Storytelling: Views Versus Stories

This blog is for you if you as a subject matter expert are asked to give your views on a certain question, topic or an area.

As a subject matter expert we are well versed in our fields and that is precisely why we are asked for a view.

So, a natural tendency is to start sharing what we know and there are times when it just doesn’t stick. The reason for that is that we have the curse of knowledge which our listeners don’t. What we are saying makes perfect sense to us but not to others.

However, there is a way to ensure your views stick. This is what I have learnt from observing some experts who rarely give a view but instead they prove a point with effective Storytelling.

How do they do that? 

Lets understand this using an example.

A few months ago on CNN Malcolm Galdwell was asked a question,  “Will Hillary’s candidacy represent promise for women, or cause backlash?”

Now, when someone as credible as Malcolm Gladwell gives a view, we are ready and very curious to hear because his credibility guarantees quality.

But guess what, Gladwell doesn’t give his view, he first tells a story about Julia Gillard Australia’s first female Prime Minister to contextualise his views.

You can watch the interview here. Its 2 mins 58 secs long.

If you do not have the time to watch the interview video. I suggest you come back to the blog when you have around 5 mins. It will be hard to understand the rest of the blog without having watched the interview video.

Now Let’s try and decode what happened in this interview and what can we learn from it


Understanding the conversation

Pattern that emerges


The interviewer asks what do you think this says for Hillary?


0.57 secs

Malcolm Gladwell talks about a relevant example of Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister.

Find a relevant story that can prove your views are relevant

.59- 1.29

Gladwell builds his case to prove a point he will make. He uses examples of things that happen to her. How explains how she was subjected to misogyny. To further prove his point he talks about the famous speech she gives in the Australian Parliament.

Give concrete details from the choosen example that support your view. We notice a lot of effective storytelling here


He makes his point on moral licensing and further elaborates that by allowing Gillard to be the first female Prime Minister of Australia some Australians felt the license to speak the most unspeakable things about her.

Establish your view on the relevant example( not the actual question asked )


He brings the conversation back to Hillary Clinton about whom the question originally was.

Connect your views on the examples to the question you were originally asked


He finally gives his view on what he was asked

In the end share your views on the actual question asked

What can we learn from this example?

When asked for your views. Don’t just give your views, base them on a relevant story.

If Gladwell had just answered the question by saying, if Hillary is selected as President she would be scrutinised a lot more than any male would be, it would not have been an effective way to communicate. By contextualising it with a story that supports the same point, his communication style is not only effective but also insightful and inspirational.

The purpose of the blog is to understand effective communication, not political views. 

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"I attended your story telling course some time back. And I've enjoyed keeping up my knowledge with your blog. You may not have realised however, that the Whole of Government is implementing Internet Seperation. Hence I'm not able to access the links to read your articles. Could I suggest including a QR code in your emails so that I can use my mobile to scan it and gain immediate access to the article? It would be most helpful"