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Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People

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Do you feel awkward at networking events? Do you wonder what your date really thinks of you? Do you wish you could decode people? You need to learn the science of people.

As a human behavior hacker, Vanessa Van Edwards created a research lab to study the hidden forces that drive us. And she’s cracked the code. In Captivate, she shares shortcuts, systems, and secrets for taking charge of your interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on how to captivate anyone—and a completely new approach to building connections.

Just like knowing the formulas to use in a chemistry lab, or the right programming language to build an app, Captivate provides simple ways to solve people problems. You’ll learn, for example…

· How to work a room: Every party, networking event, and social situation has a predictable map. Discover the sweet spot for making the most connections.
· How to read faces: It’s easier than you think to speed-read facial expressions and use them to predict people’s emotions.
· How to talk to anyone: Every conversation can be memorable—once you learn how certain words generate the pleasure hormone dopamine in listeners.

When you understand the laws of human behavior, your influence, impact, and income will increase significantly. What’s more, you will improve your interpersonal intelligence, make a killer first impression, and build rapport quickly and authentically in any situation—negotiations, interviews, parties, and pitches. You’ll never interact the same way again.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published April 25, 2017

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About the author

Vanessa Van Edwards

10 books614 followers
Vanessa Van Edwards is the national bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People, which has been translated into 16 languages. As founder of Science of People, Vanessa researches human behavior, communication and the science of relationships. Her innovative work has been featured on CNN, NPR, Fast Company, and Entrepreneur magazine. Her YouTube videos and viral TEDx London Talk have been seen by over 47 million people. For over a decade, Vanessa has been teaching science-backed people skills to audiences around the world, including SXSW and MIT, and at companies including Google, Dove, Microsoft, Facebook, Comcast, and American Express. Her next book Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication is due out in March, 2022.

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5 stars
2,508 (42%)
4 stars
2,097 (35%)
3 stars
979 (16%)
2 stars
251 (4%)
1 star
62 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 605 reviews
Profile Image for Sean Owen.
454 reviews24 followers
June 30, 2018
The real benefit to slogging my way through "Captivate" is that I now have a new worst book I've read all the way through. You know you're in for a real turd when the dedication is "Dedicated to anyone who has ever felt awkward in a social situation. You are so not alone" Like OH MY GOD, TOTALLY. Believe it or not things actually get worse as you go. She has an inability to write without using vacuous slang. Every other sentence is about "hacking" social situations or "leveling up" your relationships. The book is written for nonreaders and numerous info boxes and distracting links appear between nearly every paragraph.

The central argument of the book is that human beings are all the same and by understanding the rules of behavior you can figure out how to advance yourself in social situations. If your primary goal in interacting with others is to figure out how to get something or to advance yourself this might seem like a compelling topic. Even if your goals are that shallow "Captivate" is a pretty weak resource. The evidence the author pulls together to make her case is nearly as good as double-blind, peer-reviewed studies, namely polls she posted on her twitter page.

This is clearly targetted at the people who find profundity in tedious intellectual lightweights like Malcolm Gladwell and his TED talk ilk. They are bad enough, but "Captivate" brings those shallow waters to a new low. If you are really looking for a guide on how to better interact with people go dig up a copy of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People"
Profile Image for Andrea.
23 reviews15 followers
April 4, 2017
I've purchased Vanessa Van Edwards' body language and Creative Live Power of Happiness courses, so I was very pleased to see so much brand new content covered in Captivate.
The mix of both personal and professional examples provided made this book useful for considering how to improve all my different types of relationships. The examples and conversation starters feel authentic throughout the book.

This is the sort of business networking handbook I would read and recommend my colleagues review before our biggest conferences each year because so much time and money is sunk into those events. This provides great ideas on how I can get the most out of trade shows and events.
Profile Image for John.
249 reviews
May 27, 2017
Who knew that if an acquaintance says, "I love chocolate," it is a major social mistake to share and explain my preference for peanut butter?! Apparently, it follows from a first principle of social behavior that I should instead shift subjects until landing on authentic common ground. For example, it would be much better to say, "If you love chocolate do you happen to enjoy chocolate peanut butter yogurt? Yes?! Me too!! I am totally with you. Chocolate peanut butter yogurt is the best!!" Captivate is full of practical tips and insights to help social misfits navigate the world. My sense is that the worth of the book is a function of the personality of the reader. Hence three stars. My favorite advice in the book says to increase my odds by avoiding the "kinds of events that make you (me) unhappy." That I can do!
9 reviews2 followers
April 10, 2017
I loved this book, from the stories Vanessa shares about her own trial and error to the useful, science-based methods she advises for different social interactions. This book taught me new things, made me laugh out loud and is extremely useful. I particularly like how everything feels actionable. I'd finish a chapter and be able to implement its lesson right away. I especially liked Chapter 12, Reveal. The lessons found in that chapter are helping to make me a better storyteller, which is something I need professionally!
Profile Image for Chris Rutledge.
42 reviews4 followers
March 17, 2017
I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of Captivate - it is fantastic! For all of you "recovering awkward people" out there, this book is a gold mine of useful tips, clearly presented, to enable you to "hack" any awkward social situation. Like her amazing YouTube videos, television appearances, and blogs, Van Edwards is engaging, warm, and the best friend we all wish we had!

Profile Image for Lorilin.
757 reviews238 followers
August 4, 2018
As an introvert who was basically raised by wolves, I found so much good stuff in this book. There's a ton of guidance on relating to and reading people, and I learned a lot. Glowing review TK.
Profile Image for Laura.
209 reviews8 followers
May 18, 2017
I truly believe that I could happily live life as a hermit. Not because I hate people. I love people. Sometimes though, I don't know what to say to them. This book has helped me a great deal. As a long-suffering introvert, I've learned from this book how people work. Her website is just a fun and entertaining as the book. I now know how to interact with people and not feel like an idiot. For that alone, this book gets 5 stars from me.
Profile Image for hotsake (André Troesch).
686 reviews12 followers
February 14, 2022
This is a fine book and has lots of information however it wasn't the information that I wanted, expected, or was looking for.
1 review1 follower
April 25, 2017
As a self proclaimed extrovert, I was hesitant about buying this book because I thought it was geared only toward introverts. Wow, how wrong I was. Vanessa, was able to provide hacks, challenges, and insights into ways make me into the best version of myself. From where to stand in a room to how to appropriately thank people based on their love language. Her hacks/lessons occasionally conjured up the reaction of "oh S*** I do that." It is those moments that made me really love this book because she was willing to call us all out on our poor social form (looking down at a phone or hands in the pockets). Not only did she illuminate the negative connotation with that form, but she actually provided simple hacks to remedy these issues.

Even if you are an extrovert who thinks they understand people, you should buy this book. Because like me, I am sure there are some negative social cues (that I was totally unaware of too!) that you possess that Vanessa will help hack.
Profile Image for Nici.
119 reviews3 followers
September 25, 2022
This is an interesting summary of all kinds of topics about relationships and conversations.
It explains personality types, love languages, core values, body language, storytelling and much more.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,649 followers
December 15, 2017
This sentence was actually in the book: "leverage your vulnerability to elevate your relationships." There was some interesting tidbits in here for schmoozing in cocktail parties and stuff, but so there were so many times where she said "utilize" and "leverage" and "connect" that I just could not take it seriously. However, I have no doubt that this book is actually very helpful if one is a less cynical person than I am. Can you read the contempt on my face? If not, see the chapter on reading emotions.
Profile Image for Annie.
870 reviews837 followers
September 10, 2020
Introverts and logical people would find this book useful. Each chapter provides examples, "before" and "after" dialogues, and a list of actions (which research has demonstrated to be effective). After finishing each chapter, practice the techniques before moving on. While some of the suggestions are simple (like having hand gestures to make your talk more engaging to the listener), you need to develop that habit and be able to do it naturally. Or you can sign up for the digital bonus material at scienceofpeople.com/toolbox.

There are some chapters that highlight concepts from other authors, such as Paul Ekman (Emotions Revealed) and Gary Chapman (The 5 Love Languages). If you've already read these books, the material is redundant. There are also snippets of repeated information or research from "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely and "Influence" by Robert Cialdini.
1 review3 followers
April 25, 2017
As an educator and entrepreneur, I'm a geek for a book that teaches me something new I can bring to my students or my business. In particular, I loved Chapter 10 "Connect: How to Speak So People Listen" because it dives into the power of storytelling. As she weaves together examples like the alternative comedy show "The Last Show I Do Before I Go on Medication", the genesis of Beanie Babies and perfecting an authentic rallying cry during fundraising calls for Emory, Vanessa wraps powerful research in relatable and engaging stories. With her own powerful storytelling that reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell, she delivers a book rich with tools that the reader can quickly apply to their personal or professional life.
5,070 reviews57 followers
July 24, 2017
I won an ARC of this book in a goodreads drawing.

A very good book about how to win friends and influence people, using science as a guide.
Profile Image for Jaak Ennuste.
115 reviews5 followers
September 11, 2018
Generally not a big fan of books with similar titles, but this was honestly quite good. It goes a bit down the lines of Dale Carnegie's stuff, where part of you wants to stop reading, but the other part of you understands that some tips are basic truths that you should follow. Definitely will try to keep some things in mind about the use of body language and on frameworks about analyzing people. Occasionally goes over the top about what "science" says about very complex subjects such as human interaction, and leaps to conclusions too quickly (..he was such and such a person and this is why market cap tripled during his time..)
Profile Image for Kathy Heare Watts.
5,979 reviews176 followers
May 2, 2019
Do you know how to read people accurately? What's the science behind human behavior and facial expressions.

I won a copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. So that others may also enjoy this book, I am paying it forward by donating it to my local library.
Profile Image for Iffi.
60 reviews
January 21, 2021
Despite being a heavy 300+ pages, this book feels incomplete. It is effectively just a long sales pitch for the author's workshops, making it otherwise devoid of content. Rather than elaborating on any concept or idea, the book instead offers repetitive links throughout the book urging the reader to "learn more" on her website, which requires subscribing to her newsletter and making one's way through the website, which urges you again to sign up for a workshop. This book was marketed in a misleading way with an emphasis on the book being science-based, and failed to deliver on those promises. It only discusses a superficial understanding of human behavior. Mostly recycled ideas reframed with quirky names in what seems like an attempt to create intellectual property to create the workshops. The "hacks" presented in this book will quickly become irrelevant as society changes.

The author assumes that anecdotal evidence will be enough to convince you of what's being suggested. In the rare cases that "evidence" is supplied, it's usually in the form of a poll, leaving out the details of who was polled or how. Sometimes Twitter polls (screen-captured and placed in the text, taking up more space) are used without noting the inevitable bias that comes from polling only the people following that particular account.

The thickness of the book is deceiving - it looks, at first glance, like it will contain a wealth of knowledge, but it's full of lots of overly large whitespace, images that don't add much to the text, and odd formatting. It contains distracting links, info-less info boxes, and Buzzfeed-style personality quizzes between nearly every paragraph.
Profile Image for Agne.
481 reviews15 followers
May 22, 2018
I am now extremely captivating.

In all seriousness, the book is actually pretty great - easy to understand, fun, the right length. The tips on building relationships are clear and there are enough examples of questions to ask and whatnot. My favorite part was about conversation sparkers. I think the strength of the approach is in the "first five minutes" (first impressions), I was a bit less interested in the long-term things.

I've seen the paper version as well and would recommend that, as there are lots of images and extras to test yourself. The courses they give online might be worth a shot, it seems that a lot of effort and research (lots of experiments are described) has been put into making all the tools.

"Space Mountain blew my mind. All my life I had an inkling I had been missing out, but really I had no idea. The slow, monotonous humps of Dumbo the Flying Elephant did not even come close to comparing to the exhilarating dips and whirls of Space Mountain. The “speed” we reached on the Disneyland Railroad was laughable compared to the daredevil pace of a rocket! That day, my brother and I rode Space Mountain over and over again, and I swore I would never go back to the kiddie rides. This is exactly how it works with conversations. For most of our lives, we chitchat on the kiddie ride. Our conversations aren’t memorable because we aren’t very stimulated or excited."
Profile Image for Narilka.
605 reviews42 followers
December 8, 2018
While prepping to give my first public speaking event I stumbled across Vanessa Van Edwards and her website Science of People. Vanessa has a passion for people, learning what makes us tick, why we act the way we do and how to use this information to become a better communicator. Understanding people is a big part of my job and I'm always looking for new tips and tricks I can use in my daily life. Turns out that her book Captivate is exactly what I was looking for and a whole lot more. Through her research Vanessa has found many science backed "hacks" and created a user manual for the rest of us on how to captivate anyone and build connections. She explains easy to follow strategies that apply to any sort of social interaction: conferences, parties, interviews, pitches, dating, etc. I was able to start using these strategies immediately and definitely see them helping with future interactions. Introvert or extrovert, social rock star or socially awkward, this book is for everyone.

I listened to the audio book read by the author. Vanessa's passion for her work shines through in her narration. As much as I enjoyed the audio, I need to buy a physical copy to use as a reference.
Profile Image for Karma.
223 reviews
May 30, 2019
Vanessa is good with people. I knew that by reading her blog and doing some of her online courses. She is passionate about what she does and motivated by that passion, the work she produces is of a great quality.

I believe this book is one of her best works yet.

I am a self-confessed introvert and find it difficult to talk to people and connect with them naturally. The ideas presented in this book are so easy, yet make so much sense, that it has become far easier for me to connect to people. I loved the chapter on microexpressions and reading people in minutes.

I feel that to be good with people, we need to be good observers. Instead of being in our own heads all the time, we should also pay attention to the telltale signs others are always displaying. Captivate reinforced this belief. And I have seen a marked difference in my own skills after applying the hacks given in the book.

Recommended for all people who work, students and really everyone on the planet. This should be required reading in schools.

I got an early review copy of the book provided by Vanessa's team.
Profile Image for Emiel De jonge.
1 review2 followers
April 25, 2017
I was lucky to be chosen for the early preview. Vanessa van Edwards writes in the same manner and with the same enthusiasm as she does giving presentations. When i was reading her book it felt the same as when she was presenting herself during one of her courses. The book contains the same geeky humor and she puts herself in the spotlight. The book is an easy read through because of this. Chapter 6 and 7 where my absolute favorites because they contain a lot of practical advice on personality and body language. Chapter 9 connects many of the previous chapters and makes it complete. I have learned how to make an educated guess on personality within the first minute when i am talking to people i also have learned some very important things about myself and how to handle and accept certain aspects in my relationships. This book has helped me a lot and made me even more enthusiastic about Vanessa and her school for communication.
Profile Image for J.
906 reviews
March 17, 2020
This might just wind up being a sort of bible for me. I checked this out from the library, but I'm going to ask for my own copy for my birthday or Christmas so I can write in the book and refer to it whenever I want. I'm not necessarily awkward per se, but I've got pretty bad social anxiety where I just shut down with people and want to run from any room that has so much as one other person in it (just yesterday I was at an event where, during lunch, instead of mingling, I took my plate of food and went to a different part of the building and ate by myself). This book sort of turns socializing into a fun game. It has activities throughout that are approachable and every page has something interesting to share. Plus there are directly related resources online that the book regularly informs the reader of. I also love Vanessa's warm, inviting tone. She seems like she'd be an awesome friend.

Edit: Read this again from Jan - March 2020. Just as informative the second time around and I plan on reading small sections of it daily.
1 review
April 25, 2017
I have purchased three of Vanessa Van Edwards’ online classes and this book is a great addition to that collection. There are parts that are duplicative but that was good for me as this format helped distill the knowledge even more. If you are struggling to find meaningful connections with people, either personal or professional, this book will leapfrog you ahead of your peers. Using people’s words, using surprise and having a story toolbox handy has transformed my social skills.
I received a free advanced copy of this book in which I have already read it twice. I’m looking forward to reading it a third time in hardback.
Profile Image for Veach Glines.
241 reviews6 followers
June 1, 2018
I wanted to like this much more than I did, the You-Tube videos by the author marketed this book better than the book was written. I didn't expect to be amazed, but I did expect to learn something new -- or at least a new approach. Nothing in this book has been adopted, by me, to help me communicate.

The book uses bad, tiny, black and white photos (as if this were a self-help book from the 60's) combined with http-links to "learn more" on their website, and poorly written quizzes which are of value to those addicted to online quizzes only.

Won't be reading or paying attention to this author ever again.
1 review
April 25, 2017
I recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves doing a lot of professional networking and feels outside of their comfort zone, even just slightly. I don’t consider myself to have social anxiety but I’ve always wanted to become a more natural conversationalist and this is one of the few books I’ve seen out there that contains distinct techniques (especially chapter 3) for that outcome. If you want to improve your ability to maintain fun, engaging and fruitful conversations in your personal/professional life, pick up this book.
Profile Image for DeAnn.
372 reviews43 followers
June 7, 2017
I loved the mix of science and practical tips in this book. This is perfect for the the new networker or the seasoned pro, there is something new for everyone in it. I can't wait to check out the companion materials on the website!
Profile Image for Bjoern Rochel.
378 reviews71 followers
February 10, 2018
A condensed best-of of her superb Udemy courses. A great toolbox of little hacks and other nifty things to improve social intelligence and interactions.

Handy for introverts like me ;-)
Profile Image for Ryan Rodriquez.
Author 1 book14 followers
August 23, 2023
I highly recommend this book to anyone who interacts with other human beings!

Vanessa Van Edwards does a wonderful job of being open and vulnerable in her efforts to show you researched-based findings that can help you succeed with people. As a fellow introvert, I often find it draining to be out in public, having to "play the networking game".

Van Edwards provides the reader with great, practical tips to help people like us navigate any public situation successfully. There is SO MUCH INFORMATION in this book that it can feel overwhelming at times, but the practical and proven approaches definitely add to my arsenal...er...repertoire.

Read this book and master your ability to captivate!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,035 reviews56 followers
October 3, 2018
Definitely a book I can see myself going back to over and over again. There is so much information packed into this little book and I felt like I learned so much more about peoples behaviours and how to improve interactions with people on a daily basis.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 605 reviews

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