Listen for the Story Instead of the Argument, Pres. Quillen Writes In Detroit Paper

Carol Quillen headshot

In an op-ed published in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press, Davidson College President Carol Quillen writes that stories have the power to revive discourse and, perhaps, shore up the foundation of pluralistic democracy.

Quillen, a historian -- and, by extension, she notes, a lover of stories -- writes that we have stopped listening to each other, focusing instead on quickly responding to arguments.

“What if we heard other people’s words not as a position to be refuted or applauded, but as a story to be understood? What if we thought about how those stories got created and what concerns they might reflect?,” Quillen writes.

By listening for more than what we might disagree with, we can rediscover empathy and even find mutual understanding -- even among disagreement.

She writes: “Presuming from the get-go that those who don’t already agree with us are wrong will not likely change this. Listening to others as tellers of stories might.”

This piece was adapted from remarks Pres. Quillen gave when she received the James Madison Medal from Princeton University, the highest award given to alumni of the institution. Quillen earned her doctorate degree in history from Princeton.


  • August 12, 2019