Jane Goodall studies the behavior of a chimpanzee during her research February 15, 1987 in Tanzania.
Penelope Breese/Liaison | Hulton Archive | Getty Images
Life

Jane Goodall: If you want leaders to truly listen, use the power of storytelling

If people want to prompt change and influence leaders, one way to get the message across is to get into their hearts and inspire from there, according to world-renowned primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall.

"So often, I see activists and they come face-to-face with a CEO or somebody — and they immediately become very aggressive (with phrases like): 'Do you realize what you're doing to the planet?' (or) 'Do you realize what you're doing to my future?'"

"So, the person that they're attacking is immediately defensive. They're immediately thinking 'How can I respond to this?' (or) 'How can I deal with this person?'," Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

Speaking in front of an audience at the event, the conservationist said that she's learned over time how compelling storytelling can be.

"It's no good when you meet somebody like that, who's dedicated to their path — which may be a destructive path — it's no good trying to get to the brain, because their brain is wired for success, for financial success."

"What you have to do is to get into the heart. And how do you get into the heart? With stories."

(L-R) Mark Ruffalo, Jane Goodall and Leonardo DiCaprio attend the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Gala on September 15, 2018 in Santa Rosa, California.
Rich Polk | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

After being asked by an audience participant about how to become more than just "a talking point," Goodall explained the significance of going the extra mile.

"Find out just a little bit about the person that you want to change and then you try and tell stories that will — even if they don't appear to agree with you at the time — I know for a fact that they may go away and think about it and think about it."

"And you may have scored a much bigger point than you thought."

Since she began her conservationist work in the 1960s, Goodall has highlighted issues affecting wild chimpanzees and the animal kingdom, including illegal trafficking and habitat devastation. The conservationist has brought these issues to the forefront of people's agendas, through many forms of storytelling, including in literature, public speaking and activism.

At 84, Goodall continues to raise awareness surrounding wildlife, and travels some 300 days a year.

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And Goodall isn't the only one taking on this technique to evoke change.

At the same forum in Switzerland, climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, made headlines after she demanded economists and leaders to act and fight back against global warming.

Using the metaphor of society's house being on fire, Thunberg encouraged others to take responsibility for their actions before the damage becomes irreversible.

"We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint is, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility," said Greta Thunberg.

"Adults keep saying: 'We owe it to the young people to give them hope.' But I don't want your hope. I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then, I want you to act."

"I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is."

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Jane Goodall studies the behavior of a chimpanzee during her research February 15, 1987 in Tanzania.
Penelope Breese/Liaison | Hulton Archive | Getty Images
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