Vanessa Van Edwards | Captivate (Episode 610)

Vanessa Van Edwards (@vvanedwards) is a behavioral investigator, body language expert, returning guest, and author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People.

“I think it is important to understand how much space you take up in the world indicates to others and yourself how confident you feel.” –Vanessa Van Edwards

The Cheat Sheet:

  • How can nonverbal communication affect the first impression you make to someone — even if they’re just hearing your voice over a telephone call?
  • Explore the science of popularity — what makes the cool kids so cool?
  • Understand the difference between social attraction and romantic attraction — and why they both matter.
  • Find out what we can learn about people from their photographs — especially on dating sites.
  • What interesting patterns turn up in researching episodes of reality television shows Blind Date and Shark Tank?
  • And so much more…


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In her last visit to The Art of Charm, behavioral investigator and body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards of Science of People told us how to read people like a book.

This time around, Vanessa gives us a glimpse into the science of popularity and practical exercises for maximizing our social attractiveness as detailed in her latest book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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More About This Show

Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People author Vanessa Van Edwards studies what makes people tick in her behavior lab at Science of People. She says it’s a lot like solving puzzles, but without the “publish or perish” pressure of academia.

“I had a choice in my career when I graduated from college,” says Vanessa. “Do I go get a masters and a PhD and run ‘real’ research science with grants and get academically published, or do I open up shop right now and instead of having thirty-six seniors in college who take an experiment, have twenty-two thousand people around the world take it?”

She feels it’s a step in the right direction toward ushering in a new era of citizen science research with a bigger data set and more accurate results not influenced by university politics and limitations.

What does Vanessa believe would be another step in the right direction? Eliminating the phrases “be yourself,” “find your passion,” and “be more authentic” from the popular vernacular. As a shy kid growing up, she found this all to be well-meaning enough — but ultimately lousy — advice when trying to fit in with the cool kids at school. But it didn’t dampen her fascination with what made them cool. And a career path was born.

“I was always kind of fascinated by the cool kids in school,” says Vanessa. “They had this cloud of amazing. They’d walk around, and everyone would be them. I swear to you they would wear…whatever. Overalls, slap bracelets, and everyone the next day was wearing it.

“So I finally found this study that looked at the science of popularity. What they did was they went to high schools and they surveyed kids for their popularity rankings, and why certain kids were popular. They observed the children in their natural habitat. Can you guess what was the distinguishing factor that made the popular kids popular?

“The first thing they found was that the most popular kids smiled the most during the day…it kind of bummed me out. I thought it was boring. But [the second discovery] was that the distinguishing factor between what makes a kid popular is that they like the most other students. That one surprised me! It wasn’t actually that they were most liked — although they were. The popular kids themselves actually liked the most of their other classmates.

“Like more people. Now that’s something that I can work with!”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about how being confident enough to show that you like others goes much further in making you likeable than expressing fear by aloofness, the benefits of knowing the best coffee (or taco) shop in the neighborhood, the differences between a high neurotic and low neurotic, what you should never tell a high neurotic person to do, how to spot indicators of interest, the difference between social attraction and romantic attraction, what we can learn about people from the photographs they use for dating profiles, and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Vanessa Van Edwards, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:

Click here to thank Vanessa Van Edwards at Twitter!

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Jordan Harbinger - author of 952 posts on The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped -- twice. He’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. Here at The Art of Charm, Jordan shares that experience, and the system borne as a result, with students and clients.


in Best Of, Lifestyle, Podcast