Vanessa Van Edwards Session Notes—GLS: Special Edition 2021 

Published February 25, 2021
On February 25, 2021, the Global Leadership Network debuted its first half-day Global Leadership Summit: Special Edition event featuring an incredible faculty, including lead behavioral investigator at Science of People, Vanessa Van Edwards.

During her talk, Vanessa explored the science of personality and dived into how we can better predict behavior, fix communication problems and build stronger, deeper relationships.



  • Had to teach my husband how to wrap pizza better.
  • 35-50% of how we behave is genetic.
  • Personality is not a choice.

What if we didn’t try to change people, what if we tried to honor them?

  • My daughter was born with personality. If we’re wired for personality, when does it kick in?
  • A study of 3-year-old children had parents rate them on personality traits. Then followed them for 23 years. When the children were 26, the researchers asked them to identify their personality traits. They were strikingly similar.


There are three big traits of personality and every person polls high, medium or low.


Openness: how we approach new ideas.

  • High open folks are explorers, they love experimenting and new ideas.
  • Low open are preservers, they thrive in predictability.
  • How to identify if a person is a high or low open person?
    • Ask “What do you want for lunch?”
    • A high open will say, “Let’s try the new place.”
    • A low open will say, “Let’s go to my favorite place.”
  • High-wired people produce more dopamine: helps us feel motivated, excited, rewarded.

You’re living with a high open person if you have a lot of started projects all over your house.

  • Low open people produce less dopamine, thus less reward for new experiences.
  • Another quick way to identify? Look at their calendar.
    • High open have new activities all over calendar. During pandemic they made sour dough bread, learned French, etc.
    • Low open have rituals. Taco Tuesday, date night every Thursday, schedule in fun.
  • You’re living with a high open person if you have a lot of started projects all over your house. They’re great at starting but not necessarily finishing.
  • High open people become difficult when they do not have enough new to look forward to. They get bored and struggle with finishing. They have shiny object syndrome.
  • Low open people get difficult when forced into newness. As soon as they hear shiny object, they dig in their heels.
  • How can you honor openness?
    • Highly open people like to be pitched new ideas more often. Juice their dopamine. Say things like: “There is a new thing I want to try…” This is the worst way to pitch a low open person.
    • With low open person, start the pitch with the problem. “I’ve been thinking about this problem, here’s what we’re not going to change…but here is one thing we need to change.”
  • Write down three names of the highest impact people (HIP) in your names. Gauge where they fall on the openness spectrum.
  • We need both high and low opens on our teams.
  • We need our high O’s to discover new opportunities.
  • We need our low O’s to protect the opportunities we’ve already grabbed.


Conscientiousness: how we approach and organize details.

  • I love to do lists. I like checking things off.
  • High conscientiousness love plans. They’re focused. They’ll schedule everything.
  • Low conscientiousness are flexible. They like the general strategy.

“One of our greatest leadership challenges is not only trying to be the best version of ourselves, we have to honor our differences. If we honor our differences, we all grow together.”

  • How to identify if a person is high or low conscientious? Ask them, “Working on anything exciting these days?”
    • High conscientious will tell you down to the minute what they’re doing. Their calendars are works of art. It doesn’t exist if it’s not on the calendar.
    • A low conscientious person, know what their calendar looks like? They don’t have a calendar. They have it all in their head because they’re thinking of big ideas.
  • They have different opinions of time.
    • For low, deadlines are suggestions, a time is a timeframe.
    • A high conscientious person loves agendas. If you go off agenda, they slowly implode. They are wired by details.
  • Another way to spot a low C? Their desk. Their desk, their bed looks like a hurricane disaster-zone. A high C desk looks like a Container Store.
    • A high conscientious person give us a label maker and we have weekend plans.
    • A low conscientious person loves piles.
  • How else can you spot a high C? Researchers have found a very interesting non-verbal cue. They have found lower eyelids harden when they’re trying to “see” people. High C does this when you’re a little late, when you get off topic in a meeting, when you don’t finish what you start.
  • How do you honor conscientiousness?
    • When pitching to a high C, present them with the full plan.
    • A low C just want the big idea. Just pitch the big idea, three important takeaways and the one action.
  • We need our High C’s to help us plan for the future.
  • We need our low C’s to help us enjoy the present.
  • Think of your three highest impact and are they high, low or medium conscientiousness?

Go and take an official test: Not only should you take it, but have others take the quiz as you.


Neuroticism: how you approach worry.

  • High neurotics carry the serotonin transport gene. Serotonin is essential for being calm. High neurotics produce less serotonin less quickly. It takes them longer to recover.

Serotonin is essential for being calm.

  • High neurotics can work themselves up and have trouble calming themselves down. They produce the chemical slower. It makes them worriers. It gives them high anxiety.
  • Low neurotics are stable, calm. They say, “Don’t worry about it. It will work out.”
  • How to identify neuroticism? How do you react to a dying cellphone battery?
    • If you’re a high neurotic, you worry at the end of your cellphone battery. “What if there is an emergency? What if my mom calls?”
    • Low neurotics sort of want a technology break.
  • Another way to identify neuroticism? The dots of an incoming text message.
    • The dots drive high neurotics crazy. “Know what I think? They hate me. It’s the end of the world.”
    • Low neurotics think, “They’re just typing.”
  • “Calm down.” This is the worst phrase you can say to a high neurotic. Never say it down to them. In the history of calm down, saying it has never calmed anyone down.

In the history of calm down, saying it has never calmed anyone down.

    • High neurotics are afraid.
    • Low neurotics don’t understand the fear.
  • How do we honor neuroticism?
    • Low neurotics are our rocks, level heads. They ground us. They save us in a crisis.
    • The high neurotics prevent crises. They have plan A, plan B, plan C.
  • Think of your highest impact people. Are they high, low or equal on the scale?
  • When you’re worried, you have to talk it out. Some neurotics are internalizers. They want alone time to process. The biggest you can give is the way to worry that is right for them.
  • “One of our greatest leadership challenges is not only trying to be the best version of ourselves, we have to honor our differences. If we honor our differences, we all grow together.”
  • Honor yourself. Honor your 3 highest impact people.


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Vanessa Van Edwards Notes for 2021 Special Eddition

Experience more great leadership insight like Vanessa’s at our premier leadership event of the year–The Global Leadership Summit, taking place August 5-6, 2021. Get your tickets today at
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