Monday, May 7, 2018

Book Review: Captivate!

Captivate: The science of succeeding with people. 2017. Vanessa Van Edwards. Portfolio Penguin. 308 pages.

This book has changed my life. It's that simple. And I am not over-stating it.

I'm a few months away from completing my 60th year of life. But, frankly, I have never learned how people work. I've never understood them. Why don't they behave in a logical manner? Why don't I?

Now I know. I know what to do and say in social situations. I understand. Now I just need practice. I'm on my third time studying through the book in the 6 weeks since receiving it.

The book is introduced with the words: "Hi, my name is Vanessa, and I'm a recovering awkward person." (page 1) Here's a person who got hives and uncontrollable hiccups in social situations. She started studying human behavior in the same manner she studied science and math. Then she'd set up social experiments and record the results. This book is the result.

When she found herself in a conversation, she relates: "My mind was always spinning trying to think of what I was going to say next. I couldn't really process what people were saying because I was too busy trying to think of witty jokes, dazzling stories, and clever responses.... I was... turning people off by my distractedness." (page 74)

And as far as understanding people, Van Edwards says: "I used to find people intimidating. I couldn't keep personality differences straight. And I found it impossible to figure out behavior--let alone predict needs." (page 127)

This is me! Or has been. The insights and techniques given apply to all human social interaction--professional, social, romantic.

The book starts out simply with first impressions. Body language. Posture. Eye contact.

Then, How are you? Where you from? What do you do? These social scripts are boring and require no thought. Get rid of small talk! Ask novel, pleasure-inducing, questions. People will remember you and seek your company.

Be impressed by the person you are speaking with. Everyone has a fascinating story... if you can find it. Mirror and match the emotions of people you are speaking with. Really pay attention to the person you are talking with and nothing else! Be on the constant lookout for common interest threads, and reasons to say; "me too!"

The real meat of the book starts in Chapters 6-9.

The 7 universal microexpressions are explained. These involuntary facial expressions are exhibited by all people when they feel intense emotions. Look for these to understand the true emotions of people when they are listening to you, and detect lies when they are speaking.

Understand and predict behaviors based on the 5-factor model of personality (OCEAN). Learn how to quickly read a person's personality. We can't change someone else's personality. But we can learn how to appeal to each type and get along with anyone.

Likewise, everyone has different ways of showing love and feeling appreciation. The 5 love languages apply to all relationships. Don't feel appreciated at work or home? Your love language probably doesn't match your boss or partner. Know what you need so you can ask for the appreciation you desire. Figure out the love language of others so you can give the exact love and appreciation they want. Avoid needless arguments.

Each of us has a primary value that drives our behaviors, actions, and decisions. Find our own from the list of 6 primary values. Then watch the other person's behaviors to infer their primary value and motivations. What need are they trying to fill in every human interaction?

Vanessa Van Edwards creates a chart for every person in her life that contains their personality type, appreciation language, and primary value. She shows how to use this chart of our own important people as a guide to build a constructive and understanding relationship with each person in our lives.

Really connect with people through stories. Empower others by giving buy-in, control, and ownership. Don't try too hard to be perfect. Share vulnerabilities. Don't hide your mistakes. The right people will like you for them.

Do you have a toxic person in your life? Learn how to handle emotional people. Don't argue with emotions--validate them. Seek the root cause or fear. Understand what brought it about. Only when the emotions are gone do you try to solve the problem. Be their ally--"How can I help?" The NUT job: Name, Understand, Transform.

The book ends with Chapter 14. My summary of this chapter is as follows: Sincere curiosity makes one incredibly engaging. We all share the desire to feel valued--loved, needed, understood. The key to being popular is to like more people. Show people you enjoy being with them. Help people feel like they belong.

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Are you tired of not understanding the bizarre behavior and motivations of the people in your life? Are you ready to do something about it? You need this book. It very well may change your life as it has mine.

I didn't know any of this 2 months ago. I noticed my social interactions with people improved before I got even a third of the way into the book. I actually enjoy socializing now--though as an introvert I want more one-on-one situations and not large, loud groups. And I want to take a quiet nature walk after a larger social event. Now I know why.

Vanessa Van Edwards on YouTube:

And the website:

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