We recently read “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People” and had the privilege of talking with the author, Vanessa Van Edwards, on The Table Network Podcast. Her book goes in-depth on the science behind human behavior and teaches us that we can use that knowledge to improve our social skills and interactions with others through reading body language, making a great first impression, and building rapport – all of which help in creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships.

In her book, Vanessa places emphasis on the importance of being truly authentic and genuine in our interactions with others rather than trying to manipulate or gamify the situation. We can work to build strong, meaningful relationships that will serve us and those we meet well by striving towards expressing genuine empathy and understanding.

Here are a few things we learned: 

Learn to read body language

The first lesson we learned while reading along is the importance of nonverbal communication. Vanessa provides practical tips and techniques for decoding body language, such as paying attention to facial expressions, gestures, and posture. By understanding these cues and what they mean we will have better insights into how others are responding to our body language and verbal cues, and we can then adjust our own behavior for better communication.

Make a great first impression

Her book also emphasizes the importance of making a positive first impression, which sets the tone for the relationship moving forward. Van Edwards provides tips for making a strong first impression, such as dressing appropriately for the occasion, maintaining good eye contact, and using confident body language. With a solid first impression secured, we have created a strong foundation for future interactions.

Understand different personality types

Another practical takeaway from her book is the importance of understanding different personality types and adapting your communication style to better connect with others. Van Edwards identifies four main personality types – analytical, driver, amiable, and expressive – and provides tips for communicating effectively with each type. By tailoring our approach to different personality types, we can build stronger, more productive relationships.

Use the power of mirroring

Vanessa also discusses the power of mirroring – the technique of subtly mimicking another person’s body language to create a sense of connection and rapport. She provides tips for using mirroring effectively, such as copying the other person’s posture or using similar gestures. We tend to subconsciously like people who remind us of ourselves, so when we practice subtly mirroring the body language of others we can create the sense of familiarity and comfort that helps to build relationships.

Practice active listening

The importance of active listening is also discussed – that is, the practice of fully focusing on what the other person is saying and responding in a thoughtful, engaged way. Vanessa provides her top tips for active listening: not interrupting, asking open-ended questions, and summarizing what the other person has said. When we practice active listening, we show others that we really do value their opinions and ideas, which helps us to build stronger, more meaningful relationships.


It also led us to wrestle with these questions:

Have you ever been in a situation where you misread someone’s body language or sent the wrong signal with your own body language? How did that impact the interaction?

How do you balance being true to yourself with the need to create a positive impression on others?

What are some practical steps you can take to improve your own social skills and build more successful relationships?