[Transcript] – The Science of Reading People, Captivating A Conversation, Interpreting Body Language, Decoding Facial Expressions & Much More!

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Podcast from:  https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/brain-podcasts/captivate-the-science-of-succeeding-with-people/

[00:00] Introduction

[00:38] Onnit/Four Sigmatic

[04:18] A Roommate and His Personal Library

[05:28] Vanessa Van Edwards and Her Book

[07:41] Some Fear Response to Sweat

[11:50] Reading the Level of Different People’s Hormones

[14:31] PQ Score – Why is it Important?

[18:26] Where Should One Be in the Social Zone?

[23:58] Ted Talk – Its Relevance

[26:30] Ted Talkers – Show the Hands

[28:13] Ted Talkers – Smile

[31:15] Ted Talkers – Eye Contact

[34:38] Quick Commercial Break / HealthGAINS

[37:12] Vanessa’s Vow of Silence

[49:33] The Nut Job – How to Deal with Difficult People

[55:52] End of Podcast

Ben:  Hey, what’s up? It’s Ben Greenfield and in today’s show you’re not going to learn about how to get fit or how to biohack your brain.  No, no.no.  Instead, you’re going to learn how to navigate a party with the science of reading people and captivating a conversation, interpreting body language and decoding facial expressions, and doing all those things that will turn you into a complete body reading ninja.  The lady who I interview, woman, girl, cool person, Vanessa Van Edwards, she wrote a great book and you’re going to learn all about it and you’re going to learn some of her top tactics in today’s episode.

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In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:

“If you put a name to an emotion, it disarms the emotion in the brain.  So for example if someone is feeling very, very frustrated and you say, I can see how frustrating this is.  Even just saying the word frustrating with a level of empathy behind that, allows their brain to get out of the frustration.  Do you ask someone, “So what do you do?”  And that person knows they have about 30-40 seconds that they should answer and they have to stop and give the other person time to answer.  It’s sort of this back and forth, it’s volleying back and forth.  When you’re silent but you’re listening at 30-40 seconds it’s really interesting that could happen.”

Ben:  Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield, and when I was going to school at University of Idaho, my roommate believe it or not, was one of the top vacuum cleaner salesman in the world.  I actually had him on the podcast in a separate episode that I’ll link to in the show notes.  For this episode which you can hop onto over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/captivate.  But specifically the reason I’m telling you about this guy was because I was fascinated with his personal library that was chock full of books about: how to read body language and how to tell people are lying to you, or if they were attracted to you, or how to negotiate, how to argue, how to successfully enchant people, how to engage in social situations.  I guess, it was probably like an early version of like Neil Strauss’ The Game.  Or any of these other kind of like social hacking type of how to books that are out there or courses that are out there.  And I read about every book in his library and got really incredibly interested in the science of human body language and human emotions.

And then for the past several years I haven’t really delve much back into the science behind understanding human connections and human interactions, and what to do at cocktail parties and bars and dinner parties and all these situations, where you kind of like engage with people until my interest got resparked when I read this fascinating new book that was actually suggested to me by our former podcast sidekick Rachel Brown and she highly recommend that I read this book and I did and I loved it.  It’s called “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People”.  And as I usually do when I find a book really intriguing, I folded over a bunch of pages and was able to hunt down the author to interview her for today’s podcast.  So if you ever feel awkward at networking events, or you’re wondering what you’re date really thinks of you, or you wish you could decode people, or you wanna learn more about the science of people then this episode is definitely for you.

And as a human behavior hacker, my guest on today’s podcast whose name is Vanessa Van Edwards actually created a full-on research lab to study all these hidden forces that drive us and she’s definitely cracked the code with this new book “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People”.  And like I mentioned she’s got a human behavior research lab and a website at scienceofpeople.com and her work has been featured in PR, and Business Week, and USA Today, and CNN, and Fast Company, and Forbes.  Apple chose this book in particular as one of the most anticipated books of 2017. So it’s chock full of really interesting stuff and we’re gonna take a deep dive into it today.  So Vanessa, welcome to the show.                         

Vanessa:  Thanks for having me.  I cannot believe you’ve roomed with a vacuum salesman.   

Ben:  I did.  

Vanessa:  That’s the best fun fact ever.  

Ben:  And he was a really good vacuum cleaner salesman.  He could like put you in a dark room where you could see your silhouette and he’d ask you a question, and tell you how’d do you like lie to him or tell him the truth and he would always be able tell.  Like if you’re lying or telling the truth.  And that one I could never figure out because he couldn’t see your eyes and he couldn’t see your hands and he couldn’t see your feet but he would just know.  It’s really weird.

Vanessa:  You know, there is all these studies on beyond body language even like the smell of guilt.  I know this is gonna go crazy, we’re starting on a crazy note but this study that I read looked at skydivers and people who do treadmills and it compared their sweat collected and had participants smell these two different sweat pads.  Terrible, horrible.  I hope they paid them really well.  And then they scanned the brains of the people who are smelling them and they found that the people who smelled, the skydiving sweat pads also had a fear response in their brain.  So it’s very possible that your friend was so intuned with fear that actually when you lie you have this sort of adrenaline cortisol response.  Maybe he could smell it.

Ben:  Oh, it totally makes sense.  If you produce pheromones in response to people that you might be attracted to or you produce for example certain toxins and sweat in response to things that you’ve eaten that might cause you into detox, I could completely understand that certain pheromones might be associated with the subconscious that’s triggered by parts of the brain associated with fear.  That’s really interesting that you could emit chemical signals that would let people know that you’re nervous or lying or maybe just pitting out, right?     

Vanessa:  Right.  I think that that’s the next frontier.  I think in the 90’s and 2000’s it was the brain.  That was the big frontier.  Everyone was writing about the brain and how it works and neuro economics.  I think that the next frontier if I had to guess, is going to be pheromones or chemical emissions, or the sense that we send out, and I think that that’s going to start to be used in all kinds of crazy ways.  Yes, of course with dating.  I think there actually already is a dating website that matches you by pheromone.  Have you seen that before?  Smell dating?       

Ben:  I haven’t seen but I totally believe it and you know what’s really interesting about that, is they have found that women, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, who are on the pill wind up based off of the changes in their hormones often choosing a mate that is incompatible with them.  I don’t think that’s based on smell as much as it is based on something else that’s going on hormonally but then if they get off the pill in many cases they find they’re no longer attracted to that person.  Isn’t that weird?    

Vanessa:  Oh, what? I did not know the end of that story and that is the punchline like that is the most important punchline.  What’s crazy is I think that our bodies are extremely good at chemically matching.  So not only are we smelling someone’s hormones, so women who are on the pill they aren’t smelling the right hormone match because the pill is altering their own hormones but also we are very good at assessing hormone levels and how they would match us based on physical attributes.  So one of the areas that we are studying intently in our lab is facial features and how hormones can change the shape of your lips, of your nose, of your cheeks, of your jaw and the symmetry of your face.  And when we were assessing someone of a potential mate you’re gaze drops down to the, it’s called suprasternal notch.  It’s that little notch in between your two collar bones.  And it tends to bounce in between that little notch and mouth, nose, eyes and the reason for that is because we are subconsciously trying to decide what is this person’s hormonal levels and would it match us?

So for example, women with higher levels of estrogen they have a very symmetrical faces, usually long necks.  If they’re gonna be a healthy mother they’ll have healthy hair which is long, shiny, well-nourished for any months than men who have high testosterone usually have a square jaw with the presence of stubble or indication of hair growth and a kind of thick ruddy neck and the skin on their neck is thicker.  And so, we don’t always want the highest estrogen or the highest testosterone.  We want the balance of us.  And so it’s a very interesting play that you’re reading people on levels that we don’t even realize we’re doing.

Ben:  Yeah, it is really interesting.  That’s one of the big takeaways when I was a bodybuilder and you were like backstage in a body building show or you’re at the gym, you could always tell the guys who were on what we called on gear, because they actually when they are taking testosterone or human growth hormone they had squarer jaws or very fuller brows and these facial characteristics that told you right away that they are on hormones.  And it tells me like what you’re saying you guys are discovering in your lab is that we can actually like subconsciously read the level of different people’s hormones and whether or not it would be someone that we’re attracted to or someone that we would be compatible with based on their facial structure?     

Vanessa:  Yeah, that’s actually a good differentiation.  So it is compatible and it isn’t always mate related, I mean obviously especially for already married or were past child-bearing age you know that becomes less important.  So it’s really a matter of compatibility as well as goals.  So for example, there’s a couple of computer generated faces that we have in the book and what they are is face shapes based on personality.  So introverted faces have a look to them versus extroverted. So the ones they found are introverted to extroverted.  Unreliable to trustworthy.  Incompetent to competent.  And non-dominant to dominant.  So for example, there’s no right or wrong here but if you are looking to buy a car from someone you don’t care about introversion or extroversion.  You don’t care about non-dominant or dominant, but you do care about competence and trust.  So you would be looking for facial signals of those two things.  Whereas, if you’re in a business deal and you are looking for a partner and you want them to take charge, you want them to be really running a business for you, running operations, you would be looking for someone who is both dominant and competent.  So we’re looking for things to fill our need and that is an aspect of compatibility.         

Ben:  Very interesting.  Very interesting.  I didn’t know that we are gonna take a little bit of a dive down this rabbit hole.

Vanessa:  (laughs) I know sorry.

Ben:  But you do have in the book specific photographs of people and this isn’t a quiz.  In the very beginning of the book which is how the book starts off and you take this quiz, and it ends like is this a real smile or it’s just a fake smile? Or does this face mean disgust or embarrassment, or confusion or irritation? And it’s a test that identifies what you call your PQ score.  I believe that PQ, correct me if I’m wrong Vanessa, is that for interpersonal intelligence?     

Vanessa:  Yes. Exactly.

Ben:  So interpersonal intelligence score, now why is that important?  Why would you want to have a high PQ? Obviously, being able to tell somebody who is really smiling versus fake smiling intuitively, we could know if that could be a good skill to have, but in terms of the science or the statistics behind like having a high PQ is there any actual research that shows that we’re going to be more successful if we have a high PQ for example?

Vanessa:  Yeah, very much.  I felt a little snubbed when I left school and the reason for this is because I felt like I was focusing so much on two other acronyms IQ and GPA, right?  I was always focused on those features like my Grade Point Average and my book intelligence.  But actually when it comes to success in the workplace especially, your [0:15:23.0] ______ intelligence, your [0:15:24.5] ______ intelligence, your social intelligence matters a lot more than we think.  They’ve found that people with higher PQ make an average of 20,000 dollars more per year than those with lower PQ.  When you look at high performers in different industries in the workplace, high performers are more likely to be in the top percentile of high PQ.  All of these implications and we don’t know exactly what the cause is.  We know there’s a huge correlation obviously between high PQ and high in top performance.  I think that what we’re talking about is that PQ it’s called soft skills is sort of the social lubricant of a lot of our interactions.  They just make things go faster, go smoother.  You’re more likely to be able to get through a negotiation with more on the winning side if you’re able to read someone very quickly, prevent a miscommunication and build rapport before and after, right? That’s a very soft skill that just helps glide the negotiation to go a little bit easier and that happens with every aspect of business.  We just are not as aware of it.

Ben:  Got it.  My PQ by the way, was through the roof.  Not to brag but I was actually pretty proud of it.   

Vanessa:  Were you at 200?

Ben:  No, no.  I was at 180 though. I was pretty proud of it.  Yeah.

Vanessa:  Oh, that’s [0:16:38.9] ______.

Ben:  So my PQ is not bad and by the way, you don’t have to buy the book to get the PQ, right?  Don’t you have like that question on your website?

Vanessa:  Yeah, if you want to take it, it’s scienceofpeople.com/quiz.  Just kind of play around with it.  I also think that we usually think about PQ in just in terms of rational thoughts.  So you’ll get questions like, if you were in a fight with a partner, how would you handle the fight? A) talk to them B) like those are great but the other aspect of PQ if people don’t think about a lot is the reading people.  And that is the difference between decoding and encoding.  So when you talk about measures of PQ people are typically stronger in one or the other.  So decoding is the ability to speed read people.  Pick up emotions from their words.  Pick up emotions from their face reading micro expressions.  Encoding is the other side which is controlling your social signals.  So it’s saying, okay, I want to show up as confident or I want to show up as warm or friendly.  What do I do with my body and my words to encode or send those social signals? So there’s two different sides that we don’t usually think about.

Ben:  Gotcha.  Okay, so we can find out our PQ score and obviously that’s really relevant to success.  And in the rest of the book you kind of delve into hacking certain social situations.  And one of my favorite parts of the books is you have this map where it’s a map of kind of like the typical social setting, right? where there’s like the drinks at the bar and the restrooms and where people leave their coats and their shoes.  Where they check in.  Where the food is.  Where the host might stand.  Where people are going to be milling about, socializing, and then you kind of take a dive in there like where you should stand and where you should be? Now tell me about this.  I think you call it the social zone.

Vanessa:  Yeah.

Ben:  Tell me about where we should actually stand when we are at a cocktail party or in a social setting like where’s the best place to be and why?

Vanessa:  Yeah, I felt that when you walk into a networking event or a party or a holiday party or a conference you’re kind of faced with these questions, like where do I stand?  Who do I talk to? What do I do? And so, we decided to do an experiment we followed hyper networkers or super connectors around rooms.  We actually followed their foot patterns and found that the most effective networkers are standing in various specific places.  So first the traps, the places you do not want to stand.  The biggest rookie mistake if you will start, they stand in the start zone.  So the start zone is like the check in area where people are hanging their coats and shoes.  Basically, anywhere in the first five to ten feet of the entrance.  And the reason why people like to stand there is because they feel like they’re getting fresh people, like they’re greeting people.  They’re able to get someone right when they come in but the problem is what we noticed was that you get a high quantity, low quality interaction if you stand there.  The reason for this is because physiologically or emotionally, when someone first walks in to an event there’s a lot happening with them.  They’re in the transition from the phone call they just hung up with, the parking they just paid for, the traffic they just sat in and they’re also trying to find their bearings.  They’re trying to scope out the room.  Do they know anyone? Where’s the host? A lot of times they want to get a drink.  They want to go to the bathroom.  They want to get food.  They’re in that really peak of emotions at that moment.  So if you could catch someone right there, yes, they will likely talk to you and maybe even be grateful to speak to you but after two or three minutes they’re going to excuse themselves to go do one of those other things.  That is the worst place to stand.

The best place to stand is where people are emotionally and physiologically most comfortable.  And this typically happens when someone’s already got the lay of the land.  They’ve typically done their first checks, said hello to the host or run to the bathroom, and we feel most comfortable and most competent when we have something in our hand, specifically, a drink.  We love to have that anchor of that drink in our hand.  It could even be water doesn’t have to be alcohol.  But usually, after someone has gotten their drink you’ll physically see them go, okay, now what?  Right, like that eventuality.

Ben:  Right, then they’re ready to socialize, and they’re a little bit less in a hurry, and able to take on a conversation or able to like build a relationship.

Vanessa:  And you become the social savior, right? If you swoop in that moment and there’s nothing worse than having a drink in your hand, saying thanks to the bartender and turning to face a room and you have no idea who to talk to next.  If you have someone who is waiting either within eyesight of that or kind of sitting next to the bar, but then says, “Hey, how’s the wine?” Whatever opening line it is, you actually become a savior in that moment because they are the most comfortable and they’re also like, what do I do, what do I do, what do I do, what do I do?  You become that person.

Ben:  Yeah, and in terms of actual application, I’ve started doing this.  What I do now is when I’m at one these events, rather than like standing by the door and be like, oh, hey I want to be the first person that people see when they walk and meet so many people.  I’ll instead go to a place that’s kind of like close to where people have gotten their food, right? or they’ve gotten their food, they got in, they’ve got their coats on, they have a drink in their hand, they’ve done everything that people want to do when they walk in the room and now that they’ve just gotten their food and their ready, right? And they’re settled down.  I’ve found that it’s actually changed my ability to be able to interact in social situations because people seem less hurried.  It seems dumb but it actually works.  I mean, you go and you stand where people are.  You’re kind of like towards the end of the bar where they have their drink in their hand or towards the end of the food line where people have their food on their plate and they’re ready to go sit down then you find that person and you say, “Hey, you want to go crash on this table.  I saved a couple of sits,” you know, that type of thing.

Vanessa:  That makes me so happy because I feel like there are such small things like that seems like such a small thing but if you know where you need to go, it changes your game, right? like it changes that social game and you have much less anxiety because you know exactly where you’re going to stand.  It helps you with your opening line because you can use context cues, right? So the opening line can be like, “Hey, how’s the wine?” or “Oh, I’m so glad you got the pot stickers, they’re really good,” “Do you want to grab a seat?” It helps you narrow the scope of what your opener is and then you also make these better quality connections.  And that is such a simple hack and that was my goal was to try find very, very simple things that people haven’t thought of that are game changers.

Ben:  Now you are a fan of Ted Talks.  My favorite Ted Talk or my favorite podcast is the Ted Radio Hour.  It comes out I think it’s every Friday and I do four or five Ted Talks that have similar themes and they kind of delve in and they interview each of the Ted Talkers and it’s amazing.  I love that podcast every week.  But what I liked about your book was you actually kind of like dissected Ted Talks.  Successful Ted Talks specifically and you identify what you call the triple threat.  In other words, like the three things that you see almost every Ted Talker doing to level up their audiences.  Can you go in to what it is that makes a Ted Talk so grand and why is this relevant to anybody listening in?

Vanessa:  Yeah, I also love Ted Radio Hour and I really am fascinated by virality and I like virality in every sense of the word.  I am fascinated by those people who walk into a room and everyone wants to know them.  That’s an aspect of interpersonal virality.  I love watching like why do certain Ted Talks go crazy viral and gets so many views and others don’t? And so we analyzed thousands of hours of Ted Talks looking for patterns and we looked at all kinds of variables.  Everything from gender to if the speaker wore glasses, to the color of their clothing, to body language, hand gestures, and the biggest one we found was that the most popular Ted Talkers use more hand gestures.  Specifically, we actually counted every single hand gesture in these talks that took months and months.  I’m so grateful for my researchers.  The most viral Ted Talkers on average use 465 hand gestures in 18 minutes whereas the least viral Ted Talkers, so less than a hundred thousand views use an average of 272 hand gestures in 18 minutes.  And this is really interesting because when I saw this in the data I went, aha.  This matches academic research about hands and how they are the undervalued key to connection in the sense that when we first see someone we tend to look at hands first.  And this is a survival mechanism.  We see someone’s hands, we feel like we can trust them, we know the phrase like that you’re showing you my hand, is that a cliché.  I’m terrible with clichés.

Ben:  Uhm.  Yeah, it’s something like that.  It’s like a poker phrase, right? like showing your hand.  Ah, forget it somebody’s going to pipe in on the comments and scream at us for not knowing this.  But yeah, I know what you’re saying.

Vanessa:  Okay, as long as you know what I’m saying.  Police officer’s the first thing they say is get your hands up because our hands are our deadliest weapon.  So when we first see someone we like to see hands for intention.  This comes out in all these business interactions, the public speaking or pitching or 101 meetings where if you can’t see someone’s hands part of your brain feels like, I don’t know if I can trust them.  It’s a very interesting thing that I think Ted Talkers most viral Ted Talkers use accidently in a certain way or they’re just more handsy in their talking and that makes them more relatable to the audience because the audience feels like they can see intention.

Ben:  I like it.  So are you saying that when I am talking to someone and they’re just standing there facing me rather than me having my hands clasped behind my back or in my pocket, they should be like open at my side? Should they be on my hips? Should they be in front of my body or should they just be visible like it’s the main thing just have your hands visible?

Vanessa:  Visible and comfortable.  So I’m very [0:26:52.1] ______ talk about body language to not prescribe like specific moves.  For example, a lot of body language experts will recommend this steeple gesture.  I don’t know if you’ve seen this that it’s when people touch their fingers together in sort of like a triangle gesture, now that is yes, kind of seen as a wise or confident gesture.  The problem is if you prescribe someone to do that gesture and they don’t actually feel wise or confident, or that gesture is super unnatural for them, it looks really inauthentic.  And so I would say, I don’t care what your hands are doing, they could be on your hips, they could be in front of you on the table, they could be on a steeple gesture as long as they are visible.  That’s what’s most important.  But I really want you to make sure you are comfortable.

Ben:  Yeah, you got actually four different photographs in the book that show four pretty basic positions where the hands kind of seem comfortable.  There’s some space between the arms and the torso.  The hands are visible, and like the chin, and the chest, and the forehead are in front of the person or slightly at, the shoulders are down and back.  So that’s what I like about the book because you have a few photographs that kind of show you the right way to show your hands.

Vanessa:  Right.

Ben:  So we show our hands.  That’s one thing that we can learn from these Ted Talkers.  What’s the second thing?

Vanessa:  So, we also found that the Ted Talkers tend to find reasons to smile, and so this was interesting because smiling actually academically is not always a leadership cue.  In fact, a lot of the times smiling can be seen as a submissive or a supplicant gesture.  But we are very surprised to see that a lot of the Ted Talkers even if they had the most serious talks found some reason to smile especially in the first few seconds.  I think that this is because when we first meet someone we are trying to decide, is this person friend or foe, is this person going to be on our side? And a smile is the micro expression or the facial expression that we can see from farthest away.  So if someone is 200 meters away from us we can often smile because the whites of our teeth are sort of like the white of a flag, like if you wave a flag that you’re giving up or whatever.  It’s the same thing with your teeth.  It’s almost like saying like; friend, friend, friend.  Like it’s signaling that.  So your best thing upon approach especially if you’re in a big group is to flash your pearly whites because it’s literally like a flag of friendship.

Ben:  Gotcha.  So, we show our teeth in not like a chimpanzee threatening type of gritting way but in a way that simply let’s people see that we are legitimately smiling not fake smiling.

Vanessa:  Yeah, in fact I think that one of the worst pieces of advice the people give is like smile all the time.  Notice how I said they found something to smile about.  So it’s not like the best Ted Talkers came on stage with a beaming smile and were like, “Hello, my name is Vanessa and today I’m gonna talk to you about important things that you need to know about.” With like a huge fake smile plastered across my face.  It’s like they came out and they had some anecdote or some fact or some story that actually genuinely made them smile.  There’s nothing worse than someone who; the example I always think of is when you check into a hotel at like midnight after you’ve been flying all day and you’re just exhausted and you get there and someone’s like, “Hello! Welcome to the Hilton.  It’s so great to see you.”  And you’re just like, “Woah lady, woah.”

Ben:  I’m starving.  Let me in my room.

Vanessa:  Right, exactly.  That’s an inauthentic kind of fake experience that makes you just like, oooh, like it grinds your gears.  It would be much better to find those purposeful reasons to smile.  So if you’re in a room for a pitch negotiation, your rapport building those first few questions are actually important not just for the verbal exchange but also to find something genuine to smile about.

Ben:  Yeah.  Okay.  Cool.  And by the way, my little trick is a lot of times I give it if there’s someone introducing me, I’ll always and if I know they’re gonna introduce me, I’ll tell them something funny to say that’s like totally not true, but that kind of cracks me up and that we can kind of joke about.  And so by the time I’m out on stage I’ve already had an opportunity to use some smile usually because somebody’s saying something stupid about me.

Vanessa:  Love it.

Ben:  So that’s my trick.  So next time you, the listener hear me speak that’s what’s going on.  So what’s the third thing?

Vanessa:  So the third thing is eye contact.  So I try not to do these ‘cause they sound so boring.  I just list them off like this.  Some people are like, “Yeah, look I get it,” like hands and eye contact and making a smile, but I think what’s really important is we’re talking about physiology.  So these are survival mechanisms.  These are things that had been with us for a reason.  So the reason that we look for a smile is because it’s the way that we see from very far away that someone is signaling to us that they want to be friends, right? We look for hands, they are the deadliest weapons.  In eye contact, we produce eye contact, we generate oxytocin which is a really important chemical for connection.  And if you don’t get enough oxytocin it makes you feel very, very disconnected with the person you’re speaking with.

Ben:  It is true.  It’s a trust hormone.  Like a tiny little rabbit hole, I actually purchased that from a chemical laboratory once and injected it for a few weeks on a daily basis to see what happens to my body, and I actually became far more trusting and lovable and I was like snuggling with my kids more.  And admittedly also a lot less aggressive in sports and didn’t care that much about winning as much as just hanging out with people.  So it’s a very interesting hormone.  Listener, be aware if you decide to like get it and inject it because it’s not designed for human use.  But yeah, it’s quite interesting.

Vanessa:  Did you feel there was any… would you think that it was placebo or you think that it was chemical or did you like?

Ben:  Oh, it was definitely chemical.  You know, probably the biggest take away I got from it was it’s really, really nice before sex.  It actually enhances sex to a huge extent because you feel way more connected to your partner ‘cause it is something like women release from their breastfeeding and that both sexes release when they’re having sex especially when they orgasm and so.  It’s an interesting hormone but I think a lot of people may not know that when you stare at someone you release oxytocin.  My wife and I have this practice where a few mornings a week we just stand silently and gaze into each other’s eyes for a couple of minutes which is kind of hard to do until we crack up laughing.  But it’s a good way to release oxytocin.

Vanessa:  That’s really interesting.  You know, oxytocin is a funny thing because I was giving a talk to a group of doctors.  I do a lot of doctor trainings on bedside manner and I was talking about oxytocin and they were kind of giggling and I asked them.  I was like, what is that they were laughing about? And they said, oh we gave oxytocin to our patients to induce labor.  we give oxytocin to our patients.  And I said, Oh, that makes women in labor nicer? And they were like, no because it induces labor.  Which is it’s funny in huge doses oxytocin has all kinds of side effects in the body.  It literally induces labor for women so.

Ben:  Yeah, induces labor.  It can be used for sleep.  It’s very interesting but you know, there’s not a lot of research behind it.  You don’t want to shut down your indigenous production too much.  You may want to stick to handshakes and eye contacts unless you’re crazy French biohacker.

Vanessa:  (laughs) Exactly, I mean if you’re really curious I would be curious to hear what experiments you could arrive at.  Oh yeah, that’s intense.  I love it.

Ben:  Okay, so we’ve basically got the three things that every Ted presenter does is they smile, they show their hands and they engage in eye contact.

Vanessa:  That’s right.  That’s the triple threat.

Ben:  Okay.  Cool.  Got it.

[Music Plays]

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[Music Plays]

Ben:  An intriguing part of this book, Vanessa was you at one point did a vow of silence.  Not like a full on like whatever they call the Vimpassana or Vipassana like yoga retreat where often something like resort for 10 days but you were like living in modern culture going to coffee shops and stuff and you had a vow of silence.  Is that correct?

Vanessa:  That’s right and no writing.  No writing, no emails, no writing on pads of paper.  Nothing, yeah.

Ben:  Why did you do that?

Vanessa:  I found embarrassingly, horribly, that I was an interrupter.  When I was gently nicely called out on this with a friend, and with a lot of my friends, and with my husband I practice radical honesty.  Which is basically that you’re kindly and directly very candid about things and she nicely said to me, “You interrupt.” And when I dug into that a little deeper I found that it was coming from a fear of running out of things to say or not having the right thing to say.  Because I had been taught at the very beginning of sort of my adventure into social intelligence that to be impressive or to be memorable you have to be witty, and share great anecdotes, and have great answers when actually a much bigger part of being memorable and being impressive is allowing the other person to be memorable and impressive to you.  So I realize that the only way that I would be able to become a better listener would be to quit talking cold turkey.  I’m kind of an extreme personality. I never do anything half [0:38:41.4] ______.  So I decided to take a vow of silence but I didn’t want to leave the modern world.  I think a lot of people take vows of silence which is wonderful.  They do it for spiritual reasons or for exploratory reasons and they go to a retreat or they go on a trip or they take time [0:38:56.1] ______.  That is great.  But it is more powerful I would say, differently powerful to carry on with your daily life but not speak only listen.  Only listen on social media is still checking Instagram.  Still checking Twitter. Still checking email but only listening.  Only reading and I had in a way message on that people knew I was reading their emails but I wouldn’t be able to respond until I’m done with my vow of silence.  The more interesting thing was the in person meetings.  All my one on ones, all my masterminds, my networking events, my meetings, my team meetings was an intense experience because it taught me [0:39:32.1] ______ people say so much more.    

Ben:  When you’re quiet people say so much more?

Vanessa:  Yeah, you’d give them the space to go a little bit deeper and I realize that what happens is in everyday conversations you kind of have a certain amount of time that it’s okay to speak.  Now it’s a little different between you and me, Ben because we’re on a podcast so you’re obviously giving me more time but in a regular conversation it’s about 30-40 seconds per answer, right? So you ask someone, “So what do you do?” That person knows they have about 30-40 seconds that they should answer and they have to stop and give the other person time to answer.  It’s sort of this back and forth, this volleying back and forth.  When you’re silent but you’re listening at 30-40 seconds is really interesting ‘cause things happens.  I had a little card during my vow of silence, a little business card that says, “I’m taking a vow of silence to become a better listener.  Please tell me about you.”

Ben:  I was gonna say how do you actually communicate with people, now you say you had a card?

Vanessa:  Yeah, hey, look I had actually four flash cards and that was one of them.  The other one was, “I’m sorry” and then I think “Thank you for your patience during this experiment” something like that.  And to that one “Tell me about you” was the one that I really started with.  And people would give me the same answer they always give.  The first 30-40 seconds was like, “Oh, I’m in Marketing and I’ve been doing it for about five years and I grew up here in Portland” and blah, blah.  End.  And then I would just be there, right? like I would just be looking at them.  There was no follow-up question, there was nothing else and they would like look at me and this happened over and over again.  And they realized, oh wow, I have more space now.  Like I have more space and I need to fill the space because she’s not going to fill the space.  So what else is there and people would like take the conversation in ways that you could not imagine and I learned so much about people and I do about silence now every year. [Silence] Look at the space (laughs).  I like it.

Ben:  I was just testing you.  Note to my audio editor.  Do not edit that out.   I was testing Vanessa just to see if she would keep on going.

That’s really interesting and you actually do this now.  I think its #vowofsilence.  Is it on a yearly basis that people can join you and do their own vow of silence?

Vanessa:  Exactly, yeah.  I do it every year usually in late summer and I encourage people to take it with me and it takes bravery, I will tell you.  I think it takes more.  I’ve done vow of silences that are like meditation retreat and it’s a different kind of courage.  It takes a lot of courage to walk into a networking event and not speak.

Ben:  I’ve actually had to suppress my own propensity to interrupt and to constantly want to like, and not that I never do this, but to want to bring my own perspective through conversations just from doing interviews like this while I understand that I’m not necessarily inviting someone on to argue with them, or to present my viewpoint as much as to make my audience familiar with theirs.  And there’s been times that I’ve been called out by few people and like, oh, this persons have the wrong thing about whatever, like veganism or weightlifting.  Why didn’t you correct them? But I think that even though it’s something that I might have the propensity to do, the pros outweighs the cons on me having learned how to kind of keep my mouth shut, and just let somebody present their views and let my podcast be like a channel for people to present new ideas and to communicate.  In many cases I learn things that I wouldn’t otherwise learn if I had stayed stuck in my ways and just argued and talked.

Vanessa:  And it’s a skill.  It’s a skill.  I think it’s actually a muscle because what happens is I think maybe Ben you and I are similar in this way, it’s like it’s our reflex.  It’s actually like an auto response to want to jump in and build and go deeper and ask more questions.  And that’s a great skill but it’s a different kind of skill to allow space and it’s taken literally. It’s like lifting weights at the gym, it’s taking practice and it’s one of the reason I don’t have a podcast, actually.  A lot of people ask that it’s time to have a podcast and I don’t have a podcast ‘cause I don’t think I’m as good at that as I would like to be.  You are much better than I am.  And that is one of the reasons why I don’t have a podcast.

Ben:  I like it.  Cool.  Just more people to listen to my podcast instead of yours. (laughs)

Vanessa:  Exactly. (laughs)

Ben:  So you have a fascinating part in the book where you talk about how these researchers put participants in fMRI machines and they recorded their brain activity, and what they recorded specifically was this concept of storytelling.  What happens to our brains when we are communicating via stories?

Vanessa: So I always knew that stories were powerful.  What I didn’t know is that they were a hack.  And what I mean by that is I think that most of us, our goal in interaction is to get someone on the same page.  We go on a date and we wanna see if we are on the same page as this person relationship goal-wise? We go on an interview that we think if this company in the same page as me value-wise? We go into a pitcher meeting, our negotiation and we think if we re ain the same page to get this deal done? And we work so hard at building rapport to get those goals, right? Before our date we think of all these great conversation starters we can ask.  We script out all the perfect answers to an interview.  What I realize was that actually a much faster way to literally get on the same page was telling a story because it makes your brain sync-up with theirs.

And the famous example of this when I accidentally stumbled upon this idea was when a researcher who was researching chimps had a chimp in their lab hooked up to, I think it was a brain scanner or an activity scanner.  And he went out of the office and get an ice cream cone and came back in the office and was eating the ice cream cone, and the monkey saw him eating the ice cream cone.  He noticed that the monkey’s olfactory center taste and smell began to be activated as if the chimp was eating the ice cream cone.  And it was the first time this sort of famous story where he was like; “Oh my gosh,” like me eating the ice cream cone actually makes the monkey think their brain is eating the ice cream cone.  It’s a very similar thing that happens where I can tell almost any story and our brains are these incredible muscle where it tries to think what would I do or feel like or smell like or feel like if I were in that exact scenario?  So the fastest way to literally get on the same page as someone is to share a story where you sync-up your brains.

Ben:  So when you’re doing this, can you give a concrete example of how we could actually communicate with someone by telling a story versus just engaging in basic conversation.  Like what would be an example of let’s say I’m sitting next to someone on an airplane which I often do and I want to captivate them or speak to them in a way that involves this hacking method of storytelling.  What would be an example of how I could actually do that?

Vanessa:  Yeah, I’ll give you a real example.  You know, my book [0:46:38.1] ______ when I was flying all over the country, it was forever.  Felt like I was on a lot of planes.  And so I would get on a plane and someone would say, “So you know, business or pleasure?” You know, that’s usually the opening question on a business trip or on a flight.  I would say, “Oh, business” and they would say, “Oh yeah, so what are you doing in New York when you get there?” Here’s a non-story answer, “Oh, actually, I’m launching a book it’s called Captivate, and I’m on a media tour so I’m going on CBS this morning, on Wednesday and I’m really excited about it.” Okay, that’s the non-story version.  Kind of interesting, cool you know, some interesting facts or highlights.  A better version of that answer which is what I usually answer is; “Actually, so I just launched a book and I was terrified that no one would read it.  We launched four days ago and I got a call yesterday morning from the producers of CBS this morning asking me to fly out immediately on the show.  And so, I am on this crazy adventure right now about to go on the show tomorrow morning.”  Same amount of time, same amount of seconds.

Ben:  Uh-hmm.  Yeah, I like it.

Vanessa:  But I am translating my sense of anxiety and surprise and excitement and this passion and the response is so different, right?  The response to the first one to the first is, “Oh, wow how great.  Congratulations on that.”  The response to the second one is like, “Oh, what that’s crazy.  You see, yesterday morning.  My gosh, did you know what you’re gonna talk about tomorrow? Have you ever done that before? What’s the book about? Tell me more about your,” right? Like that’s what you get.  You get also the passion and the excitement and the anxiety.  And without a doubt those people will say, “I’ll tune in tomorrow.”  “Give me a card for the book.” “Oh my gosh, tell me all about it.”  And that’s a very, very different way of thinking about your kind of responses.

Ben:  Yeah, and you get in the book into how to use hooks, how to use struggles, how to use unique words to do this.  And for those of you listening in, you might notice that I do this in podcast like when I introduced Vanessa today, I introduced her using my story of a Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner salesman who I roomed with when I was going to college.  Rather than just saying, hey, you’re about to hear an interview with a girl who wrote a book about how to captivate people.  And I do those type of things because I know, opening the kimono for you, that it will intrigue you and make you a little bit more likely to listen in.  Hopefully, the information’s interesting enough for you and you’d listen in anyways.  But take that as a lesson when it comes to conversation and how you’re actually going to interact with people because you’ll find that when you tell stories you actually get a lot more engagement in people and conversations just become a lot more fun, in my opinion.

Vanessa:  Yeah, and I loved it.  It also a hook for me.  That was also what I grabbed onto when I first started chatting with you when we went down this great rabbit hole.

Ben:  Right, exactly.  So you also talk about the Nut Job in your book.  And how nutty people drive you bat poop crazy.  And one of the things that you talk about is this N-U-T job.  Like how to deal with difficult people?  Can you talk about this little hack that you describe in the book about how to deal with difficult people?

Vanessa:  Yeah, so this is something that I come across all the time in my work.  We get so many questions about difficult people and how to disarm them. And I wanted to know, is there a hack, like is there something simple that can be done? Yes, of course like therapy would be difficult.  Mother, of course.  Greater.  You know, like there’s different ways to do it, but I think if you have to have a [0:50:10.3] ______ money who’s a little bit crazy were being a little bit difficult, it will be this.  And it’s based on a piece of research out of UCLA by Matthew Wipperman who found that if you put a name to an emotion, it disarms the emotion in the brain.  So for example, if someone is feeling very very frustrated and you say, “I can see how frustrating this is.”  Even just saying the word frustrating with a level of empathy behind that allows their brain to get out of the frustration and kick in their logic, right? So instead of being in that emotional place they go into their more logical place which helps them be more solution oriented.

So the Nut job as it stands for Name Understands and Tame which is first figuring out what is the emotion that’s happening here? How can I put a name to it or add a label to it for them? Understanding is the second thing.  So once someone feels, okay, you named it, you nailed it, you heard it.  How can we go into what exactly is happening? Why did it happen? What’s the cause of it? Understanding it more.   Notice that is not solution.  That is not finding a solution.  It’s just understanding the causes of that frustration.  And the last one the very final step is Tame which is, okay, I feel like I’ve named it.  I feel like I understand exactly where it’s coming from.  How can we transform it?  That might be a solution but it also might not.  It also might just be a vent.  And so that last step is sort of, how can you get this person [0:51:35.3] ______ difficulty into a functioning communication pattern?                

Ben:  I’ve actually been utilizing this strategy, and she doesn’t listen to the podcast so I could totally say this, with my wife since I read this.  So now when she’s frustrated I can basically get right on board with her by naming that she’s frustrated.  “Hey babe, I know you’re frustrated about this and I understand that it’s something that just doesn’t seem to make sense to you and that this is an incredibly frustrating thing that you’re going through right now.”  And then go into the understand point where you basically, I guess the way that I would explain this would be engaging in conversation with like learning a little bit more about this, like why is it that you think that the dog is doing this and what have you learned so far from the vet? And what do you think that we can do about this? And then finally then you transform.  Then you actually answer the question.  You figure out a way that you can help them but yeah, I think this Name Understand Transform protocol makes a lot of sense.  Now you spent like 10 pages in the book going into it on a much deeper level than I just did.  But it’s a really cool way to encounter people who might otherwise turn to be in their conflict.  So I love that section of the book as well.

Vanessa:  Oh, I’m so glad.  And like hopefully with compassion, right? I think that the heart of this thing is like with a partner or a colleague who is driving you crazy as I say bat poop crazy.  This process it sort of takes the judgement out where it allows you to try to go into more of the compassionate framework even if that wasn’t your instincts as opposed to impatience or frustration which is often what happens when we’re frustrated by someone.

Ben:  Yeah, exactly.  So in the book you have like the social game plan where you take a party or a networking event or a social situation.  You can develop a map for and learn how to work the room.  Find a sweet spot for making the connections.  You’ve got the micro expressions where like the seven universal expressions and how they can be used to predict people’s emotions and interact with them.  And then you have the conversation sparks where you can kind of hack conversations by knowing certain words that will literally generate dopamine or oxytocin in the people that you meet.  It really is a fascinating book.

You know, we don’t talk a lot about social psychology on the show as much as we do about nutrition, and fitness, and biohacking, and meditation, and things like that but this book is actually really interesting and I would encourage those of you listening in to grab it and give it a read.  And I ‘m going to link to it and all the other things that Vanessa and I talked about including her Science of People website in the show notes.  So you can grab the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/captivate.  That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/captivate.  And then in the meantime Vanessa, I want to thank you for coming on the show and sharing all these stuff with us.  I love this book and I want to thank you for writing it.

Vanessa:  Oh, thank you so much for using the tips and giving me a shot.  I really appreciate it.

Ben:  Awesome.  Alright folks, well thanks for listening in and until next time.  I’m Ben Greenfield along with Vanessa van Edwards the author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.  Have a healthy week.



When I was attending University of Idaho, my roommate was one of the top vacuum cleaner salesman in the world. Believe it or not I've actually had him on the podcast in a separate episode which you can listen to here.

I remember being fascinated with this guy's personal library. It was chock-full of books about reading body language, how to tell if people were lying to you, how to tell if people were attracted to you, how to negotiate, how to argue, and how to successfully enchant people and engage in social situations.

So I read just about every book in his library and became incredibly interested in the science of human body language and human emotions. However, for the past several years I really haven't delved into much of the science behind understanding human connections and human interactions until my interest was recently re-sparked when reading a fascinating new book called Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People.

As I usually do when I find a book incredibly intriguing, I folded over an enormous number of pages and hunted down the author to interview her for today's podcast. If you ever feel awkward at networking events, wonder what your date really thinks of you, wish you could decode people, or want to learn more about the science of people, this episode is for you. As a human behavior hacker, my guest on today's podcast – Vanessa Van Edwards – created a research lab to study the hidden forces that drive us. And she’s definitely cracked the code.

In her new book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, she shares shortcuts, systems, and secrets for taking charge of your interactions at work, at home, and in any social situation. These aren’t the people skills you learned in school. This is the first comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on how to captivate anyone – and a completely new approach to building connections.
Just like knowing the formulas to use in a chemistry lab, or the right programming language to build an app, Captivate provides simple ways to solve people problems. You learn, for example…

-How to work a room: Every party, networking event, and social situation has a predictable map. Discover the sweet spot for making the most connections.

–How to read faces: It’s easier than you think to speed-read facial expressions and use them to predict people’s emotions.

-How to talk to anyone: Every conversation can be memorable—once you learn how certain words generate the pleasure hormone dopamine in listeners.

When you understand the laws of human behavior, your influence, impact, and income will increase significantly. What’s more, you will improve your interpersonal intelligence, make a killer first impression, and build rapport quickly and authentically in any situation – negotiations, interviews, parties, and pitches. You’ll never interact the same way again.

Vanessa Van Edwards is the lead investigator at Science of People, a human behavior research lab. She is a Huffington Post columnist and published author. Her innovative work has been featured on NPR, Business Week and USA Today. She regularly gives keynotes and appears in the media to talk about her research. She has written for CNN, Fast Company and Forbes. Her latest book, Captivate, was chosen as one of Apple’s Most Anticipated Books of 2017.

During my discussion with Vanessa, you'll discover:

-How we can “smell” fear in people, why women on birth control pills may choose the wrong mate, and how our level of hormones can actually change our facial structure and compatibility with other people…[9:35]

-What a “PQ score” is and why it is so relevant to success…[14:27]

-What you can learn from the most successful TED Talks based on the same three things that every TED presenter does…[23:20]

The “trust hormone” that Ben injected for several weeks that can also be released via eye contacts and handshakes…[26:35]

-Why Vanessa took a 7 day vow of silence, and the shocking lessons she learned by “not talking”…[37:15]

-One of the best hacks you can use to sync your brain to someone else you are talking to…[43:50]

-What is the process Vanessa describes in her book called “the nut job”? [49:30]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People

Show Sponsors:

-Onnit – Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/ONNIT and save 10% on your purchase.

-Four Sigmatic – Go to FourSigmatic.com/Greenfield and use code code BENGREENFIELD for 15% off.

-Organifi – Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/organifi and use the discount code there for 20% off your order!

-HealthGains – Text the word “GAIN” to 313131 to receive a $250 voucher toward your HealthGAINS treatment.





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