Simran Sethi: How You Can Tell Stories That Matter

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Simran Sethi: How You Can Tell Stories That Matter

Last week, I was fortunate to steal 20 minutes of Simran Sethi’s time.  She was kind enough to let me record our Skype conversation to share with those of you following this blog.  Seriously, I had to pinch myself because she’s an incredible voice for sustainability worldwide — and her message about story telling will impact the effectiveness of YOUR communication.  Guaranteed.


Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist, strategist, and educator… who teaches and reports on sustainability, environmentalism, and social media for social change.

Named “The Environmental Messenger” by Vanity Fair and a “Top 10 Eco-Hero of the Planet” by the UK’s Guardian, Simran is dedicated to a redefinition of environmentalism that uses innovative forms of engagement.

Check out her full bio here.

She gave an amazing TEDx talk on July 12, 2012 in Cilebes, Spain… and I’ve included it at the end of this blog interview, so you’ll experience her own powerful story-telling firsthand.

But first, we dig a little deeper into the material for you — so you can exponentially improve your eco-influence.

Transform the Way You See Environmental Issues

Are there people in your life — unbeknownst to you — with the potential to transform the way you see environmental issues?

Simran answers this question for herself, and discusses how a series of encounters over 6 years with “regular folks” in Kansas stunned her.  Listen below.

“It was in this place where our food is grown, where our energy is made where I was all of a sudden like, ‘Wow, people aren’t engaging and I need to find out why.”

The #1 Way to Build Your Skills as a Story-Teller

What is the highest compliment that a journalist of Simran’s caliber has ever been paid?

“For me, I never thought of it as MY story…  I didn’t initially realize the importance or utility of framing — or even considering framing — a story in a way that people would hear it or understand it.”

This is 100% in line with what Bob Willard shared in our last interview.

Simran shares the psychological concepts that helped her understand the importance of listening and framing stories for her audience.

  • What is meant by a “finite pool of worry” ?
  • What are the only 2 ways to get someone to engage?
  • How does “confirmation bias” explain how facts are not enough?
  • How can even the best intended story come off the wrong way?

“If we really want to bring more people into the conversation, we have to…  WE have the responsibility to tell our stories, to share OUR information in ways that will resonate with whoever the other person is.”

The #1 Challenge Environmentalists Face… And the Solution

Which is more important — that we all believe the exact same thing… or that we agree on the steps we are willing to take together?

Simran breaks down how having a one-dimensional approach to issues (like climate change) get in the way of making progress.

“If we would genuinely embrace what we have in common… your road might not look like mine, and your motivations might not be the same, but I will help you to achieve that because together we will have a healthier community.”

That is completely in line with Bob Willard’s advice in our recent interview, posted here.

What Impact Could 1 Million New Story-Tellers Make?

The Skype audio got choppy for a second, and you can’t quite make out that Simran’s initial reply was…

“Wow, that would be dreamy.  I’d like to make it one billion.”

Simran explains what it will take for these small changes to become a groundswell… and for that groundswell to reach the tipping point we are all working towards.  And how grassroots hippies can come together with Republican fisherman, and see that they agree.

TEDxCilebes Video… A Must-See, Take the Time to Watch




Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

Check out Adam's new book on Amazon, Audible and Kindle: Sustainable Business in Iowa.

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  1. sustainat Reply

    Hey Adam- nice post! Simran is an AMAZING story teller with great advice!

    Something for to check out: – this is a group closely connected to the MSLS (master's program) community in Sweden… basically exploring how to have conversations that matter – spot on with the theme of your post.

    • ecofluence Reply

      Thank you! I'll check out the Art of Hosting site, and likely share it with this community as well, if it's as good as you say!

      Any contacts there to interview?

  2. john rogers Reply

    Watch this video. Simran's main focus is in people listening to each others stories and concerns and finding ways to connect with each other to solve problems based on similarites shared as human beings on a planet where there are environmental and economic concerns everywhere. Her talk made me realize how much i hate certain people based on their lack of consciousness, and that hating them only makes my life in my community worse. I am not sure if i can completely wash away this hatred, but Simran helped me to realize that everyone needs to be included in change for change to happen, and so we need to find similar desires and interests and then connect with everyone to enact lasting change.

  3. ecofluence Reply

    John, thank you for sharing. We all "hate" or at least have strong feelings against others in the world — it's only human. I know I do.

    If you haven't checked out the free content on the site, I recommend it. Tons of specific ways to put into action exactly what you're talking about. The paid content is guaranteed to give you what you want, but if you're not interested right now… you can dig through the blog posts and get most of it in varying forms. Best wishes!

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