What’s behind the transforming power of dialogue?

Exploring the Power of Dialogue

Dialogue extends beyond mere verbal communication; it’s a profound act of connection. At the core of genuine dialogue lies the “I-Thou” relationship. Could this be what we commonly understand as empathy? While the concept of empathy itself invites debate, for this discussion, I’ll draw from Schmid (2001).

In “Comprehension: The Art of Not Knowing,” Schmid explores Buber’s philosophy through a psychotherapeutic lens, offering a perspective relevant to this analysis (though I have reservations about certain aspects, which we’ll address later). Schmid argues that empathy is an inherent quality that transcends identification or interpretation. It’s the willingness to be moved by another while remaining authentic in their presence.

In true empathic connection, whether through spoken words or nonverbal cues, we prioritize the other person’s needs above our own. We shed the urge to analyze their identity or assert our own. There’s no fixed objective – just the process of authentic presence, extending an invitation for the other to do the same. This is where dialogue finds its transpersonal potential.

(This is a revised version.)

Read also: Empathy and Buber’s I-thou


Buber, M. (1936). Ich und Du. Berlin: Schocken. 

Buber, M. (1970). I and Thou (Kindle ed.). (W. Kaufman, Trans.) Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Gadamer, H. G. (1975/1960). Truth and method . (G. Barden, & J. Cumming, Trans.) NY: Seabury. 

Schmid, P. F. (2001). Comprehension: the art of not-knowing. Dialogical and ethical perspectives on empathy as dialogue in personal and person-centred relationships. Empathy, 53-71.

Staemmler, F.-M. (2009). The willingness to be uncertain: Preliminary thoughts about intepretation and understanding in Gestalt Therapy. In L. J. Hycner (Ed.),Relational approaches in Gestalt Therapy (pp. 65-110). NY: Gestalt Press.