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Place of stories in SALT

Some learning about stories for SALT

Kausar SK

Telling and listening stories is not a new phenomenon. Story telling has been around forever, it seems. It is not difficult to recall stories heard during childhood. As adults too we hear stories and tell stories, but when do we start reflecting on them ? While like fish in water we live with stories, we stop being a fish in water when we start  thinking about them , and wonder what they do to us as listeners and as narrators. A host of questions emerge – whose story ; what story; who interprets them; and on and on. All this can be said to be looking at stories simply, so how is one to look at them deeply ? For a deeper perception, it becomes necessary to experience story telling and listening in a systematic and thoughtul way. This happened on Feb 6, 2021. An immersion in stories took place as all members of a learning group recalled a place they liked in their childhood.  This place was to be described in as much detail as possible – what is the place, what are the colors, what are the objects in the place; any smell ? What is the color of the sky… of the floor. Who is there… but no account of what you are doing… it is to be a description and description alone…with as much detail as possible… and call upon all the senses to construct the description.For example :

 ‘there is a tree in the rectangular courtyard..’.

How big is the tree ? where is it in the courtyard ?

What is the ground like of the courtyard..?

There is the train that goes bye at night…. Cant see the train… only see  lights of the compartments that zip bye


On emerging from this immersion in description, there is sharing of this experience. What did it do to you ? participants were asked… and responses began to flow… rich with insightful phrases…discoveries and learning presenting themselves. What does all this mean for understanding SALT, it is asked and another flood of insights:

  1. Listening to the stories of description of the childhood place that was liked was listening to strength, and not weaknesses. There is listening without judgement. (this is what SALT requires – whether during a household visit or interaction with a community group)
  2. It allowed people to respond to the stories heard. People respond because of the non-threatening environment created (SALT creates an environment where people talk freely… for they feel free)
  3. It is an investment in people’s lives, because the story teller begins to experience their own reality and this experience is positive for it strengthens the speaker. (SALT seeks to see communities building on their strength by first experiencing their strength through their own stories and connecting to the listeners of the story)
  4. It is appreciation of life. Yes. The non-judgmental listener validates the speaker’s experiences by simply being there and by listening honestly. (SALT too validates through appreciation  and appreciation can be through listening to the story)
  5. It is working from inside out.(SALT process is also working from inside out… as SALT is averse to a top down approach, or an expert approach)
  6. There is a surrender of sort… the narrator surrenders to his/her sensibilities…. and the listener too surrenders to the story. (SALT is also an act of surrendering to the community’s process of discovering their strength and moving on towards actions. The SALT facilitator accompanies like a friend)


SALT is about moving from ‘I’ to ‘we’… and in listening to stories this starts to happen, as the images that are triggered in the listener connect to the story teller; the narrator also connects with their past in a positive way. In this connection is also the end of isolation, of being alone. The division between ‘I’ and the ‘other’ recedes.  Moreover, when the listener responds, potential stories begin to surface, and they too can be heard, and thus strengthen the connections.


L of SALT represents listening and learning. Stories are about listening and learning; which in turn help people experience their strength, it connects people, and this connection is that of being human.


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Comment by Bono Sen on February 8, 2021 at 8:06pm

Loved this. So much untapped potential in storytelling. Thank you for your story about the power of stories. 

Comment by Yamini Suvarna on February 8, 2021 at 2:26pm

This is so beautifully expressed Kausar Apa

Comment by MariJo on February 8, 2021 at 10:51am

Dear Kausar,

It is such a pleasure sharing reflection with you and I learn so very much about your knowledge of the work on the field.

I totally agree with you in all the things that link SALT with storytelling. Of course, the L of Listening and Learning are there. And also, the S of support and of stimulation, as sharing stories is also a way of giving and receiving support, and there is a lot of stimulation going back and forth between the tellers and the listeners. And the A of appreciation, both from outside and from within. Self-appreciation is very important here. And what is the better way to transfer an experience than by telling a well reflected story. 

For me, storytelling have all the ingredients of SALT in many, many ways.

Thank you for your story of this experience with storytelling. I felt the same.

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