Captivate is a book by Vanessa Van Edwards. This book shows you how to be more social. The subtitle is The Science Of Succeeding With People.

She structures the book into three parts listed out below. Another cool thing about this book is that there are challenges at the end of each chapter. To get the full challenges make sure to buy the book. I’ve included my notes on the book below.

Part 1 – The First Five Minutes

Chapter 1 – Control (how to win the social game)

Don’t be fake. People hate fake people than any other type of person whether they are talkative, too quiet,etc.

Another way to win the social game is not to say yes to everything. Only say yes to things where you succeed. You need to figure out where you succeed though.

Vanessa also tells people where the most ideal location to interact with people is at a social event. The best location to interact with people is in the middle. It is not near the food or the restroom. It is also good to be close to the host of the event. She provides a picture of this location.

She encourages you to think of a person that you want to get close to so that you can use all the tools in the book to get closer to that person.

Chapter 2 – Capture (how to make a killer first impression)

We decide if we like someone in the first few seconds. This means we decide whether or not we trust someone or believe someone. There was a study that shows people feel the same way about someone in the first few seconds as after a full semester when they polled teachers.

There are 3 levels to this first impression according to Vanessa. They are

Level 1 – Are you friend or foe
Level 2 – Are you a winner or loser
Level 3 – Are you an ally or enemy

When someone meets all these categories, they become your friend, prospects or clients. You can speed this process up by using what Vanessa refers to as a hack. You have to use nonverbal hacks though.

This includes using your hands. You must also use your launch stance. A launch stance is where you

Keep your shoulders down and back
Aim your chest, chin and forehead straight in front of you and slightly up
Keep space between your arms and torso
Make sure you hands are visible

Another hack is to engage people with eye contact. Vanessa provides visuals in the book to help with all this stuff.

Chapter 3 – Spark (how to have dazzling conversations)

Vanessa encourages readers not to use small talk because it is inauthentic. You need to use unique talking points to create pleasurable and memorable conversations.

There are 3 steps to do this

Step 1 – Use Conversation sparkers
Step 2 – Push Hot Buttons
Step 3 – Wake People Up

Step 1

Step 1 is about using conversation sparkers. Conversation sparkers are interesting questions like.

  • Working on any exciting projects recently
  • What was the highlight of your day
  • Working on any personal passion projects
  • Have any vacations coming up?
  • What’s your story
  • What are you up to this weekend
  • What do you do to unwind

If we abandon social scripts and push ourselves to use conversational sparks, we are more likely to enjoy our interactions and remember what was actually said. Being different wakes people up.

Step 2 Push Hot Buttons

Notice something about a person and ask them about it.

Step 3 wake people up

Trial 1 – can you spare change
Trial 2 – Can you spare a quarter
Trial 3 – can you spare 37 cents

Which one of these questions do you think did the best? It was number 3. Again being different wakes people up.

Some more ways to wake people up:

  • Spice up your job title
  • Stop posting food pictures and sunsets on instagram
  • Put a unique quote in your email signature
  • Don’t serve coffee to clients
  • Instead of sending thank you cards – send stickers, lollipops or popcorn

Chapter 4 – Highlight (how to be the most memorable person in the room)

This chapter is about highlighting other people and not yourself. In this chapter she talks about how she took a vow of silence so that she wouldn’t talk about herself.

One skill to work on is being a raver. This means raving about someone else. People love being given positive labels so try it out.

Don’t try to impress people. Let them impress you.

You should try to be an amazing listener. Being an amazing listener isn’t about just listening. It’s also about how you respond to what you hear.

Chapter 5 – Intrigue (how to be ridiculously likable)

This is about the thread theory where you find and follow a thread of similarity with a person to be more socially attractive.

You should look for threads and see what you have in common with a person. This could be a person, context, or interests.

Follow the thread and do the five whys. The five whys is just asking why five times in order to get to the root of the issue.

Lastly, you should do whatever you can to help that person whose thread you are following.

Part 2 – The First Five Hours ( The Following Chapters Are Part of Part 2)

Chapter 6 – Decode (how to uncover hidden emotions)

The decoding chapter. What are we decoding? Microexpressions.

According to Vanessa there are 7 facial tells that everyone uses that can be decoded. This is another chapter with a lot of visuals.

The 7 emotions are


I recommend getting the book to find out more about how each of these is expressed through the face.

Chapter 7 – Solve (how to crack someone’s personality)

There are 5 traits each person has that can tell you about someone’s personality. Everyone falls somewhere on the scale of these traits.

1. Openness – This reflects how you approach new ideas
2. Conscientiousness – How you approach getting things done. This measures self-discipline, organization, and reliability
3. Extroversion – This describes how you approach people.
4. Agreeableness – How you approach cooperation and working with others.
5. Neuroticism – This describes how you approach worry.

This chapter helps you figure out personality traits and teaches you how to see them in a person. There is also a quiz in this chapter to help you see where you land on these traits.

She recommends asking people directly, but I’m not sure this would work in a lot of instances. You should just practice being able to read people for these traits. She provides questions that you can ask so that you can get a fix on a person’s personality traits.

Vanessa states that your first impressions are right 76 percent.

You shouldn’t impose your personality traits on others. Learn other people’s traits and see where you are alike. Focus on those and not your differences.

Chapter 8 – Appreciate (how to get the best from people)

What is your appreciation language.

1. Words of affirmation – people express their care through spoken or written word
2. Gifts – People with this language appreciate small gifts or tokens of appreciation.
3. Physical Touch – People express their care through touch.
4. Acts of Service – People with this love language express their care by doing things for others.
5. Quality Time – People with this love language express their care with time.

Learn other people’s appreciation matrix as well as yours.

Chapter 9 – Value (how to get along with anyone)

Six resources that we all need

1. Love
2. Service
3. Status
4. Money
5. Goods
6. Information

Dr. Uriel G. Foa says that all interactions are transactions. Fill out your matrix with your primary value.

Do you give or take these resources. Learn people’s primary value in order to understand what drives them also learn your primary value.

Part 3 – The First Five Days

This part is how to turn people into partners or friends into best friends.

Chapter 10 – Connect (How to speak so people listen)

This chapter is about how important story telling is. Use the power of stories to connect with people.

How do you tell a great story.

1. Hook – a provocative question, stimulating statement or open-ended idea.
2. Champion a struggle – the best stories have some kind of struggle
3. Utilize provocative words
4. Boomerang – bring the conversation back to the person you are talking to.

Most viral ny times articles offered a story.

Vanessa encourages readers to come up with stories that they can use in different situations and memorize them.

Chapter 11 – Empower (How to lead people)

Before leaders can inspire action, they have to get emotional buy-in.

Share your misson and tie to mutual interests.

FIgure out how to use people’s skills on your team.

Let others take control. Don’t micromanage.

Chapter 12 – Reveal (How to build lasting relationships)

Story about a guy that gets secrets about people’s lives.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share a secret. You can also ask for favors. This is known as the franklin effect named after Benjamin Franklin.

Asking for advice also helps you figure out someone’s social matrix.

Most of us are the centers of our own world. We don’t know how much our behavior is really noticed by others. Most people don’t notice your weaknesses. Even if they do, vulnerabilities are connection points.

Chapter 13 – Protect (How to deal with difficult people)

This chapter is about how to deal with difficult people.

Prevent good people from becoming difficult. Stop difficult people from becoming impossible.

What makes us be fearful of people. It is called a gremlin. A gremlin is a fear that we portray on others. How does your fear dress up. What do you do when you are fearful. When you become fearful, what you imagine might come true comes true.

For example downers are impossible to please. They have a fear of rejections so they reject everything themselves at first.

Show-offs are fearful of being forgotten, so they constantly seek to prove themselves.

Don’t act from the low road viewpoint all the time. You need to act from the high road and expect better from situations. This will allow you to make better connections and relationships.

Name the emotion that you feel, understand the feeling and move on. Don’t let crazy people manipulate your emotions. Then there is a list of emotions that people feel, and Vanessa describes what those people are seeking. You can’t argue with a feeling, but you can acknowledge it.

When you say no to toxic relationships, you have time for the right ones.

Chapter 14 – Engage (How to turn people on)

Highly social people are more optimistic and upbeat. Try to be like this.

Likeable students in a study liked the most other people. The lesson here is to like more people. This is called the reciprocity effect. Every tool in this book is aimed at the reciprocity effect.

Make people feel like they belong. Oprah does this.

This chapter is mainly a summary of the other chapters and of all the “hacks” in the book.