Using Buberian Dialogue to Overcome Rancor


Progress seldom comes from hate:

Buberian Dialogue is a Tool to Help Overcome Rancor

Traditional debate or "discussions" fail.  They become competing monologues.  There is an alternative.

2020 can be described as the year of Covid-19, but it likely will also be regarded as a year in which societal and political divisions in the US devolved into unmitigated rancor. Hatred may fuel emotions, but seldom does it lead to meaningful change. Our traditional form of debate fails because neither side is actually interested in listening to (never mind learning from) the other.  Instead each side believes it is better to "cancel" the other.  You cannot "cancel" the views of 80 million or 70 million.  We must find a way to "engage."

At the level of a group or society, meaningful change can only happen when members have a way to work together. The energy required for hatred and for deliberate indifference toward those with whom we disagree can be better employed in the development of the new. Historically this tends to happen through the creation or elevated focus on an external common enemy.

Cybernetic thinking suggests an alternative: Buberian Dialogue.  Here the emphasis is NOT on the protagonists, but rather it is on the audience members.  Buberian Dialogue empowers the audience to discover and amplify hidden commonalities amongst differing perspectives and positions.  This happens through an audience-centered  examination of presuppositions and entailments.

The video and the taped discussion focus on how to make this happen and explains why it works.  Our goal is to encourage such dialogical exercises in the months ahead.

Michael Lissack and members of the American Society for Cybernetics are available to assist groups and organizations who wish to hold their own Buberian Dialogues.  Please contact Michael at 

(Note: Buberian Dialogues require some physical presence and may not be fully viable during the pandemic.)

Link to: Video of the Presentation

Link to: Video of the Discussion           
Link to: Discussion Chat Text
Link to Excerpt:  How to hold a Buberian Dialogue
Michael Lissack was president of the American Society for Cybernetics from 2014-2020. 
Michael is the executive director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence (formerly in Boston, MA) and is currently a Professor of Design and Innovation at Tongji University in Shanghai.
His academic work can be found here.

All opinions expressed in this presentation are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the American Society for Cybernetics, its members, or its officers.

  Copyright © Michael Lissack 2020