The Narrative Approach

“If language no longer carries the public truth,
it no longer can build  the public trust.”


Our traditional repositories of stories are under fire. There is a lack of trust and belief in education, law, the church, Wall Street, police, government, big business, and the media. Without this trust and belief, the social fabric becomes threadbare. How can we rebuild trust? By deciding to tell better stories, and committing to creating new stories. New and more ennobling stories are needed, and they need to be created by those who understand how story does its work.


For over 20 years, Storywise has focused on narrative dynamics  and  sought to build a better understanding of how and why stories work. Using this understanding, we teach people to enact a narrative ethics that assumes everyone has a story, and every story needs to be heard,  and to build these practices into every negotiation, or mediation, or program of change.


Our core focus is helping everyone explore how story works and how to work stories. Through our seminars, we help participants decipher story codes, genres and patterns to discover emerging meanings. We teach how to seek out the ghosts of dead or forgotten stories in a culture. We examine how public stories are scripted and shape our perceptions and decisions in unconscious ways. Raising the level of our narrative consciousness enlarges the domain of choice for us as both citizens and consumers, because capitalism has become more and more the “manufacture and selling of stories.”


Storywise has always seen itself as a form of consumer protection. No story is innocent. When we buy harmful stories, we put our economy at risk, our earth in peril, and greatly reduce our  chances to live humanly harmonious lives. In war zones, stories are as much weapons as guns and bombs. As a citizen, we need to be vigilant, always asking “What story am I being sold now, and why do they want me to buy it?” As a wise man once said, ” Beware the breathless salesperson!”


It is no longer enough for people to learn how to read and write. They have to learn a new 21st century narrative literacy that empowers them to know when a story is nothing but manipulation, when a story invites them to conspire in their own self-diminshment, or when stories are mean and demeaning.

Knowing how to better read and interpret a story’s intentions allows us to choose, and to escape the thrall of  media hype, political demagoguery and headline news that assumes we cannot ever think for ourselves.