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Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards

Charles Cherney

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Jan 16 5 minutes read

Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People (2017) is by Vanessa Van Edwards. The book is divided into three sections:

Part I. The First Five Minutes

A chapter of Part I is dedicated to how to make a killer first impressions. Van Edwards notes that we are trying to to answer three basic questions about a person we are meeting for the first time:

1) Are you friend or foe?
(Safety check: Should I stay or go?)

2) Are you a winner or a loser
(Is this person confident? A leader or a follower?)

3) Are you an ally or an enemy?
(Will this person back me up?)

When we determine someone is 

1) a friend rather than a foe

2) a winner rather and loser and

3) an ally rather than an enemy

we trust them more.

Van Edwards suggests honing three skills when it comes to meeting people and developing trust:

Skill #1 - Be a friend: Use your hands.
• "When someone can see your hands," Van Edwards writes, "they feel more at ease and are more likely to befriend you." So keep your hands out of your pockets and above the desk.
• Shake hands firmly.
• Use your hands when you talk. (Did you know the most watched TED videos have speakers who use their hands the most?)

Skill #2 - Be a winner: Stand tall.
• People are drawn to others who exhibit a high degree of confidence.
• Body language matters: Exhibit confidence by standing tall. Keep your shoulders down and back; aim your chin, chest and forehead straight in front of you; keep space between your arms and torso; make your hands visible.

Skill #3 - Be an ally: Make eye contact.
• The best communicators make eye contact with the other person. They make the other person feel that they truly matter. Eye contact is powerful. As Van Edwards notes, "Use eye contact to build trust. Gaze to produce connection."

You only get make a first impression once. Make it matter.

Part II. The First Five Hours

In Part II, Van Edwards delves into making a deeper connection. She begins by reviewing microexpressions. A microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression that humans make when they feel an intense emotion. There are seven universal facial microexpressions: anger; contempt; happiness; fear; surprise; disgust; and sadness. Van Edwards believes that spotting these microexpressions is the key to reading someone's true feelings. They point to the truth behind whatever the other person is saying.

Van Edwards also gets into the the five-factor model. This psychological principle posits that all humans have five basic personality traits:

Van Edwards believes each person's personality is informed by these five factors. Together they can be thought of as a personality matrix. And Van Edwards believes one can learn a lot about another person by figuring out their matrix - and adjusting how one interacts accordingly. "We can't alter people's nature," Van Edwards writes. "Instead of trying to change the people in your life, learn how to decode, optimize and predict their behavior." 

Part III. The First Five Days

In the final section of the book, Van Edwards aims to help one master the art of leveling up your relationships. That is, "how to turn teammates into partners, clients into raving fans, and good friends into best friends."

First and foremost in building relationships is the importance of stories. "Stories spark our attention and align the listener's brain patterns with those of the storyteller." Not all stories are created equal: "Every story should have a hook, a struggle, and vivid words." Compelling storytelling cements connections with others.

Van Edwards also talks about how leadership in a relationship has more to do with empowering others rather than controlling them.

As for toxic people, Van Edwards says that they are not worth your energy. "You cast the people who you want to play a role in your life. Choose wisely."

You would be wise to read this book and learn from Vanessa Edwards. And check out her talk at Google below.

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