Tag Archives: dialogue

Every Point of View is a view from one point…

Dr. Ken Larsen

Life and relationships are multi-dimensional.  If we limit our experience of life to a single point of view, our experience will be significantly less that it could be.

Mike Rice recently published a blog where he described the importance of sharing our experience of life with another.  I recall that he went so far as to state that happiness is elusive unless we are connected and sharing with another.

I use this prop as a simple way to visualize the limits of a single point of view.  I wonder how the meaning of much of life is lost because we haven’t shared those experiences with another and “seen” the world through someone’s eyes other than our own.

box1If we just see the box, we miss the beauty within. box2 If we experience only one dimension of the many that make up life, our experience of mental health and happiness is less than it could be.

Dialogue is one way to experience more than one point of view.  In his book “The Miracle of Dialogue” Reuel Howe makes this opening statement:

“Every man [person] is a potential adversary, even those whom we love.  Only through dialogue are we saved from this enmity toward one another.  Dialogue is to love, what blood is to the body.  When the flow of blood stops, the body dies.  When dialogue stops, love dies and resentment and hate are born.”

Sadly, when we are faced with a point of view other than our own, we often tend to judge and discount the other in favor of that internal conviction that the way we see things is the right way to see things.

I am color blind, so getting the point of view of another is helpful and possibly necessary.  Especially when I am getting dressed up.  I once put on what I thought was a blue shirt, only to have Sheren, my wife, gently tell me that it was pale purple.  Sigh.

Just as getting a different perspective on the box is going to give us a more complete picture, being open to the point of view of others can expand, deepen and enrich our own experience of mental health and happiness.




Dialogue or Diatribe?

Dr. Ken Larsen

The world is divided by those who think they are right.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  This familiar quote from Gandhi is an invitation to make our world a better place.  There is a parallel saying and that is “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Like the Miss America contestants, we all want peace in our world.


I suggest that the absence of peace is conflict.  While there is little I can do about global conflicts, there is a lot I can do with the conflicts in my relationships.  One place to start is in our conversations with one another.  Dialogue is the free exchange of ideas and experiences.  It is a chance to see the world through the eyes of the other.  The most fundamental element in dialogue that leads to mental health and happiness is to make understanding the foundation.  Too often interpersonal communication ends in disagreement and conflict based not on understanding, but on a lack of understanding.   Each person in the dialogue has a legitimate point of view.   If one tries to deny the experience of the other and try to control the other to see things his way, we have a serious breakdown in the conversation and in the relationship.  If we agree that disagreement has no right to take place until understanding has been achieved, we are making progress.  It’s OK to “agree to disagree” but in order to have any integrity it is important that each person understands the point of view of the other before moving into disagreement.

Dr. Glasser talked about “external control” as a major contributor to conflict, unhappiness, and breakdown in relationships.

The way we circumvent external control is to recognize that I can only control my behavior.  When I slip into seeing my point of view as correct and the other’s point of view as wrong, we have a problem.  This may result in an “Archie Bunker” kind of diatribe against the other, insisting the other is wrong while you are right.  The result of this behavior is a growing hostility and enmity toward the other.

I mentioned earlier that there is little I can do about global conflicts.   But, if I understand the value of dialogue as a way to see the world as the other sees it, maybe I can have a small impact on what is going on in our world.  If I recognize that the diatribe often associated with condemning the other is based on ignorance I can make an effort to become informed.  I can seek to see the world as the other sees the world.  And in that process, maybe I can find a common link that we can build on.

In my own life, I have made an effort to get to know others who are different from me.  With respect and healthy curiosity I have found truly delightful opportunities to see the world through the eyes of people from other cultures and background.

We know that our attitudes and behavior toward others is based on our experience and beliefs about the other.  When we allow our beliefs to be formed by the unexamined opinions spoon fed to us, we have given away something of ourselves.  When listening to a media report on the “news” can we ask ourselves the simple question, “Is this true?”, or is it pre-digested propaganda that we have accepted without question?

In our relationships and in our world, there are differences.  That is what diversity is all about and it is good.  There is also common ground that we can use to build bridges between us.  Let’s build some more bridges.

For a short two minute video illustrating these principals click here


The Miracle of Dialogue

Dr. Ken Larsen

About 40 years ago I read a book.  The Miracle of Dialogue  written by a pastor, Reuel Howe.  It’s out of print but you can sometimes find a used copy.  The book has had a profound influence on my life.  I’ll share with you   Dr. Howe’s  opening paragraph.  It is rich in meaning:

“Every man is a potential adversary, even those whom we love.  Only through dialogue are we saved from this enmity toward one another.  Dialogue is to love, what blood is to the body.  When the flow of blood stops, the body dies.  When dialogue stops, love dies and resentment and hate are born.  But dialogue can restore a dead relationship.  Indeed, this is the miracle of dialogue: it can bring relationship into being, and it can bring into being once again a relationship that has died.”

We have come to realize that meeting our need for love and belonging can only happen when we connect with another.  There are many ways of connecting, but the ability to communicate and share our meaning with another is paramount.

If dialogue is so important, why do misunderstandings and conflict arise among us?  I submit one major obstacle is that each party in the dialogue has a  different meaning for the same experience.


What can we do to overcome this obstacle?  I believe it starts with what we want from our dialogue.  Are we just waiting for the other person to shut up so we can tell it like it REALLY is?  Sadly I see that sort of thing happening a lot.  We start out with the compulsion to be understood and we will push our point of view with that end in mind.

What if we would turn that around?  Rather than being preoccupied with being understood, why don’t we make the choice (Yes, it is a choice and it takes effort) to start with working to be sure that both parties are understood and that a meeting of meanings has occurred?  Dialogue is possible when there is common ground.  It takes a certain level of determination and patience to find that common ground.


Let me share an example I had with one of my daughters a while back.  She was an English major and had been reading a biography of Lord Byron.  I was involved in some project and Naomi came into the room wanting to share what she was reading.  “Dad, did you know Lord Byron’s heart was buried in Greece?”  I blurted in response, “Why would anyone want to bury a heart in grease?”

She looked at me funny, knowing that something wasn’t connecting in our exchange.  She caught it first, “Daaaad (you know how daughters can make that one syllable word stretch out a long ways)  it wasn’t bacon grease, it was the country of Greece.”  We both started to laugh.  After that exchange I began to wonder just how many misunderstandings and conflicts have started with just such a simple missed meaning.

To enhance our mental health and happiness, let’s agree that disagreements have no right to happen until there is agreement that both parties have the same meanings for the same words.