Even though she doesn't claim to be a dating expert, Maura Torkildson said she's armed with the skills to help people survive in any social situation. Torkildson will draw from her experience as a coach and instructor for Social Fluency, a social skills training program that helps people cultivate successful social and business relationships, to help people "Understand the Science Behind Dating," a free, public event at the Walnut Creek Library on Nov. 4.
"In this day and age with technology, face-to-face communication has gone downhill," said Torkildson, a Concord resident. "As humans, we are wired for connection. We need connection to survive. It's important for us to belong," she said. "Social tension arises out of the need for belonging. Our survival depends on being part of a group, so to be ostracized from that group threatens our survival."
Skills Torkildson will share from her work with Social Fluency, such as reading a person's body language, establishing rapport and developing eye contact, are helpful in the dating scene and beyond, she said.
"There's evidence that technology is changing our brains," Torkildson said.
"There's so many nuances to body language. You can tell whether someone's telling the truth or if they're nervous."
Social Fluency has broken this process into basic social skills anyone can develop through learning and practice, she said.
"We encourage people to be themselves but people get nervous so they end up not being themselves," Torkildson said. "When our mindset is, 'Boy, I really want to impress this person, the focus is on yourself. But the mindset is on learning more about the other person. We teach these behaviors and encourage them to practice so people become more confident in these situations."
Sarah Spindle, adult services librarian said the Walnut Creek Library, decided to do this program in conjunction with the library's second Literary Speed Dating adventure. Spindle talked with Torkildson about presenting a workshop on developing people skills that Social Fluency specializes in.
"She mentioned a program on online dating that one of her colleagues had done recently and I thought it would pair nicely," Spindle said. "Maura's program will touch on online dating as well as face-to-face dates. We hoped both programs would bring people in their 20s and 30s into the library and show that we provide fun and relevant programs for people of all ages. The library can enhance many aspects of their lives, not just the studying and reading with which we are traditionally associated."
The library's mission is to bring people and ideas together and the library staff said they hope to continually provide new and innovative programming that does just that, Spindle said.
The second Speed Dating at the Walnut Creek Library event was held this month and library staff is looking forward to another event in February and hoping that the program grows, Spindle said.
"Maura's program with its focus on body language and subtle cues should be fascinating to anyone and particularly helpful to those trying to navigate the modern dating scene," Spindle said.
In her coaching experiences, Torkildson -- who has nearly 10 years of experience as a trainer and workshop facilitator, instructing and coaching franchise owners, small-business owners and job seekers -- said practice listening to others has been vital to success in any relationship.
"We've lost the art of listening in our culture," she said. "As a coach, I want to be able to listen to what's behind the words."
Eileen L. of Walnut Creek, who wishes to withhold her last name, said she looks forward to coaching sessions with Torkildson every week "because it forces me to dive deep into what really motivates my actions and the outcomes I most want for my relationships and other areas of my life."
Concord resident Viola S., who also requests to withhold her last name, said her coaching sessions with Torkildson have been "grounding and self-revealing." The tools Torkildson has learned from Social Fluency and her life experiences in business and as a trainer, have helped Viola come away with a better understanding of her behaviors.
"I feel I am well supported in finally seeing who I am right now," said Viola S. "How freeing that is."