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The Science of Succeeding with People

By Vanessa Van Edwards
  • Read in 13 minutes
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  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards

Captivate (2017) is your guide to human behavior and social success. Whether you’re trying to connect with others at home, at work or out in the world, Van Edwards set about breaking down the mechanics of how to capture people’s attention and engage in meaningful interaction.

Key idea 1 of 8

Control social situations by focusing on your strengths and the people who matter.

Imagine you’ve been invited to a party or networking event. The problem is, you consider yourself a somewhat socially awkward person. To succeed in this foreign and uncomfortable environment, you’ll need a strategy to gain control over the situation. In other words, you’ll need a social game plan.

Keep in mind that different people do well in different social contexts. Indeed, the point of coming up with a social game plan is to avoid the contexts that you dislike. After all, nobody would expect a pitcher to also be a star second baseman – and the same goes for social contexts: few people thrive in every situation.

Simply put, do your best to avoid the social situations you most abhor. If you try to fake your way through them, you might find yourself in trouble; fakeness is something people can easily sense.

Want proof? Well, a survey done by Science of People, the author’s lab, tested the ability of participants to identify a fake smile. In the end, 86.9 percent of the 4,361 participants successfully identified the fake smile.

So knowing where you’re comfortable is important, but it’s also necessary to decide precisely whom you’ll focus on. Remember, you don’t have to please everyone. Focus on the people you want to reach.  

The author learned this lesson when one of her YouTube followers complained, in a comment, that her casual attire made her appear unprofessional in her videos. The author was initially concerned about the comment and even considered re-shooting her videos. But pretty quickly she realized that she was looking to connect with a particular type of student for her courses; she wanted people who could focus, not those who would be easily distracted by her clothing.

This helped her realize that she didn’t have to appeal to everyone. She alone could define the group of people relevant to her work and use her brainpower to draw them in.

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