Storytelling school

Why listening to stories has the edge over telling

Everything is a story that we are told, so we learn better to tell stories with force to persuade, cause impact and be memorable. But now there’s a new and important counterpoint to storytelling on story blocks – “listening to stories” – which is both a theory and a practice on how to be a more informed consumer of stories. in a post-truth world.

Women Love Tech is exclusively for the co-author of the book “Storylistening”, Dr Claire Craig, who is the first woman to be appointed head or provost of Queen’s College, Oxford.

Claire Craig has had a brilliant career. She earned a BA in Natural Science and later earned a Doctor of Philosophy from Cambridge University. She is a geophysicist and civil servant who has provided scientific evidence to decision makers in UK government and business as Director of the UK Government Office for Science and Director of Science Policy at the Royal Society. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2006 and from 2019 served as Provost at Queen’s College.

Queen’s College, University of Oxford

Dr. Craig’s work involves informing, educating, and sensitizing policy makers, political conservatives, students, and the general public on science-related topics. She combined her talents with Sarah Dillon, who is Professor of Literature and Public Humanities at the University of Cambridge, to coin the phrase “listening to the story.

Their book Storylistening was released in November last year. This demonstrates the urgent need to take stories seriously to improve public reasoning. It’s an eye-opening exploration of how policy makers can gather evidence from stories to inform their thinking.

“Storytelling is commonplace,” says Dr. Craig. “Much of the literature is about telling stories, persuading people or perhaps getting their attention, while so little is about listening to stories. If we could think more broadly about who we are audience, then it would help decision makers, help those providing evidence, help any of us out there in the world to think about what’s going on around us. The notion of listening to stories is that we pause and start saying, wait a second – I’m not immediately captured by this story rather I’m going to think about what it really is meaning.”

Dr. Craig and Professor Dillon use the term “soak up stories” in their book. Dr. Craig says it’s a deliberate play on the idea of ​​being intoxicated by a story.

“Imbibing a story is when you take a story, and it changes you. Sometimes a good story, a charismatic or seductive story, which might be on the numbers by the way, we’re not just talking about a blockbuster movie; this story is kind of getting drunk on stories and being misled by them.

Queen's College, University of Oxford
Queen’s College, University of Oxford

Dr. Craig offers “listen to the story » as a more considered approach. “Listening to stories has this slightly more reflective, slightly more detached state that gives you more control and more power over what’s going on around you and a better ability to step back and shape the future. .”

In the story-driven digital age that is often uncontrolled, misleading and dangerous, Dr. Craig’s work is right on the mark. He implores us to critically examine stories when we hear or read them.

“Stories need to be taken more seriously in two ways. One is due to concerns about misinformation and “post-truth”. We need to be able to think more about the kind of stories that come to us. And the other is by not including the kind of knowledge in stories thinking about the future of AI or the future of climate change for example, we really paralyze ourselves.

“We’re interested in what stories do to reframe and model the world, and then to anticipate it,” says Dr. Craig.

In Listen to a story, Craig and Dillon use the examples of four critical issues facing our world today – artificial intelligence, nuclear warfare, economics and climate change. By excluding people’s stories and relying only on data and evidence, one opportunity to understand the impact of a flood or fire for example, is to limit how we plan and organize around the emergencies linked to the climate crisis.

“If you think about climate change, then groups of people who may not be included in political structures might be telling stories about what it means to them. They have knowledge about ways to adapt and anticipate which is really helpful. Their stories are heard.

Listening to stories provides theory and practice for gathering narrative evidence that will complement and reinforce, not distort, other forms of evidence, including that from science.

Dr. Craig advocates for what she calls “narrative literacy” and believes our public structures and reasoning should better integrate narrative evidence.

“Narrative literacy would mean that each of us would at least pause and think – okay, there’s a story going on here. Maybe I should think about who’s saying it. And maybe I should thinking about who shares it and so what it looks like to me in terms of how I feel about the world. How does this story change my views? How does it connect me with other people? How does he create a model of the world or how does he anticipate it. Narrative literacy means knowing that stories matter. It’s okay to ask questions about them. You don’t have to ignore them. or seduce them.

The Practice of Dr. Craig storylistening may well provide a missing link to better decode and interpret stories and thus use them as a force for good when combined with scientific data.

“And we will all continue to listen! she adds with a smile.

Storytelling, Dr Claire Craig and Professor Sarah Dillon
Listening to stories by Professor Sarah Dillon and Dr Claire Craig

Find out more about Storylistening here: