Our core method: the story exchange

Led by Narrative 4 facilitators, story exchanges are customized for classrooms, community organizations, and businesses building on four basic steps.

The story exchange is a powerful model based on the belief of Narrative 4’s founding authors. They understand that we will see the world, and ourselves, more empathically through the exchange of personal narratives. Today, this belief is supported by the work of neuroscientists, as well as by the experiences of story exchange participants.



A host, working with a Narrative 4 facilitator, organizes a group of participants, identifies objectives, ensures a safe space, and builds trust through communication.



After an introduction to Narrative 4 and an explanation of the
story exchange, the facilitator pairs participants and gives them time to share their stories, encouraging participants to actively engage with
their partner and listen to the story.

Exchanging Stories


After a break, the facilitator reconvenes the group in a circle and asks each participant to retell their partner's story in the first person.



The facilitator initiates a group debrief about the feelings, impact, and lessons from the story exchange, and then creates a sense of closure.

A successful story exchange is the result of careful preparation in partnership with the host and skilled facilitation that creates mutual respect among every person in the exchange. The post-exchange reflection allows participants to consider what they’ve experienced and plan for how they can build on it.

The story exchange is particularly powerful in K-12 classrooms, helping students to:

  • Develop active listening skills
  • Engage in peer-to-peer learning
  • Practice public speaking skills
  • Improve self-reflection and self-awareness
  • Experience an overall increase in positive emotions

Supporting Research

A recent survey by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has documented that schools using the story exchange have better school and classroom climates. According to the survey, students in N4 schools are less likely to feel negative emotions and more likely to feel positive emotions in school (see chart to the right).

Would you like to partner with Narrative 4 to conduct groundbreaking research on empathy in education? Email us!

N4 Facilitator

Facilitators are the key to the Narrative 4 story exchange. They lead the preparation, facilitate the exchange, and guide the reflection process. A skilled facilitator is unbiased, supportive, and well-practiced.

In order to facilitate a Narrative 4 story exchange, one must experience the story exchange first-hand and complete the necessary training provided by our team of trained Master Practitioners.

Narrative 4 provides professional development and facilitator training for educators, community leaders, and other professionals year-round. Interested in bringing Narrative 4 to your school or organization for a workshop?

Courtesy of Emotion Revolution Survey conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Courtesy of the Emotion Revolution Survey conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Turning empathy into action

N4 has become one of the world’s most impactful organizations in the fields of empathy and education. Our “Empathy Into Action” campaigns are designed to break open intractable issues through creative, impactful applications of our core methodology and community project models around the world.

Our campaigns usually address one or more of the following issues: the environment, identity, immigration, faith, and violence.

Our first "Empathy Into Action" campaign, launched in December 2016 in partnership with New York Magazine, won the National Magazine Award.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 12 noon EST
Narrative 4 is pleased to launch A Summer of Impact with Apeirogon on Wednesday, July 15th at 12 noon EST, an event designed to highlight the mission and work of Narrative 4 through great literature. New York Times best-selling author and N4 co-founder, Colum McCann, will be joined in conversation with Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan, who are the two main, real life characters in McCann’s new novel, Apeirogon.

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