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Reflecting on an Experience

Because it is impossible for us to truly know anything beyond our own lived experience, 29 sharing our stories is the most powerful form of teaching. It allows us a chance to learn about others’ lives and worldviews.

Often, our rhetorical purpose in storytelling is to entertain. Storytelling is a way to pass time, to make connections, and to share experiences. Just as often, though, stories are didactic: one of the rhetorical purposes (either overtly or covertly) is to teach. Narration articulates lessons drawn by looking back articulating what has been learned.

Reflection is a rhetorical gesture that helps you and your audience construct meaning from the story you’ve told. It demonstrates why your story matters, to you and to the audience more generally: how did the experience change you? What did it teach you? What relevance does it hold for your audience? Writers often consider reflection as a means of “looking back in order to look forward.” This means that storytelling is not just a mode of preservation, nostalgia, or regret, but instead a mechanism for learning about ourselves and the world.


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Expression and Inquiry by Christopher Manning; Sally Pierce; and Melissa Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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