How to Captivate: Hacking Human Behavior to Everyone's Benefit
“So, I see that you drink tea,” she said staring at my cup. “Do you like herbal, green or regular black?” she asked.
“Oh, I love tea,” I said. “Right now I’m drinking this great tea [pointing to the menu]. It’s herbal, if you like herbal tea you may like it.” To which she replied, “I love herbal tea too. As a matter of fact, I grow my own herbs and make my tea from fresh leaves every morning.”
“Oh really? Tell me more! I’d love to do that, I grow a few herbs too, and I remember as a child my mom made us tea with fresh herbs from her garden. I should start doing my own fresh tea too!”
“Yes, it’s easy and fun, and there are so many varieties of herbs, one of my favorites is chocolate mint!” Look at the leaves… I have a picture here on my phone... So where did you grow up?”
“OMG, that’s so cool and it’s such a beautiful-looking herb. I grew up in Mexico City.”
“Oh, so you speak Spanish, I do too! My husband and I are thinking about traveling there…”
And so began one of the most CAPTIVATING conversations with a total stranger, where we found out that we both loved tea, that we both spoke Spanish, that we both love our little herb gardens, and that we have so many things in common that we’re kindred spirits and that we NEED and WANT to nurture this nascent friendship ASAP.
How different is this lively and sparky conversation from: “Hey, how are you? Nice to meet you! What do you do? Are you from here?” Meeeeeeh!
Starting a memorable conversation and truly connecting with people is just one of the many things that Vanessa Van Edwards shows us how to do in her new book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. She is a “formerly awkward and boring person” (which I find so hard to believe after our conversation!) turned people-scientist, author and entrepreneur at scienceofpeople.com.
After years of feeling awkward and avoiding human contact as much as possible, she decided, instead, to study people to see what makes them tick and form lasting connections. Thank goodness that she picked this path! Now we can all learn from Vanessa—via her book and her great videos—how to do the same in a way that is genuine and that feels easy and natural, not forced or fake.
The book is divided intro three parts. Part I deals with “the first five minutes of any interaction—starting a conversation and creating instant likability.” Part II teaches skills for helping you “get to know someone better in the first five hours of any interaction.” And Part III is about the first five days, which helps you build “the ultimate level of connection,” because “in order to get to know someone on a deeper level, you have to learn how to influence people, lead teams and increase your impact with everyone you meet.” This book is the instruction manual for interacting with people that we’ve been waiting for!
Let me give you an example: One of the most dreaded activities for professionals is attending networking events. There’s something about being by yourself, in a room full of strangers, that feels odd and makes most people want to turn back around and leave as fast as possible. But what about those people who feel OK and are successful in that situation? Leave it up to Vanessa and her team to decipher the methodology behind the superconnectors (those people who make the most quality contacts and who have the most robust network on LinkedIn). To our benefit, they found out that, yes, there is indeed a method to working a room successfully!
The Science of People studied many networking events by placing cameras on the venues and looking at the patterns of people. They analyzed the foot traffic of those individuals who easily worked the room as a way to find networking hacks that can be applied by anyone.
So how do you make the most out of a networking event? I will give you the first hack: take a look at the room. Vanessa and her team found that all rooms can be divided into three zones: the start zone, the social zone, and the side zone (see image below—thanks to our friends from Portfolio/Penguin for letting us show it to you here).
The start zone is where you check in, enter the room, hang your coat, etc. This is where you land when you arrive to the networking event and where you get prepped to network. This, as well as the side zone (where the rest rooms are or around the food tables, are the not the best zones to stay in, psychologically speaking, as people in these zones are not necessarily ready to network at that moment. Areas marked with X in the map are traps to avoid.
The social zone is the best part to plant yourself in, optimally, as people exit the bar (areas marked with stars and the triangle between them). That is when they turn around, drink in hand, and are ready to meet and greet. At that point they’re thinking: “Who do I know?” “Who do I talk to?” And you become an instant savior if you stand there and say “Hi! It’s so nice to meet you.” It is right then that they will be ready to network and you can start making meaningful connections.
Makes total sense, doesn't it? Have I piqued your interest so far? Great! Now go… better, run, to get the book to learn much more! You’ll learn how to engage in meaningful conversations and how to create long-lasting, mutually beneficial connections at a personal and a professional level.