The Social Expert

Cersei Lannister: What do you know about warfare?
Tyrion Lannister: Nothing. But I know people. And I know our enemies hate each other almost as much as they hate us.

The Social Expert is a character with people skills, especially when dealing with large groups of people. He can recognize the social patterns in a group, figure out people's motivations, and know who the person in charge is. The Social Expert can identify who's manipulatable, who's a manipulator, and who's neither. The Social Expert can make himself likable even to his enemies, and is normally clever enough not to make very many of them.

Social expertise is an alignment-neutral skill, but it's practically a prerequisite for Manipulative Bastard, Magnificent Bastard and The Chessmaster. Nearly every Deadly Decadent Court will have at least one, probably more. May also be The Charmer. On The Team, they are The Face. Protagonist Social Experts are Guile Heroes, supporting Social Experts end up as Mr. Exposition, and villainous ones are normally large-scale Manipulative Bastards. Contrast with No Social Skills.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Aizen, the Big Bad of Bleach possesses this skill, when he bothers to use it.
  • Johan Liebert from Monster.
  • Light Yagami from Death Note.
  • Izaya Orihara from Durarara!!, aside from being a complete Troll and Manipulative Bastard and claiming to "love humanity" (except for Shizuo), also performs his own social experiments, such as encouraging depressed people contemplating suicide to do so, or making suicide pacts with them and then revealing he was just kidding and thinks they are idiots, just to see if they really will commit suicide or not. Or paying people to kidnapping someone, and then paying someone else to rescue them, just to see how they'll react. Yes, Izaya is a dick.
  • Both Lelouch Lamperouge and his older brother, Prince Schneizel, in Code Geass.
  • Askeladd from Vinland Saga.
  • Akiyama from Liar Game makes heavy use of social psychology and his resulting predictions on how people will behave to change the course of the game.
  • Ukraine from Axis Powers Hetalia is a Nice Girl version. She's the member of the Slavic corner with the best social skills, and tends to get along fine with other nations while Russia and Belarus are... well, themselves.

    Comic Books 
  • Lex Luthor. His people skills allow him to both keep up his Villain with Good Publicity status as well as make sure his covert operations are in order. He is so good at this he is one of the few people who can keep the Joker in check during a villain team up.
  • Also from DC Comics is Dick Grayson, the first Robin and later Nightwing. It's been joked that his real superpower is charisma, often mediating fights amongst heroes and even having villains coming to his defense on occasion due to his sheer likeable-ness.
  • Livewires had a character called "Social Butterfly", whose talents lay in social situations.
  • Storm Watch PHD had Gorgeous, a beautiful woman with a talent for manipulating men. She served as the team's profiler.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Hustler, this is Bert Gordon's most important skill as a Manipulative Bastard; he can quickly size up someone and identify their innermost weaknesses. He's so good that even after losing $18,000 to Eddie Felton in a 25-hour marathon session of pool, Minnesota Fats cheerfully agrees to keep playing just because Bert identified him as a "loser" — and then proceeds to win it all back.

  • Mari in Salamander is a heroic version, serving as a Hypercompetent Sidekick in the world of politics to the Teen Genius Science Hero, Ellen.
  • Mister Wednesday from American Gods.
  • Cordelia Vorkosigan is the best example from the Vorkosigan Saga.
  • Vetinari and Moist von Lipwig from the Discworld books.
  • Jacky Faber of Bloody Jack learned the skills she needed to become one, mostly because she had to for the sake of survival.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has quite a few, as would be expected given the high number of Manipulative Bastard and Chessmaster characters. Tyrion Lannister is a rare example of being this trope despite most people not actually finding him all that charming or likeable, partly because they assume Beauty Equals Goodness and he's an ugly dwarf, and partly because his Deadpan Snarker tendencies tend to irritate people.
    • None are quite so skilled or dangerous as Littlefinger, who set the War of Five Kings in motion with just a few carefully chosen words.
  • Harry Potter: By the time you realize the full breadth of Dumbledores' planning and manipulation in book seven, he looks like a full-on Magnificent Bastard.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray has Lord Henry Wotton. Everything bad that happens during the story could be traced back to his words and the way he uses them.
  • Rosario Blancanales takes this role in the Heroes "R" Us group Able Team, and it's the reason for his nickname 'The Politician'.
  • Twilight: Jasper was such a social expert as a human, he became an Empath with emotion manipulation powers as a vampire.
  • Lloyd Henreid in The Stand becomes the defacto face and diplomat of Las Vegas because of his surprisingly good people skills. Just the fact that he's still alive after traveling and working with psychos like Andrew "Poke" Freeman and Randall Flagg is proof.
  • Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice initially seems like The Charmer, but it gradually becomes clear that he's actually this instead, since he very carefully manipulates people using his charm and how they're initially likely to respond to it. He's careful only to spread his tale of woe at the hands of Mr Darcy only in company where he can get away with it and to avoid situations where he can't, and after learning of the true story behind his history with Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth realises that most of his interactions with her were based on flattering her conviction that she could understand someone's true character based on her first impressions.
  • Kuroki of Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note gets this trope, word-by-word, as his epithet.
  • Karyl of The Dinosaur Lords is capable of turning a group of unwilling "volunteers" into staunch supporters of his cause with some social manipulation and playing on their emotion. He usually prefers this method to physical compulsion more typical of Paradise's armies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Burn Notice has Michael Weston.
  • The title character from The Mentalist.
  • Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. In one monologue which no one will likely remember, he explains how this is his only way of getting back at the other nobles.
  • Grifter Sophie Deveraux (or whatever her real name is) from Leverage. Her role on the team is to manipulate the mark with multiple "roles" that she plays, but often someone else needs to be sent in for one reason or another, and she'll coach them by reading the players and describing what she does and why.
  • Special Agent Seeley Booth on Bones, who often relies on his 'gut' to solve crimes and is referred to as the 'people person' because of his natural intuitive insights and ability to read people well.
  • Ryuji Iwasaki from Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters.
  • Scandal: Olivia.
  • Flabber from Beetleborgs.
  • Sherlock: John, definitely. This is in comparison to his friend.
  • Cassie Ainsworth in Skins takes this to prodigious levels.
  • White Collar: Neal Caffrey. It's part of what makes him good at conning people.
  • Doctor Who:
    • One of the main unique character quirks of the Second Doctor in Doctor Who. He can walk into any situation and immediately map out the social dynamics by observing their body language and interactions, approach whoever is almost certain to know more than everyone else, and then instantly figure out what they mean by the fact that they're lying about his questioning. "Power of the Daleks" is a spectacular example, where he effortlessly bluffs his way into the upper social circle of an Earth colony by pretending to be an examiner from Earth, and immediately makes a whole map of who's trying to overthrow who just by watching the politicians' facial expressions as they answer his trivial questions, while still recovering from temporary confusion caused by his first regeneration.
    • Leela. The Doctor is better at reading people than he pretends to be, but Leela's warrior training and unusual intelligence enables her to read and understand body language and facial nuance far better than he ever could. This is especially prominent in "The Robots of Death", which she spends a few steps ahead of him and a giant leap ahead of the people who actually are supposed to be solving the mystery the whole time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Most Tabletop RPGs have some way to create one of these.
  • Many games use a social/mental/physical skill/ability distribution, including:
    • Anything White Wolf makes.
    • Exalted has a threefold division between social skills, mental skills, and physical skills. Any character with high social skills is a social expert. Among the Solars, members of the Zenith and Eclipse castes have the greatest talent in this area.
    • Dresden Files goes one step further, where you can fully engage in social combat, allowing you to browbeat your opponents into submission, with social skills.
  • Shadowrun. At least one character in the PC group needs to have good social skills to deal with the various NPCs the group will encounter. They should have high Charisma, good Etiquette skills and possibly cyberware/bioware that enhances those qualities (e.g. tailored pheromones). Such a person may be called "The Face" of the group.


    Video Games 
  • Master Li from Jade Empire.
  • Mike Thorton, the protagonist from Alpha Protocol, is described by his boss as someone who knows how to manipulate people to get what he wants, and this is reflected in the conversation system. The conversational stances that Mike takes may have nothing to do with what he feels, and can drive people to friendship or enmity. according to his objectives.

    Visual Novels 

Web Animation
  • Roman Torchwick from RWBY is incredibly skilled at giving speeches, to the point that he can walk onto a stage in front of a mob of angry Faunus, use himself as an example of Humans Are the Real Monsters, and have them cheering for him after only two minutes.

    Web Animation 
  • Grandmaster of Theft's Cassidy Cain uses social grace as both herself and to assist as a Classy Cat-Burglar.
  • Many exist in the Whateley Universe. Ayla and Jadis are social expert protagonists. Many more are antagonists.
  • Jack Masterson in Chrono Hustle.
  • Sylvester in Twig learned to read people as a child out of necessity, and as a result is a skilled manipulator and predictor of others.

    Web Comics 
  • Terezi in Homestuck is the most talented manipulator of the series thanks to being the Social Expert, contrasted with Vriska who relies on more direct Psychic Powers. Crowbar of The Felt is so good with people that he was able to win over Caliborn, the most unpleasant character in the story bar none, over the course of a single conversation.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Elan is a story-telling expert because his role is the party bard. This makes him able to predict the actions and motivations of almost everyone involved. His father is however far more experienced in the role.
    • Belkar is a more focused example. Multiple times he's shown he knows exactly what to say to someone, whether it be a mentally-unstable paladin, a grieving friend or a man who's just got a taste for violence. He isn't nice about it, but he can get them to do what he wants.

    Western Animation 
  • Both Princess Azula and Long Feng in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Though, when they betray each other, Azula wins out in the end, easily. Azula's actually an interesting case. She can accurately predict the movements, motivations and operational methods of virtually anyone she encounters. This makes her an incredibly dangerous. She can also be very charismatic at times (just look at her aforementioned take down of Long Feng). But when it comes to every day, basic social interaction, she fails. Completely. Ruling through fear and/or intimidation is pretty much the only thing in her social skill set; excellent for being the dictator of an entire nation, not so much when trying to mingle with people her own age.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Amon and Tarrlok share this trait. Fittingly, they're brothers.
  • Trent Lane in Daria, despite a personality so laid back that his communiques are seldom and brief, is often able to identify moments of mounting tension between his sister Jane and her titular best friend. A few times throughout the series he tries to drop subtle (well, slightly subtle) hints that steer the girls towards peaceful resolution. Ironically, he seems pretty oblivious to Daria's long-standing crush on him up until she finally gets over it, at which point he gives her a quiet apology for letting her down when she was counting on him while subtly explaining exactly why they would never work as a couple — without one of both of them giving up some core facet of themselves to make the other happy.
  • Mildew in Dragons: Riders of Berk. He often uses his talent to rile up the villagers against the dragons.