Gabrielle Dolan on the power of story (and why it will change your mind about Barbie) (#21)

How would you try to make a point? To try influence someone to see something in a  different way? 

Most of us would probably present the facts with well-reasoned arguments. 

But the truth is that we don’t make decisions with logic.  Logical arguments are not the best way to influence people. And yet, this is our default way of communicating, especially in business. 

Today we talk to Gabrielle Dolan about the most effective way to communicate in business: by using stories. We discuss the power of stories to communicate ideas, influence behaviour and build a brand. 

I was really excited to get Gabrielle on the show. I had heard her speak at a conference a few years ago and her keynote speech on real communication and business storytelling was the most memorable talk of the day. It is no wonder that she is a highly sought-after international keynote speaker and educator. Her clients include the Obama Foundation, Amazon, Accenture,  VISA and EY, to name just a few.  

Gabrielle is the best-selling author of six books on topics like communication, business storytelling and leadership. Her latest book Magnetic Stories: Connect with customers and engage employees with brand storytelling was published in 2021. 

Gabrielle is passionate about bringing humanity to the way business people communicate. This is more than a career for her, it’s a calling. Her dedication to the industry was recognised when Gabrielle was awarded the 2020 Communicator of the Year by the International Association of Business Communicators Asia Pacific region. 

We hope you enjoy this powerful and very practical conversation with Gabrielle Dolan. 

You can connect with Gabrielle or check out her books, podcast and resources like the 7 day storytelling starter kit via her website.  

If you want to get serious about improving your business storytelling and presenting with impact then you can join Gabrielle’s workshops on 28 May,  21 June or 8 July

You can listen to the episode on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher or Simplecast.  

Show Notes

2:20 – be aware of how your actions impact your brand.
4:02 – what is brand storytelling?
5:21 – do people perceive us in the way we want to come across?
10:46 – stories give depth and meaning to what you stand for.
13:04 – we remember stories better than facts.
17:22 – why emotion is important in business.
20:52 – stories motivate people more than KPI’s.
23:28 – it’s easier to change someone’s mind through stories than facts.
29:25 – why are we reluctant to share stories when they are so powerful?
31:43 – telling stories require courage.
33:40 – being too vulnerable with the stories you tell.
36:55 – Gabrielle’s story of starting a business to teach companies how to communicate through stories.
45:44 – how to tell stories in business to make a point.
50:03 – but I don’t have any stories to tell.
57:25 – jargon free Fridays.
01:00:40 – why do we use jargon?
01:04:04 – how to get in touch with Gabrielle.

Links to References

Jeff Bezos – CEO of Amazon: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” 

Antonio Damasio: We make decisions based on emotion—brain-damaged patients left devoid of emotion struggle to make the most elementary decisions. 

National Australian Bank (NAB): from “be the most profitable bank” to “more than money” 

Ruth Handler created Barbie to inspire girls to be anything

Chris Freund, CEO of Mekong Capital 

Dr Brene BrownThe Power of Vulnerability 

Wine drops vs eye drops 

Jargon Free Fridays 

Dilbert cartoon 

Key Quotes

“We all have a brand, whether we are aware of it or not.” 

“My whole brand is about being real.” 

“Brand is the stories people tell about you when you are not in the room.” 

“How would you like to be described? What are the 5 words or phrases?” 

“What do you want to be known for in one, or two or three years time?” 

“To me it all comes down to authenticity.” 

“Brand storytelling isn’t just one story.” 

“The vast majority of the work I do is go into organizations and work with leaders and help them share personal stories around their company values and purpose.” 

“The story influences behavior.” 

“As humans we make decision based on emotion, but in business we think we make decision based on logic and data.” 

“The brain processes emotion faster than logic. It is why sometimes we make an emotional decision and justify it with logic.” 

“Just give me the facts…has anyone ever in your life said just give me the story?” 

“We are humans therefore we are emotional beings.” 

“When you share a personal story to communicate a business message….it is so much more interesting.” 

“Communication in business doesn’t have to be boring.” 

“People don’t get out of bed and think how can I increase the profit of this multinational I work for…they think how can I make a difference?” 

“I was so against Barbie…but I came across the back story for Barbie.” 

“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that the little girl could be anything she wanted to be….every woman has choices.” 

“I’ll just give it a crack, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.” 

“Me sharing two specific stories, you will learn more about me than anything else.” 

“You need to have the courage to try something different”. 

“You have got to heal before you reveal.” 

“Do you know I failed English in my final year at school and I have just published 6 books….it is not about English”. 

“What is the message? What story can I use? 

“Once you start using stories you will start to collect them.” 

“Good comedians write this stuff down, other comedians say is this something.” 

“I think I’ve always had a distain for jargon….I’m not shy to say what do you mean by that?” 

“If we spoke the way we spoke in business in any other aspects of our life we would call it out for how ridiculous it is.” 

“Some people use jargon to hide the truth…we will be re-allocating people.” 

“We use jargon because everyone around us is using it…we use it for acceptance.” 

“We use acronym because we think it is more efficient….but we are putting the onus on the listener….it makes it inefficient for them and leads to miscommunication.” 

“It’s the unnecessary use of acronyms.” 

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.