Quotations on the Philosophy and Practice of Dialogue

Breakout groups during the May 2023 Dialogue Nights

Breakout groups at the May 2023 Dialogue Nights

Throughout our 2018 multi-author volume, Peacebuilding Through Dialogue (George Mason University Press), the authors cite diverse sources on the power and attributes of dialogue and related peacebuilding endeavors. Here is a selection of some of the best quotes. Daisaku Ikeda quotes are presented first, followed by a grouping of other sources. Chapter and page attributions are indicated in parentheses at the end of each quote.

Perspectives from Daisaku Ikeda

“The age when silence is considered an indication of wisdom is over. This is an age of the people, an age of dialogue, a time when people must share their opinions and thoroughly discuss things.” (Stearns, pp. 8 & 9)

“We need to further expand the orchestra of Soka dialogue. Though this may seem a humble task, it is the surest way to revive today’s society… .” (Goulah, p. 55)

“Human revolution, or the inner transformation in people’s hearts, which we of the SGI espouse as the way to lasting peace, starts with sincere dialogue with a single individual. Engaging in dialogue is a struggle to positively transform our own life, as well as those of others. It is the act of breaking out of the shell of our lesser self, surmounting the wall of our callous ego, and creating and expanding positive connections with others… . When we have the courage to meet and talk with people about our ideals, we are taking the first and surest step in our human revolution.” (Goulah, p. 67)

“Engaging in dialogue is a struggle to positively transform our own life as well as that of others. It is the act of breaking out of the shell of our lesser self, surmounting the wall of our callous ego, and creating and expanding positive connections with others.” (Urbain, page 105)

“Small group discussions provide an opportunity for questioning, for voicing and responding to doubts. This is a shared process of learning that proceeds at the pace that is genuinely comfortable and effective for all the participants. From the perspective of Buddhist humanism, truth is not the exclusive possession of a select individual or group. Rather, truth is something to which all people have equal access. It is discovered through our committed engagement with our fellow human beings and is shared and transmitted through an expanding web of empathetic connection among people. Such interactions, on the basis of equality, are the crucible in which our humanity is forged.” (Urbain, pp. 118 & 119)

“The culture of the spirited, resilient common people is found in the exchange and interaction of voice with voice, the coming together of people in their raw humanity, the contact of one life with another. Contemporary society is a flood of soulless information… . It is for just this reason that sharing of living language, the actual voices of people, can make a crucial contribution to the health of society.” (Urbain, p. 119)

“Self requires the existence of the other. We cannot engage with others in an effective and productive manner if we lack the inner tension, the will and spiritual energy to guide and control our emotions. It is by recognizing that which is different from and external to ourselves, sensing the resistance it offers, that we are inspired to exercise the self-mastery that brings our humanity to fruition. To lose sight of the other is thus to undermine our full experience of self.” (Chhabra, p. 124)

Genuine dialogue “is a ceaseless and profound spiritual exertion that seeks to effect a fundamental human transformation in both ourselves and others. Dialogue challenges us to confront and transform the destructive impulses inherent in human life… . The energy generated by this courageous effort can break the chains of resignation and apathy that bind the human heart, unleashing renewed confidence and vision for the future.” (Chhabra, p. 134)

“The pervading sense of helplessness [after 9/11] was exactly why I renewed my own pledge, determining to make dialogue my point of departure, believing in its power above all…. The key to such an endeavor is the poetic power of the imagination… . I was convinced that it was necessary, more than ever, that we restore the poetic heart for the benefit of al mankind.” (Stearns, p. 234)

“Therefore, in this time of severe trial, humanity must take the first step on the path of courageous dialogue, which will connect people heart-to-heart and pool their wisdom. Open dialogue is the only way peaceful coexistence will occur; it will transform prejudice to understanding, mistrust to empathy, and conflict to harmony.” (Stearns, p. 235)

Perspectives on Dialogue - Other Authors

John Dewey

“To cooperate by giving differences a chance to show themselves because of the belief that the expression of difference is not only a right of the other person but is a means of enriching one’s own life-experience, is inherent in the democratic personal way of life.” (Stearns, p. 7)

“Communication is a process of sharing experience till it becomes a common possession. It modifies the disposition of both the parties who partake in it.” (Obelleiro, p. 144)

Jim Garrison

“To listen well, we must actively strive to understand the meaning of others in their terms.” (Gaudelli & Siegel, p. 49)

“All existence is a mixture of the actual and the potential. When two events interact, the actuality of the one may actualize the potential of the other, and conversely. Both events are transformed” (Obelleiro, p. 147)

Paolo Freire

“Founding itself upon love, humility, and faith, dialogue becomes a horizontal relationship of which mutual trust between the dialoguers is the logical consequence” (Bajaj & Vlad, p. 74)

bell hooks

“When we teach our students that there is safety in learning to cope with conflict, with differences of thought and opinion, we prepare their mind for radical openness.” (Bajaj & Vlad, p. 74)

Raymond Tallis

“Inner speech develops through the internalization of dialogue. Our heads are echo chambers of our own and other people’s words … as if they were meant to be spoken out loud… . Our silent soliloquy seems to have a variety of functions, evident in different circumstances. It can be a means by which we motivate ourselves: Sportsmen and other high-level performers give themselves a steady flow of silent instructions, encouragement and guidance. We often rehearse our lives in future conversations or pick over past ones… . Our endless commentary … seems to assist the mysterious process of making sense of what is going on in and around us.” (Lerner, p. 96)

Carl Sandburg

The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
For we meet by one or the other. (Lerner, p. 102)

John Paul Lederach

“The centrality of relationships accrues special meaning, for it is both the context in which cycles of violence happen and the generative energy from which transcendence of those same cycles bursts forth.” (Chhabra, p. 129)

“The moral imagination requires the capacity to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships that includes our enemies; the ability to sustain a paradoxical curiosity that embraces complexity without reliance on dualistic polarity; the fundamental belief in and pursuit of the creative act; and the acceptance of the inherent risk of stepping into the mystery of the unknown that lies beyond the far too familiar landscape of violence.” (Allen, p. 213)

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

“We are induced to empathy because there is something in the other that is felt to be part of the self, and something in the self that is felt to belong to the other.” (Chhabra, p. 131)


“Treat people as they want to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.” (Hicks, p. 158)

Hal Saunders

“Governments can make peace treaties: but only people can make peace.” (Farr, p. 176)

Pope John Paul II

“Peace is a workshop, open to all and not just to specialists, savants and strategists. Peace is a universal responsibility: it comes about through a thousand little acts in daily life. By their daily way of living with others, people choose for or against peace. We entrust the cause of peace especially to the young. May young people help to free history from the wrong paths along which humanity strays.” (Bartoli & Gardner, p. 195)

Carl Moore

Community “exists when people who are interdependent struggle with the traditions that bind them and the interests that separate them in order to realize a future that is an [equitable] improvement on the past.” (McDowell, p. 218)