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Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People

This was the fourth audiobook I’ve listened to since picking up the habit a few months ago, and it wasn’t one from my to-be-read pile, so I didn’t have any expectations for it. As a regular book, it is probably very interesting, but as an audiobook, it leaves a lot to be desired. I have a feeling the regular book probably has a lot of graphs, tables and lists, and it’s really hard to get these things across when relying solely on speech.

The author, Vanessa Van Edwards, describes herself as an introvert who didn’t understand most social cues until she started studying them. In the book, she describes different strategies to understand other people and their motivations, and how to use these to your advantage.

One of the more interesting anecdotes comes from when a friend accused her of constantly interrupting people, to the point that she didn’t listen to what they’re saying. She was aghast at the accusation, then realized it was true. It was an epiphany into her own psyche. She dreads awkward silences, so she talks a lot to keep them from happening. Following this realization, she took a week off from talking, and concentrated on listening to people. She made a few notecards to explain her silence, and to let people know she was listening, even if she didn’t verbally reply. This led her to develop the strategy of listening to people, and once a month she takes a day off from talking and concentrates on listening.

That anecdote and others like it were the only redeeming feature of the audiobook. If I had to guess, they made up about 70% of the audio, with the rest being taken up by the halting recitation of lists that comes across like a novice pubic speaker relying heavily on a PowerPoint.

Another annoying feature of the book, was the near constant plugging of her website, scienceofpeople.com. The author constantly refers listeners to scienceofpeople.com to take tests or watch videos. I’m sure listeners appreciate the fact that scienceofpeople.com exists, and that they can get bonus content by visiting scienceofpeople.com, but I don’t think it’s really necessary to plug scienceofpeople.com every few paragraphs. Since this was an audiobook, it probably would have been sufficient to mention the resources available at scienceofpeople.com at the start of the audiobook, and also towards the end. In the text version of the book, maybe it’s easier to ignore the frequent references to scienceofpeople.com, but it’s annoying in an audiobook. If I were cynical, I would think the audiobook is nothing more than an infomercial for scienceofpeople.com.

When I bought the audiobook, I knew it was a self-help book, which is fine, but I didn’t know what to expect. Though the author recounts events that happened in her life, it’s not an autobiography. Due to the book’s self-help nature, she uses them to illustrate the strategies and ideas she’s developed for connecting with people. As an introvert, I felt more of an affinity with some of them than with others, but because the audiobook presents to many strategies and ideas, it’s easy to pick and choose which ones would work for me and which ones wouldn’t.

Overall, I would give this audiobook three stars out of five. The anecdotes and stories are great, but the end of chapter list recitations, and the near constant plugging of scienceofpeople.com detract from an otherwise enjoyable listen.

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