Why do I love stories?

Dear Engaged Bystander: I read a wonderful quote recently about the importance of stories:

"Telling stories is as basic to human beings as eating. More so, in fact, for while food makes us live, stories are what make our lives worth living."
On Stories by Richard Kearney

The stories that we are told around sexual violence try to capture the trauma and the horror. These stories are trying to convey the damage that is caused by this form of violence and get people to pay attention. It makes sense that our laws are increasingly punitive and focus on the most predatory of offenders.

So if we want resources, programs and laws about prevention, what stories should we be telling? And how do we tell them in a way that people will understand?

When it comes to our issue, we need to be able to tell a simple story that provides a concrete response. Experts (that's us) tend to speak in the abstract. But people new to an issue (the public) crave the concrete example AND when it is concrete it is also easier to remember.

Let me give you a concrete example from Made to Stick. If you are new to cooking and read something like "cook until the mixture reaches a hearty consistency" you will have NO idea of what to do. But if the directions talk about concrete ideas such as how many minutes to stir your mixture or the cookbook shows a picture of what it should look like, you may know what to do.

When we talk about bystander interventions, I have written in the abstract: "intervene in situations where you are concerned about someone's behavior." If you get any response at all, it is likely to be "Huh?" So what story would you tell to make this concrete?

Stay tuned, I will share another concrete story next week. And if you have one, please send it to me!


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Submitted by David Lee on

Stories can also be an important part of the evaluation and documentation of a prevention program. My favorite evaluation professor (from when I was in graduate school) said that an good evaluation tells a good story.

That is why I love stories.