted to get better at talking with people, because they thought she was already great. She felt anxiety and they didn't know.
Becki remembers the six-week course being challenging and rewarding. "Eric makes you do these exercises that totally put you out of your comfort zone." She reviewed her notes on BART after class, practiced approaches in a mall at lunchtime, and tried out her new skills in her weekly Meetup group.
She remembers a time she went into a new bar to set up a Meetup. "I talked to the owner and had a drink or two, and started talking with some of the locals who were there." Before Jaunty she wouldn't have talked with the regulars and feels she would have sat by herself in the corner. "I remember feeling really good after that interaction."
Before Jaunty, when Becki talked with people, she had "preconceived expectations" about what she'd "get out of [the] experience." She'd think, "If I have this interaction, what's going to happen?" These days she has a different attitude towards conversations. "I learned from Jaunty not to worry about it and just enjoy the experience. I feel I have this confidence from taking the class if I need to talk with someone. I don't have this anxiety. I know how to have conversations with someone and approach."
Now that Becki is rocking her social skills and has said goodbye to social anxiety, she has become more thoughtful about who she wants to have in her life. "Always surround yourself with people you want to be around," she says. "Don't hang around people who aren't supporting you." She decided to distance herself from a friend who has a lot of drama in their life. "There are a lot of quality people out there who you can spend time with. I'm going to focus on that."
Who would benefit from Jaunty? Becki says, "It's a really great experience if you have any social anxiety or if you want to learn to talk with people more. Everyone can learn from it."
Becki is looking forward to a friend's party next week and is excited to Jaunty people there.