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 much of Bleach possesses this skill, manipulating the whole of Soul Society into enacting his plans to get an object hidden within Rukia for him.
  • Light Yagami from Death Note survives largely by manipulating those around him for information he needs or putting them in situations where they're likely to do what he wants. He'll even do this with himself, at one point removing his memory of the Death Note in a Memory Gambit to remove suspicion from himself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tobi aka Obito Uchiha from Naruto. He can accurately predict actions and motivations of virtually anyone he encounters. Also he can manipulate them, either by subtly corrupting their own goals or simply imposing his own beliefs on them. This best seen in the existence of Akatsuki, its wildly-differing members working together because they believed the organisation would further their own ends when in actuality, they were mere tools that Tobi used to achieve his plans. He also was able to use whole countries to his advantage, so he used the overall stability and suspicion between the countries to increase his own power by providing Akatsuki as the mercenaries carrying out orders and receive remuneration for work performed.
  • While Shiro is consistently the better technical player in No Game No Life's game-based battles, her brother Sora dominates anytime a social element is introduced. This is displayed in their first real battle, a chess game where the pieces have their own free will. Shiro's moves are perfect, but she stalls when the pawns won't sacrifice themselves just because she says so. Sora steps in at that point, addressing the chess pieces directly and delivering a Rousing Speech to motivate them to fight. Sora is so good at this his opponent is convinced he's somehow using magic to cheat.
  • The Danganronpa 3 character Chisa can adapt herself to suit the resident Ragtag Bunch of Misfits' personalities so quickly that they agree within a day to start attending class again. This is why Kyosuke (who's good at rhetoric but not personal interactions) assigns her spywork and one reason why he's so crushed when her betrayal is revealed. Chisa was not only his {girl?)friend but his Living Emotional Crutch.
  • In When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace, Andou while having a severe chunibyou (aka acting like a protagonist of manga IRL) is also the best in the club at guessing the others emotions and understanding what they want and what how he should act to help them.

    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.

  • Discworld:
    • Moist von Lipwig is a con man extraordinare who's talent lies in getting people to believe whatever he wants them to while thinking it was their own idea. He's managed on multiple occasions to turn a public spectacle to his advantage, turning the crowd to his favor and becoming a Spanner in the Works for whoever he's up against in the process.
    • Havelock Vetinari, Patrician of Anhk-Morpork, has maintained control of the city by having a firm grasp of what motivates people and how to use that to his own ends. In Jingo, is revealed at the end he knew long before anyone else that the island Anhk-Morpork and the Klatchians were fighting over would soon sink into the ocean as suddenly as it rose. Upon learning this he signs a treaty that surrenders the island to Klatchians with significant concessions, which amount to nothing but making Klatch and his domestic foes look like fools when the inevitable happens.
    • This is Nanny Ogg's role among the witches of Lancre. She knows how to fit in just about anyplace and can insert herself into any crowd and know everyone's names and story within minutes. It's one of the few areas of witchcraft where even Granny Weatherwax will defer to her expertise.
  • 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:
    • 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 Dumbledore's 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.
  • Kide of Pavane In Pearl And Emerald is quite good at assessing people and steering conversations in whatever direction he desires.
  • The reason why Poirot is so wary of X is Curtain is because X has such a mastery over the human nature and their triggers, that he is able to utilise subtle hints and careful words to provoke someone into rashly committing a murder that they would otherwise have stopped.
  • Clorinda Cathcart, protagonist of The Comfortable Courtesan, owes her success as a courtesan to being this, and is addicted to gently and benevolently manipulating everyone around her to make their lives happier.
  • Virgil of The Divine Comedy is infamous for his persuasive tongue, which is partly why he's such an effective guide in both leading Dante deeper into Hell for his redemption and in shifting Dante's perspective on God's judgement of sin. He (nearly) always succeeds in talking others, be they demon, human, or shade, into doing his bidding.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Burn Notice has Michael Westen. This ability seems to be a prerequisite of a successful spy, since they need to be able to spin even tall tales into believable ones long enough to work over the mark.
  • 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.
  • Scorpion has Toby, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, as their team behaviorist.
  • 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.
  • Community: Jeff Winger. Doubles as an Amoral Attorney.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Describing Emu Hojo as sweet, kindhearted doctor would be pretty accurate if it didn't leave out the important part about him being a skilled manipulator with a knack for Batman Gambit. Getting his fellow riders to work together through tricking them or saving a patient by stroking his surgeon colleague's perfectionist ego are just the early examples.

    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.
    • The 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.
    • The crown jewel of social expertise is the infamous "Pornomancer" build (the Trope Namer for The Pornomancer, but not necessarily an example). A Social Adept with the right build could throw fifty dice at a social problem, while even the greatest grand masters of a skill would normally only get twenty-five at most.


    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.
  • Most characters in Renowned Explorers to a greater or lesser degree. Two of the three combat options involve either demoralizing your foe or convincing them to become your friend (the third involves physical attacks). Speaker characters are the best at social combat but all characters are skilled in at least one of the two social combat forms.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Skink-in-Tree's-Shade, Master Wizard of the Wolverine Hall (Sadrith Mora) Mages Guild Hall, is one of these as the Master Trainer in Speechcraft. He also sends the player on a mission to meet with an Ashlander Wise Woman so he can learn more about their culture. Furthermore, his branch of the Guild is in the heart of rival Great House Telvanni territory, making his social and political knowledge even more important.
  • In South Park: The Stick of Truth, the protagonist is noted to have a talent for making friends really quickly on Facebook. The ending reveals that the power to make tons of friends on any social media network is a special power of theirs that caused them and their family to be hunted down by the government. The sequel adds more to this by revealing that their own parents have such powers and were themselves experimented on by the government.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, Vayne Solidor is so skilled at diplomacy and manipulation that he's able to win over a crowd of people whose country he conquered in a recent military conquest over the course of a single speech.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Original 
  • 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. His ability is massively bolstered by Wyvern, which lets him restructure his brain to give himself greater focus on certain areas, and he has pretty much permanently settled for this trope to round out his team's roster of skills. However, while he normally relishes being this, the story also explores the downsides; forming a trusting and equal relationship is extremely difficult when he has such an enormous advantage in emotional manipulation, even if both he and the other party want to make it work, and being an effortless Consummate Liar means that when trying to be genuinely honest he is either not believed or he says the wrong thing.
  • 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 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. Runs In The Family as Elan and Nale's father, Tarquin is much the same. However, he is a much more experienced and intelligent example of this while also malicious. He uses this to be a shadow ruler alongside his adevnturer buddies as part of a grand scheme to conquer an entire continent. Unfortunately, his adherence to storytelling tradition (and subsequent hatred of subversion of conventions) along with egomania and Control Freak issues are what allow Elan and the Order to crush his plans.
    • 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. An odd example, as Belkar has no social skills whatsoever, but is an expert on hurting people - it's up to his discretion whether that pain can provoke someone, break them down, or motivate them to keep going out of anger.

    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 incredibly dangerous on the field of battle or when she's attempting to manipulate someone. 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.

    Real Life 
  • Lyndon Johnson, and the (in)famous "Johnson Treatment". To quote the most important bits of the page:
    Lyndon Johnson had an innate, often stunning ability to read the personalities of others and immediately understand exactly how to ingratiate himself with them... Johnson would tailor his strategy differently for everybody he approached, and his success rate was astonishing.

Alternative Title(s): Silver Tongue