People School, also rebranded as “Advanced Interpersonal Communication Skills Training” is a social skills course by Vanessa van Edwards.
About the Author:
Vanessa van Edwards is a social skills coach who defines herself as a recovering awkward person. She’s also the author of Captivate and Body Language of Love.
People School is divided into 12 different skills.
Some of them seemed more interesting than others to me.
Hence, I’m going to share only the ones that I found most useful while going through People School.
We are always trying to assess people on two dimensions:
- warmth (friendly, likable, trustworthy)
- competence (capable, powerful, dependable)
I found it very interesting that for Vanessa high charisma is striking a balance between the two.
3. Be Engaging
There are three types of gaze:
- Power gazing (from eyes to forehead, effective work relationship, competence)
- Social gazing (from eyes to chin, friendliness and collaborative, warmth)
- Intimate gazing (from eyes to lower neck and upper torso)
Vanessa speculates that is why women wear necklaces: to attract more intimate gazing.
I also duly noted that taller people tend to naturally default to power gazing while shorter people to social gazing.
So shorter people might want to counteract that when they want to come across as more authoritative.
10. Asserting Yourself
Obviously, I pay particular attention to any lesson and reference to power dynamics.
I agreed with Vanessa that not everyone should be a driver at all times, which is a major mistake of some poorer-quality social skills training.
Vanessa says that it’s best to be a (good) follower when you:
- Don’t know anyone
- Are new to the environment
- Are a guest
- Feel introverted
- There is already a driver
To learn more about communication styles and assertiveness also see:
11. Wield Influence
Vanessa says that we evaluate people asking ourselves whether they are winners or losers (and that’s true).
She goes over some of the basics of what makes people high-power (winners) or low-power (losers) like body language, posture, and voice tonality.
And since her course is tailored to career folks, she goes over a study that found out how the most effective pitches to venture capitalists were high in comfort (signaling confidence) and enthusiasm.
- Career strategies (overview)
- How to present (course by Roger Lover)
- Solid information
We’ve already reviewed Captivate and Body Language of Love from Vanessa.
So far People School is our favorite product.
- High-quality videos
I have taken a lot of courses, and People School has some of the best-quality videos around.
- Great personality
I think that one of the plusses of People School is Vanessa herself.
She can be a great role model for career women as she manages to strike a difficult balance that is not easy for women to walk.
She is rocking her business while remaining warm and feminine and she is very high energy without ever becoming too loud or overbearing.
Her high energy instead emanates an aura of “it’s so great to be with you“.
P.S.: the same can be said for the other women she appears with in the video.
Doesn’t Teach Manipulation – Something You MUST Learn For Self-Defense
Says People School’s own sales copy:
We teach you to be the best, most authentic version of yourself when you communicate, not how to play mind games with others. If you’re here to learn how to “trick” people, you will be sorely disappointed.
That may sound like a noble approach, but from TPM’s point of view, it’s really not.
It’s misguided and doesn’t help those same good people who want to be the “best, most authentic version of themselves” (see “naive self-help“).
Knowing how manipulation works is a must in life, both to be effective (even without manipulating yourself), and to avoid manipulators.
We may come across very strong here, also because People School is good. But any course that doesn’t teach manipulation is failing its own students and potentially setting them up for major failures.
You don’t want to live a life as a lamb, hoping there are no wolves.
Cites Some Popular Yet Semi-Debunked Studies That I’m Not Too Convinced Of
Vanessa van Edwards introduces a few studies and explains how they apply to our everyday interactions.
That’s a solid approach to popularizing science and turning it into something that people can benefit from in their daily lives.
As a science-backed author, I obviously paid more attention than most to the studies and I would have liked some more thoroughness.
For example, Vanessa mentions a popular study on the priming effect that Kahneman also references in his bestseller Thinking Fast and Slow.
There has been some heated debate on whether those original studies were even valid as they failed to replicate on successive studies.
Kahneman overall believes the studies were valid, as do more psychologists and as I do as well (and as probably does Vanessa, too).
But the study that she mentions has been thoroughly debunked and you can read more about it in my article on pop-psychology myths.
The presentation of testosterone and oxytocin also felt a bit simplistic, and they are far more environment-dependent than People School makes them sound (see for example neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky).
The Waiting List Trick
People School doesn’t teach manipulation because you’re supposed to be the “most authentic version of yourself”…
And yet, when it comes to marketing the course, it concocts a “waiting list” to make up an appearance of non-existing scarcity?
How interesting… 🙂
So the whole thing of “sign up because People School is closed” and having to wait for the emails to roll in wasn’t my cup of tea.
People School used the “waiting list” approach at the time of our first review, but ditched it later on.
People School REVIEW
Science of People and TPM deal with similar topics, albeit from different angles.
Vanessa and I have slightly different approaches to analyzing, teaching, and dissecting social dynamics.
We dig deeper into the less politically correct side of things here that include manipulation, dark psychology, Machiavellianism, conflicts of interests, and also more amoral but effective strategies (albeit we don’t necessarily advise nor condone them).
We do that because we believe this approach is the only way to truly become effective at life.
And because those are essential skills not only for self-defense, but also for learning to become a better persuader.
So, of course, we missed that “raw” side in People School.
On the other hand, we still liked it.
I am very busy and jealous of my time, but I was very happy whenever I could find time in the evening to watch one more of Vanessa’s video lessons. I’d do that while stretching at the same time to save time, but I often had to stop to take notes, which is a great sign of good content.
People School is well structured, it’s entertaining, it has high-quality videos and, most importantly, it has solid information to help people level up their people’s skills.
Last but not least, I think we can learn a lot from what’s not being said, such as how Vanessa herself behaves and moves.
I think she used “sparkling personality” as an adjective in a few of her products… And that description fits her very well.
She has a contagious, bubbly, sparkling personality that I’m sure would light up any room and draw lots of people to her (and here it is hoping she doesn’t have too jealous of a husband :).
Of course, at close to $2.000 the price is not cheap.
Vanessa seems to position her product for corporate folks with access to training budgets.
The refund policy is based on “proving” that one has done the work, so I’d take a good look if one is ready for that type of commitment.