Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards, A Book Summary

Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards is a book that delves into the science of human behavior and the art of persuasion. In it, Van Edwards provides practical tips and techniques for mastering the art of communication and influencing others.

One of the key themes of the book is the importance of understanding the different personality types and how to adapt your communication style to best appeal to each type. Van Edwards emphasizes the value of being able to read body language and detect subtle cues in order to effectively communicate and persuade others.

Another key point the author makes is the need to be authentic and genuine in your interactions with others. Van Edwards argues that people are more likely to be persuaded by those who are sincere and genuine, rather than by those who try to manipulate or deceive.

In addition to providing practical tips and techniques, Van Edwards also shares stories and examples from her own experience as a human behavior investigator. These real-life examples serve to illustrate the principles she discusses in the book and make the concepts more relatable and accessible.

With its focus on the science of human behavior and its practical, easy-to-follow advice, this book is sure to help readers become more effective and influential in their interactions with others.

One of the key themes of the book is the importance of understanding and reading other people’s body language. Van Edwards explains how certain body language cues, such as eye contact and posture, can indicate a person’s level of interest and engagement. She also discusses how to use your own body language to build rapport and influence others.

In addition to body language, Captivate covers other aspects of social interaction, such as how to make a good first impression, how to effectively communicate with others, and how to build and maintain relationships. Throughout the book, Van Edwards uses examples from her own research and experiences to illustrate her points and provide practical advice for readers.

Here are my book summary notes in detail:

  • The worst advice she ever got was say yes to everything. She went to a lot of networking events that didn’t serve her.
  • Pretending be someone you’re not (like an extrovert) is the worst thing you can do. Don’t go to events where you don’t feel comfortable or don’t want to be there. People can sniff it out from a mile away.
    • A survey the author conducted found that being fake was the most offputting thing rather than being an extrovert or introvert
  • Everyone has different locations they thrive in or prefer. Some prefer nightclubs or casinos, others prefer sports events, a survey done found that there was no consistent winner across respondents. Everyone has different preferences.
    • Trying to force yourself to succeed in an environment you dislike is like trying to play multiple positions on the sports team. Every position has different skill sets and abilities needed so it’s futile trying to do good at one when you’re better at another.
    • The places that you dislike the most should be labeled your survival locations. You’re simply looking to survive there. Places you enjoy the most all your Thrive locations.
  • Harry Truman is an example of a quiet introvert who succeeded and became the president by knowing his strengths and communication style and winning over voters and partners in Sweet spot locations that fit his strengths, such as long hallways and not well traversed areas and rooms where he could speak one on one with people, where is his competitor thrived and communicated mostly in mass broadcasting forms.
  • There are zones to avoid and sweet spot zones at a social event.
    • you want to avoid places that preoccupy people who are there since it’s hard to talk while you’re doing something, such as the area for food or the area when they’re first checking in because they want to get a feel for the environment and who is there, so they’ll be looking over you. Avoid going to friends or people you know first. These groups are hard to get out of. Reserve your initial energy to new people.
    • The two sweet spot zones are near the hosts line of sight and after they get a drink. No one wants To drink alone, so you’ll be their savior if you talk to them their aunt the host would love to introduce you to someone if you ask. He also did some research on people who got the most business cards and connections on LinkedIn, and they dominated these two spots.
  • The triple threat is hands, posture, and eye contact. These three things can be used to pass through layers of trust.
    • Research cited in the book as well as research conducted by the author points to the idea that people come up with their conclusion about you in the first few seconds. For example, the authors research found that people’s initial impressions in the first few seconds of a TED talk are consistent with how effective they think the talk is if they watch it to completion.
    • Hand gestures come down to using more of them and keeping them out of your pockets. The authors coders painstakingly counted the amount of hand gestures of successful and unsuccessful TED talks. And most successful TED talks used double as many hand gestures as the unsuccessful ones. Hands are important because they convey whether you are safe or not. Hiding your hands or having something dangerous in your hands is not a good sign. Therefore, keep your hands out of your pockets.
    • Posture – when we succeed, we take up space. When we are defeated, we reduce space.
  • Most people have boring conversation around what they do for work where they are from and why they are here. It’s boring so it doesn’t usually lead anywhere or leave a mark. Research has shown that anything new sparks neurons in your brain, which makes it feel more interesting. The author did some research through a funded speed networking study to identify the most interesting Conversation starters. Here are some of the big ones in order of highest rated.
    • What has been the highlight of your day?
    • What personal passion project are you working on?
    • Have anything exciting coming up in your life?
    • Whats your story?
    • What brings you here?
    • What do you do?
    • How are you?
    • The latter ones are the most common and rated the most boring. We do these out of habit but nothing sparkworthy happens in our comfort zone.
  • Do things that make you stand out. Dating app research found that boring salutations catalyst response where is even slightly different salutations like howdy or what’s up or how’s it going got better response because it’s unique. People are constantly scanning for something that’s new or novel and ignoring white Mundine. I study of homeless people asking for money in different ways found that asking for $.37 did the best compared to more Mundine questions like can you spare a dollar? Similarly, the author tested
    • There are various ways to stand out in everything you do. A hotel that offers a s’mores cupcake as a welcome gift beats other hotels outstanding out. The author does this in various ways as well, with different props in her guest room such as a snoopy peds dispenser. In your conversation you can do this by using conversational hard buttons to highlight something that is unique
  • Be more silent, actively listen, and be interested
    • The author took a vow of silence to see if she could talk less and listen more. She would go to networking events and conduct her usual days but would hand out a business card explaining her valid silence and apologizing for not being able to talk. To our surprise, this week when she conducted this experiment was one of her most successful in delivering connections. It turns out that people like to talk and if you show active listening and interest in what they say, you can still form connections. She actually was able to get business and create A networking follow up meeting just by showing her interest in listening. Research shows that people will pay to have their opinions heard. The book goes on to detail someone called Sloan who ran General Motors for many years. This man was very successful and grew the market share of the company from 12% to about 50%. He was able to do so with a management style focused on listening. He would make sure to listen to others.
    • Sloan and the best communicators are conversational highlighters. They listen, they highlight what’s most important, and they take action on it. You bring out the best in others by highlighting the best in yourself.
  • People instinctively look for similarities. Each time you say something that implies that not me is killing rapport. Avoid saying stuff like “you know, I just never got into The Walking Dead.“ So how do you deal with it when someone say something that you don’t do? Ignore and continue to search for things you have in common. If they mention That they went to private school and you went to public, dig deeper and ask them if they played any sports at the school.
    • Lewis Howes is a successful entrepreneur who use LinkedIn to get connected with various successful, high impact people. He had a formula for pitching people he reached out to that was most successful which involves finding three commonalities. These commonalities would usually be around an organization that they both had in common like a school they went to, a person they both knew, or a location/hobby they were both related to.
  • Thread theory
    • A very effective way of starting conversations
    • Find something in common. There are three ways to do this effectively. First, context. What brought you both to this event. Maybe you’re both on LinkedIn. Second, contacts. Do you both know someone?
  • The author coins, a term called “hacker ask” which basically means that you add a  reason to anything you ask that gives them ownership/investment in the process rather than just ask it. The author coined the term called “hacker ask“ which basically means that you add a beneficial, valuable reason to anything you ask of someone rather than just asking. She provides about a dozen examples that are actually pretty useful. She gives the example of just asking for someone’s phone number versus giving a good reason, such as I think we would get along a lot. Or asking if they want to get indian food but then adding because it’s really tasty rather than just asking. Or asking to pick someone’s brain by giving a variable reason why it would be worth their time rather than just asking. It’s simple, maybe even obvious, but people don’t do it. I’ve been guilty of just asking for stuff like this myself. I noticed her examples also tend to deliver value to that person. For example, rather than just asking for an aisle seat, you asked for an aisle seat because you tend to get up a lot and you don’t want to disturb people. I think the inclusion of value to the people you ask, makes the ask more appealing.
  • The book also gives a great tip about delegating. Have you ever been preparing for a social event and you need help, so you just ask anyone within earshot if they could help with a certain manual task? Usually they end up doing it begrudgingly or not at all. Instead, the author suggests delegating of peoples strengths, so saying something like, hey, is anyone here good at XYZ? Can you help me with this. That way, they feel like they’re doing Something They’re actually good at and feel more invested. Honestly, I think this is a helpful tip because quite recently, I was preparing for a Halloween event and that’s situation came up and I could tell there was probably gonna be more begrudging work if you just ask someone to help.
  • Give people ownership when delegating, and play to their streets, to win them over when asking for stuff.
  • The spotlight effect is a bias for women. You think more people are paying attention to your life then actually are. Since we are the center of our own universities, we can often assume that everyone notices when you make a mistake. In reality, a lot less people, care, or notice than you think. A study was depicted in the book to illustrate this. In the study, They had participants wear an embarrassing T-shirt and go into certain rooms. They found that the participants overestimated how many people noticed the T-shirts by two times.
  • Vulnerability is useful for creating connections and community. In fact, people are looking for a community where they aren’t charged and they can express and tell all the secrets so they don’t have secrets. The book gives a story about a website and online and in person community that shares anonymous secrets with each other. This website went viral, and the author breaks down why people love to share anonymous secrets. People don’t find anywhere else where they can be vulnerable and they feel embarrassed About this sender, seeking a place where they can actually expressed it with someone else, and feel accepted about this , seeking a place where they can actually expressed it with someone else, and feel accepted.
  • Mistakes build relatability. Are we should study was done serving people who saw someone spilled their coffee versus someone who did perfectly in an interview. The one who spilled the coffee was rated as more likable.
  • ask for advice as a way to gain favor, because it elicits them to be kind to you, and help you, which biases them to be nicer to you. This is the Franklin affect in action, apply to a very tactical way of evoking it. The Franklin affect is coined after Benjamin Franklin, who use this to borrow a rare book from someone he was trying to win over in politics. Typically, this person is more difficult to persuade, but after doing that kindness to Franklin, he was always much nicer and more cordial then before when they met. The author is suggesting that a better way of invoking this instead of asking for favors is to ask for advice. Do you every day person loves to give advice on anything they’re interested in, like their favorite coffee spot. Once they’ve done this kindness for you, dear, more likely to be kind to you in the future. I think this is good advice, but I wonder if it works less well when you’re using it on someone famous or successful who gets asked a lot for advice. Then, it becomes value, taking and draining and annoying. I also always wondered if the Ben Franklin affect really works that well because you’re kicking it off by being value, taking and asking for something. That’s more likely to be responded with a no, especially when you’re trying to win over a adversary. But I suppose it’s also implementing other things, like tapping into their interests and hobbies, outside of work, which builds another relationship with that person. I feel like the second rule you don’t wanna break is try to be more value giving than value taking.
  • Vanessa claims her moments of vulnerability have led to her greatest career, and I successes. One time, she admitted to the person next to her that she had no idea what the speaker in the room was talking about. The person next to her agreed and he started a conversation. This person ended up being the producer at CNN, and created a segment for her to share what she teaches on air.
  • Vanessa coins a term gremlins in a unique way. Your gremlins are your demons or psychological fears, that control, how you act, sometimes in extreme or on ideal ways. Everyone has at least one gremlin at some point throughout their lives when it comes to social interactions. It can be the fear of being excluded, fear of being criticized, fear, being not noticed, fear of not being enough, fear of not being accepted for who you are, and so forth. Sometimes, you might React out in unique ways because of these gremlins. There are a few archetypes that come up most often. There’s a narcissistic type that brag too much and overcompensates because they’re scared of not being good enough for being left out of conversations and feel like they’re not included. Then, there’s the passive types who won’t say anything and you’re just quiet because they’re scared of rocking the boat or doing anything that might be criticized. There’s a downer type who fears being rejected so they rejected everyone first and they’re always negative. Then, there is the tank type. These people are explosive, bossy, and aggressive. They fear a lack of control, so they take control. They sometimes also use attention seeking behaviors because they fear being forgotten.
  • Vanessa believes that difficult people aren’t evil. They’re simply letting their reptilian brain react naturally to fear which overrides their long-term conscious critical thinking brain region. Therefore, they are often reacting out of fear for survival on some level, which often leads to behavior that is an ideal if they had time to really think about it when they’re calm.
  • The best way to win over other people is not to focus on your own accolades, and how amazing you are. Instead, focus on what touches on their emotional triggers.
  • Use “me too” or “teach me” to continue a conversation thread. Most people don’t use these enough. People become more likable when they have more things in common with you. We like people who are like us. If someone say something and you can’t say me too, say teach me. Lewis house does this a lot on his podcast. When he doesn’t have something in common, he asked the person to teach them about whatever the topic is, such as travel, business, or dance. People love to talk about something they’re knowledgeable or passionate about.
  • Also, use the Toyota five whys technique to create deeper conversation with words. You can create deeper conversations by Continuing to ask why they did a certain thing regarding to a certain thing. Seems like it’s best to add some value with statements so you’re not just continuously interviewing someone.
  • You can much more effectively build rapport and dissolve potential issues by scanning for micro expressions. These are pleading quick facial reactions that happen instinctually right after something happens, wish you then quickly covered up by their conscious response. Scientific researchers like Paul Echmann have been using these effectively to identify all sorts of hidden emotions including lies. Whether it’s contempt, distain, disgust, surprise, fear, or any other microexpression, you want to identify these when they occur and then address them swiftly so that they do not linger and faster overtime to turn into a bigger issue.
    • For example, let’s say you gave your mom an iPad and the fear micro expression briefly appears on her face. Most people would think that they have nailed it and moved on only to find out months later, she has barely used the iPad. Someone who has read this book will have detected that and swiftly going on to have a private conversation with her about why she’s feeling potential fear and go on to arrange a tutorial meeting with her on how to use the iPad as well as arranging a few workshops with the Apple store with your mom. A couple weeks later, she’s using a lot more of the apps on the iPad including Netflix and email.
    • Contempt is a micro expression that you want to address quickly so that it doesn’t fester into bigger issues.
    • Make sure your online micro expressions are on point. Nowadays, we don’t get the luxury of delivering a first impression. People often see your online persona, google you, see your Tinder photos before they meet you.
A good portion of the book is devoted to using the big five personality traits to speed read someone or to get to know them overtime to communicate best with them. The author admits that she had a lot of trouble working with someone she hired because, at the time, she didn’t realize that this person had a completely different different big five personality than her. For example, the author would check in on this person way too often since she was more neurotic than her employee. This caused her employee to get flustered and feel like she was being micromanaged. The author was high conscientious and high neurotic, which led to a flood of notes and instructions and tasks for her employee. Unfortunately, our employee was highly agreeable and low conscientiousness, so she was too scared to say no so I always said yes even though she was overwhelmed and the amount of instructions in request was overwhelming.
The author learns from her mistakes. She now advises people to really understand someone’s big five personality. This takes practice and experience to get right, which is OK. Just keep trying and working with people you know when your friends to get their personality traits and continually get better. Statistics show that people are often why when they make a snap judgment about someone’s big five personality. However, there’s still a lot of room to improve, so keep practicing.
You often find that people you work best with have very similar big five personality traits as you, and people that you have the most trouble with have very different big five personality traits. The key to communicate effectively with others when your big five personality is different is to adjust so that you can find some middle ground that works for both of your styles. Trying to force a style that doesn’t work for their personality is usually futile or ineffective.
One example of guessing someone’s love language is if someone says that they’re always trying out new cooking recipes that are exotic. This is a sign that they are high openness because they are open minded enough to try different things.

Love Languages

Another communication style that is critical to understand is the five love languages. Trying to communicate with someone with one love language when they prefer another is like trying to ride with your nondominant hand. It feels unnatural, it’s tiring, and it doesn’t work well. The author gives the example of how she kept creating these very innovative gifts for our father, like a custom scented candle collection, only to get little to no reaction. One year, when she was sick, she decided to just spend time with her father while he taught her about football while they watch the game. The father said it was the best gift he ever got and that was because his love language was acts of service.
Using love language can help you better understand people, identify the best and least effective ways of communicating and feeling fulfilled with others, and know what to avoid or what doesn’t work. If you love language is quality time, long distance relationships and remote work may not fulfill you.
Illicit and appeal to someone’s values to win them over. The book profiles a top African safari who flagged one of their top clients. During the tour, they went off to investigate some leopard tracks, leaving the guest in the safety of the car. Unfortunately, a bull elephant came up and kept smacking the car aggressively because of the crackle of the walkie talkies still in the car. The guest was so rattled and angry that he refused to talk to the head of the Safari who was delivering a personalized tour for him. Over the next couple days, this head of the Safari did everything he could think of to win this guest back over but failed. Until, he realized that this guest saw himself as an adventurer and one of his values was having a big adventure. He called in some favors and got all the women at the Safari to talk to discuss and discuss how brave he was. This worked like a charm. Pretty soon, the guest was bragging to everyone about his encounter with the elephant. The story was meant to illustrate the power of appealing and understanding a person’s values.
So the first two layers of this model include understanding love languages and personality type. The last layer is the hardest to master and get right but useful. This last layer is understanding someone’s values.
  • It will take a lot of practice and it is not easily apparent what someone’s core value is.
  • Try to observe what they complain about often or seek more of.
  • There are various values out there, including money, status, information, goods, giving back, acknowledgment, and recognition.
  • The book gives a couple good examples of how finding that persons value and appealing to that can lead to a more productive and successful result. If you keep appealing or talking to something that they don’t care about, you’re not going to do as well.  One story was how someone that the author knew was able to get a candidate for an internship to enthusiastically work for free because he understood that this person valued information and experience most, so he appealed to that benefit when emailing this candidate.
  • The last part of the book covers how to grow a relationship beyond the first encounter into greater friendships, connections, and experiences.
  • A good conversation or presentation should start with a hook, then mention a struggle, and then include powerful words. This keeps people engaged with a story.
    • The book offers a bunch of scripts you can use.
  • The ownership hack gets people invested on your mission by giving them ownership and responsibility. An example is giving of how they very successful chain of schools was open across the country. It all started through a idea and the person who started it got all those involved by giving them ownership and responsibility to bring this idea to life. That way, the idea became also their’s.

Book Review

“Captivate” by Vanessa Van Edwards offers insights on body language, communication, and the crucial first few seconds of interactions that are rarely found elsewhere. With credibility and a foundation of research studies, she delves into these topics with a unique perspective.

While there’s no guarantee that her advice will universally apply or yield the desired outcomes in every situation, it remains one of the best resources for improving communication in professional and social settings. The book provides valuable information that warrants experimentation. If certain strategies don’t work for you, it’s prudent to move on and explore other approaches.

Personally, I ventured into this arena of communication due to dissatisfaction with my results and a refusal to settle. Many individuals may have achieved satisfactory careers and lives, leading them to overlook the importance of these aspects. However, neglecting to address non-verbal and verbal communication can hinder personal growth. How we present ourselves influences how we are judged and received in various domains. I’ve observed improvements in my communication skills when interacting with clients in my day job and during networking events or personal endeavors. Notably, certain social events, such as bars, often reveal people’s honesty and immediate judgment within the first few seconds. Vanessa’s tips encompass various social and personal realms, although other factors, such as body language, movement, fashion, and facial expressions, may also come into play. Nonetheless, elements such as smiling, eye contact, venue selection, hand gestures, and posture remain relevant. Integrating these elements can undoubtedly enhance multiple aspects of life.

In the realm of careers, it is now evident that first impressions carry significant weight. Studies highlight the impact of initial impressions on job opportunities and how one is perceived as a successful or unsuccessful professor. Investing extra effort in this area makes logical sense. Recently, I wore a blazer, jacket, and collared shirt when introduced to new teammates at work. While it may not have been necessary given the relaxed dress code, I recognized the importance of leaving a lasting first impression. Judgments occur, and rather than dismissing them as superficial, I acknowledge that they serve as a means for others to gauge who you are when limited information is available.

Some of the advice aligns with recommendations from paid coaches. For instance, engaging in unique conversations rather than resorting to common topics proves fruitful. It is important to keep a record of these prompts to avoid forgetting them in the moment.

The book’s utility lies in its practical tips and the incorporation of studies to support the author’s assertions. However, specific citations regarding the studies she references could enhance its credibility for those who are skeptical of pseudoscience.

Furthermore, while many tactics apply to both careers and dating, there are differences to consider. Dating coaches often emphasize inner self-work, challenging beliefs and identities that perpetuate unfavorable behaviors. This inner transformation corrects behavior at its core. The author could explore this perspective in her next book or teachings. Additionally, “Captivate” leans more toward career and income advice, resulting in some nuanced differences. Debates may arise, such as whether to speak slowly or quickly in the dating realm. Some dating coaches advocate for quick speech to exude energy and avoid appearing dull.

In conclusion, “Captivate” by Vanessa Van Edwards offers valuable insights into body language, communication, and making favorable first impressions. While not a foolproof guide, it remains one of the best resources available for improving communication skills. By integrating the book’s teachings into various areas of life, one can navigate professional and social settings with increased finesse and effectiveness.

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