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Captivate Summary

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Captivate PDF SummaryThe Science of Succeeding with People

Not exactly a people person?

The good news: it’s not in your genes.

The even better news: Vanessa Van Edwards has all the scientific facts you need to help you become more sociable.

And she’ll teach you how to:


Who Should Read “Captivate”? And Why?

The 21st century is all about networking.

So, whether you want to hire the right employees, be hired by the right clients or, simply, meet the right people – you need to improve your social skills.

And Captivate is undoubtedly a great starting point.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van EdwardsVanessa Van Edwards is an American behavioral investigator and a bestselling author.

Inspired by numerous awkward experiences in her childhood, Van Edwards founded Science of People, a Portland-based research lab where she and her team study the science of human behavior.

Captivate is her first book.

“Captivate PDF Summary”

In a world that’s all about networking and the people you know, your social skills can either make or break you.

If you don’t want to be a victim of the latter, Vanessa Van Edwards’

Don’t Play Their Game: Beat Them at Your Own

“The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow,” wrote once William Blake.

According to Vanessa van Edwards, the same can be applied to human relations: you don’t need to act like you belong everywhere; you don’t need to act like you excel in all situations.

Want a proof?

Well, a survey done by Vanessa’s lab, Science by People, has revealed that 86,9 percent (out of 4.361 participants) are capable of identifying a fake smile.

So, even when you think you’re fitting in, if you are fake smiling, you’re probably already recognized as an impostor.

How can you change that?

The simple answer is: you can’t. The better one: by avoiding these awkward social situations.

After all, it couldn’t possibly be that all the people at a party matter to you!

Focus on the right ones!

Just take a page out of the authoress’ book.


Vanessa explains how one of her YouTube followers once complained to her in a comment that she needs to look more professional, and, in order to do that, she needs to get rid of her casual clothes.

Of course, Vanessa’s knee-jerk reaction was to go shopping.

However, soon she realized that she doesn’t do the YouTube videos for the people who can be distracted by her apparel.

She wanted only those who could focus.

You don’t need to appeal to everyone.

Focus on the right people. And be yourself:

When you try to be the same as everyone else, it’s boring. When you try to fit into a mold, you become forgettable. When you try to be “normal,” you become dull. Just be yourself, because no one is like you. If you’re a little weird, own it. The right people will like you for it.

The Triple Threat of First Impressions

“Whether we like to admit it or not,” writes Vanessa Van Edwards, “we decide if we like someone, if we trust someone, and if we want a relationship with someone within the first few seconds of meeting them.”

Great, you say!

Now you’ve taken the pressure off of me… not!

Hey, of course we’re not going to say that so many things depend on your first impression without sharing with you a great hack to use this to your benefit.

It’s called the Triple Threat, and you can use it as much as you like. People are capable of identifying fake smiles, but they can’t seem to see through the Triple Threat.

So, you’re biologically OK in this case!

The Triple Threat is all about body language.

First, start with your hands.

It is incredibly important to keep them visible at all times.


Interestingly enough, because of evolution. Namely, people still feel distrust for people who hide their hands because a few millennia ago, that could have signified that they are carrying some weapon.

Hack this instinct to your benefit!

Next – moving on to posture.

You already know that the Wonder Woman stance can do wonders for you in terms of confidence; however, it’s not exactly one you could strike in a casual conversation during an event organized by, say, your networking agent.

Which is why you should learn the Launch stance!

Pull your shoulders backward and downward, push your chest forward and let your arms fall gently away from your body.

Now you’re ready for the final piece of the puzzle: eye contact.

Eye contact stimulates the production of oxytocin, the “I trust you” hormone.

In other words, maintain eye contact with someone two-thirds of a conversation, and you’ve got yourself a new friend!

Microexpressions and the Seven Universal Emotions

As we’ve already told you, Paul Ekman – aka Tim Rothman in Lie to Me – is “the best human lie detector in the world.”

One of his most important contributions to the field of psychology is his discovery of the human microexpressions, involuntary emotional responses which, unlike other facial expressions, are fast, brief and impossible to hide.

Be attentive of their manifestations, and you’ll be able to uncover which one of the seven universal emotions the person you’re talking to is going through.

#1. Anger, for example, generates two vertical lines between the eyes and pinched eyebrows; in addition, the mouth is tense, either tight-lipped and shut or open wide as if before a shout.

#2. Contempt is defined by something we generally refer to as a smirk, aka the smile that isn’t (or, even, the Mona Lisa smile). As in a smile, a smirk comes with a mouth skewed to one side; however, it indicates dislike or displeasure.

#3. Unlike contempt, happiness shows all over the face; in other words, people are not smiling only with their lips, but also with their cheeks and eyes; but, then again, you’ll know a happy smile when you see one.

#4. Fear is expressed mainly through the eyebrows and the wide-open eyes; additionally, people who fear usually open their mouths: an evolutionary instinct to stimulate extra inflow of oxygen.

#5. Surprise is similar to fear: wide-open eyes and raised eyebrows; however, in fear, the eyebrows pull together; in surprise, they pull apart.

#6. When someone feels disgust, his/her upper nose wrinkles, his cheeks raise and his upper lip lifts; you know, the thing everybody does after taking a bite of a bad sandwich.

#7. Just like happiness, sadness is easily distinguishable; just look for a frowning, downward and drooping expression.

Swim the OCEAN: The Five Major Personality Traits

In the 1980s, Dr. Lewis Goldberg discovered what we now call the Big Five personality traits, often represented by the acronym OCEAN, because, well, the first letters of these traits somehow – and strangely – form that word.

They also form another one – CANOE – but the OCEAN model sounds less confusing than the CANOE model, which, let’s face it, few would think is an attempt at psychological taxonomy.

So, we guess you won’t blame us for preferring the first order:

#1. Openness to Experience. This trait explains how curious or adventurous you are. A good rule of thumb: if you like your daily routines and you’re not that into traveling, then there’s a high chance that you’re not that open to experiences. On the other hand, if you want to self-actualize through peak experiences, then you are.

#2. Conscientiousness. This trait is related to how efficient/organized you are or, contrarily, to how easy-going or careless you can be. If you like to make to-do lists and you follow a specific schedule, then you are conscientious; if, however, you are spontaneous and flexible then you rank low on this scale, and it’s entirely possible that you’re a bit sloppy and unreliable.

#3. Extroversion. You know this one. If you are outgoing and energetic, and you seek simulation in the company of other, then you’re an extrovert; if, however, you feel most energized when alone, you’re an introvert.

#4. Agreeableness. The more you are compassionate toward others, the more agreeable you tend to be; if, however, you’re antagonistic and suspicious by nature, then you are not that agreeable. The catch: the more agreeable, the more naïve you are.

#5. Neuroticism. This trait describes your tendency to psychological stress. The higher you rank on this scale, the less stable you are as a person.

The Three Types of Stories

Storytelling is awesome.

It played such a big part in our evolution – and, by all accounts, it should go on playing – that some think, instead of being called “wise man” (homo sapiens), out species should be called pan narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee.

Be that as it may, neuroscientists discovered what makes storytelling so powerful.

In a nutshell, its capability to make you feel the very same the storyteller feels. Brain scans of a storyteller and his listener revealed that, by the end of the story, the listener’s brain acted almost the same as the storytellers.

Even though the listener had never gone through the personal experiences the storyteller was trying to relate.

Use this to make connections with other people.

There are three types of stories:

#1. Trigger Topics Stories. These are the ones most people talk about; they are about generic subjects such as the latest news, the traffic, the weather or any other thing which affects all people.

#2. Sparkling Stories. These are, usually, personal stories which tend to communicate at a deeper level. They are either anecdotes or some dramatic experiences which engage the listener. At best, they tend to make other people experience a strong emotion, one of the seven universal ones we’ve gone through above.

#3. Boomerang Stories. These are the stories which start with the storyteller, but end with the listener. Any story can become a boomerang story if you end it with: “Has this ever happened to you? Something similar, perhaps?”

Key Lessons from “Captivate”

1.      Make a Good First Impression Through Your Body Language
2.      Storytelling Is Awesome – and There Are Three Ways to Use It to Your Benefit
3.      Want to Be Closer to Someone? Ask Him a Small Favor!

Make a Good First Impression Through Your Body Language

First impressions matter; in fact, they matter so much that there’s a high chance 90 percent of the people you like, you’ve liked from the outset!

If you want to leave a good first impression, however, your body language is just as important as your words.

Escape the triple threat of failure by never hiding your hands (evolutionary, hidden hands may mean hidden weapons), standing up straight with your shoulders back (in a launch stance), and maintaining eye contact (for two-thirds of any conversation).

Storytelling Is Awesome – and There Are Three Ways to Use It to Your Benefit

Everybody wants to listen to other people’s stories – when they are interesting; and from the same reason everybody likes to watch movies or play video games – simply put, humans like narratives.

There are three types of them, and using each craftily will help you become a more effective people person.

The first type of stories are the trigger stories – you know, the latest news, the weather, the traffic; the second type are the sparkling ones – personal anecdotes, dramatic experiences, etc. Finally, the third type are the boomerang stories – those which bring the story back to the listener.

Prepare yourself a story stack – and mingle!

Want to Be Closer to Someone? Ask Him a Small Favor!

We’ve already told you about this one, but let us remind you.

Once, Benjamin Franklin asked to borrow a book from a political rival and a would-be legislator; he returned it with a thank-you note.

Suddenly, they weren’t rivals – but friends.

Because everybody likes better people unafraid to show that they are vulnerable.

Don’t believe us?

Just ask Brené Brown.

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“Captivate Quotes”

Being a highlighter is about constantly searching for the good in people. When you tell people they are good, they become better. When you search for what’s good, you feel great. Click To Tweet If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Click To Tweet Whether we like to admit it or not, we decide if we like someone, if we trust someone, and if we want a relationship with someone within the first few seconds of meeting them. Click To Tweet When you produce dopamine during a conversation, you not only give your partner more enjoyment, you are also assigned more significance, which increases your memorability. Click To Tweet Don’t try to impress people, let them impress you. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

According to Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent and the author of What Every BODY is saying, “Captivate is packed full of useful information for anyone interested in improving their social skills—it’s a must-read.”

“Nearly every page contains surprising insights and practical tips to help you succeed more in life,” adds Chris Guillebeau.

But John Acuff is both most succinct and straightforward: “Hello Captivate, good-bye awkward moments.”

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