A Night of Narrative 4: The Importance of Story Exchange

On Friday, March 17th, John Cabot University Student Government hosted “Night of Narrative 4,” a storytelling event based on the highly acclaimed Narrative 4 model. The evening focused on students and staff exchanging stories and building a sense of empathy and community. The event was run by JCU students Sophia De Vivo and Gentian Limani, two of the 22 international Narrative 4 student ambassadors.

Narrative 4 is known for going into colleges and high schools in order to help people tell their stories in a new and powerful way and to engage more profoundly with the world.

In 2012, when De Vivo and Limani were both sophomores in high school in Newtown, Connecticut, twenty children and six adults were killed by a gunman at a local elementary school. In those days marked by shock and fear, a concerned teacher introduced them to the program.

Sophia De Vivo and Gentian Limani, Narrative 4 Student Ambassadors

Sophia De Vivo and Gentian Limani, Narrative 4 Student Ambassadors

Narrative 4, one of the charities sponsored by the musician Sting and his band, celebrates stories and strives to inspire empathic global citizens to improve the world through personal narrative. Participants are divided into random pairs, preferably with people they do not know, and exchange stories from their lives with one another. The stories are not required to be ones of suffering or sadness, but rather stories that produce feelings and emotions. The aim is for participants to celebrate how similar they actually are. Originally only located in the United States, Narrative 4 is now present in over 8 countries, with more than 20-30,000 story exchanges made each year.

For the group story exchange, each person takes on the first person narrative of their partner’s story and relays it to the others. De Vivo emphasized the importance of deep listening and how scientific tests from Harvard and Yale strongly encourage story exchanges with strangers. Through this practice, the human brain becomes more active and helps deal with depression and loss. Limani and De Vivo started off the exchange by sharing each other’s stories, using a first person narrative, in order to put everyone at ease and set the stage for the emotional evening ahead.

De Vivo and Limani stressed the fact that everything shared in the room stays confidential, comparing it to the popular “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” line. All participants were given the choice not to be photographed and instructed not to share anything outside the event with people not participating. About 16 people attended, a mix of staff and students who spent almost an hour sharing their stories one on one before talking to the whole group.

De Vivo and Limani hope to make this a regular event at JCU in the future and encourage others to become involved.