The Challenges Facing Human Relationships

Every human relationship faces challenges. We are each unique and, in this uniqueness, different from each other. Since no two people are identical, how we communicate with each other tests our differences. Are we willing and able to have genuine dialogue that accepts our differences, or will we insist on agreement with our singular position? Consider the differences between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, teachers and students, boss and employees, people with different political and religious beliefs, etc. Because of these differences, is communication/dialogue possible, or is this the primary problem between us—or could it eventually destroy us?

The facts support that we are different from each other. The differences may not be imposing stone walls, but they exist, and we must acknowledge this. And if we accept this, does that mean we support the other’s position or that they have a right to have one? In other words, can we recognize that we can disagree with each other, and both feel heard and understood? How likely are we to learn something from each other?

So not only are we different as a matter of our life experiences, we are different in the way we see, hear, feel, and think. Also, we are often generations apart. Take the example of grandparents and grandchildren: Two generations separated, and do we expect because we have blood in common that we would understand each other’s views? Impossible… unless we experience genuine dialogue with each other.

“Time” is a huge factor in our lives. The world constantly changes, along with the environment and so much more. Those who grow and live in one generation cannot know another generation except through what they are told and have read. Experience is the powerful force that makes us what we are and will become.

Love and acceptance are just a beginning, but an important one, to be sure. It nurtures our need to be ourselves and who we are at that time. Yet, who and what we become is made up of a bunch of tomorrows. Tomorrows bring life experiences and people that may or may not influence what we become. We enter each day knowing what was, and if lucky, we come out knowing a bit more.


Belief vs Fact

It takes two at minimum to dialogue, but what if only one is open to experiencing it? When it comes to dialogue, the parties involved in that moment of conversation must be in a place that includes each of the fundamental rules which makes dialogue possible. Parties are present, receptive, and respectful, listening, working to understand what is being said, and questioning if they do not.

Confirmation of what the speaker has said is essential. It may sound like “so what you are saying is———,“ but in any event, the response should be to the speaker’s satisfaction. In answer, the listener is now candid in response and is so as authentically as possible. Relative to these few hard and fast rules is that agreeing to agree is not a condition that exists in the dialogue from either of them. While it sounds simple, it is a rare occurrence.

What makes this so rare is the unwillingness for some people to concede that the beliefs they share are open to challenge or disagreement. Simply put, they do not see their thoughts and words as beliefs but as facts. And because of this, they build an almost impregnable wall that allows for no attack against what they know as only “facts.” In other words, “it’s the gospel.” Any attempt to argue against a position that claims such truth is futile. If maintaining a relationship instead of breaking one apart is a possibility, I suggest the choice one makes needs to be based on the “historic” relationships between people. This is a deeply personal issue. And examples abound. Family and the “kitchen table” come immediately to mind.

So easy to picture the young family in discussion or lecture taking place around the table or in the living room. Before the advent of technology, it was our primary way of being with each other, and in many homes, conversation was the standard way of communicating. Also, in many cases, power ruled the discussion, and the father or mother’s words were heard and not others. The lucky of us were invited to participate, and our opinions were heard and even valued. Early on, some of us learned the art of dialogue, and although all of us have beliefs—we do not have all the hard facts. We need to be able to know the difference between what we believe to be true and what we know as “facts.”


Why do we argue? ———–We may disagree, why not? ———–At least we listen.

More thoughts on Genuine Dialogue

As I had often written, when I began to work with leaders, I realized I had no idea as to the type and kind of leader I was. During all my years of leading, I never once asked anyone, “what kind of leader am I?” and no one ever told me. In retrospect, I sincerely believe it would have made me into a better leader had I posed the question. The facts bear me out. As I generated dialogue and eventually instituted Genuine Dialogue in the Inner circles of the organizations I worked with, the more the leader grew into a better leader.

Genuine Dialogue is real and desirable but must be carefully and thoughtfully entered into. While I want to be enveloped in Genuine Dialogue with those important to me, it may not always be possible. The experience requires at least two people committed to it who understand and live by its rules. The political climate of today is a perfect example of how complex and difficult this can be. In truth, depending on the subject, Genuine Dialogue may be challenging to undertake, or at the very least, a rare phenomenon.

I say this because the beliefs and powerful emotions of the conversationalists may discourage any “give and take” in the head and heart of the communicators. In such an instance, positions are so firmly established that Genuine Dialogue can be nearly impossible to invite and enjoy.

The process of being present in the moment and open to understanding the other’s words and beliefs, followed by assuring them through confirmation that you’ve heard and understood them, is a must before expressing one’s own position. And, when ideations are strongly ingrained, this is not easy to do.

Research and brain theory suggests that the amygdala precedes the neocortex relative to brain evolution, controlling our emotional outbursts and the physical actions that follow (an early survival mechanism). In contrast, the neocortex, which comes later in our evolution, is a higher-order fact-based brain function that influences our behavior in that manner.

In my opinion, the problem may have more to do with the sources of influence themselves. Are we more like our ancient selves, allowing powerful emotions to influence our behavior? Or are we influenced by a fact-based reality that lends itself to rational thought? These are interesting and serious questions that are potentially answerable from those we live and work closely with. They are those who know us best.

More on Genuine Dialogue

There is a vast difference between what most of us consider dialogue and what I call “Genuine Dialogue.” Conversation between most people is loose and without fixed and agreed-upon rules, so it can often end up feeling that there was little benefit to the time spent talking and listening to each other.
Let me compare Genuine Dialogue to the rules essential to sports games. What would baseball, football, basketball, etc., be if the rules were loose or non-existent? The game would not exist. I compare this to the differences between just having a conversation and experiencing Genuine Dialogue.

Although repetitious, knowing and agreeing to the rules essential to make Genuine Dialogue work are few: The participants must be PRESENT with each other. They must RESPECT each other and LISTEN TO WHAT IS BEING SAID—instead of building an argument against what they THINK THEY’VE HEARD. Finally, to ensure that the speaker knows they have been HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD, the listener needs to REPEAT IN ONE’S OWN WORDS what the speaker has said. (“So what you are saying is————“).

When this takes place, the listener is now CANDID in their response. What makes this work is the acceptance of the listener and the speaker that AGREEMENT is not asked for. If the speaker or listener expects agreement to result from Genuine Dialogue, they need to lay their expectations on the table from the beginning.

Compare this to most of our conversations with others. We enter them fully expecting agreement or that our position is the correct one. It was my first discovery when I began to work with leaders throughout the country. I was initially employed to speak to the issues of staff and leader relationships. As stated by the leader requesting my services, the problem was the staff and their relationships with each other. Instead, what became most apparent was that the problem was the communication style of the leader. This invisible exercise of power was not invisible to their staff and me.

Based on much research into power, leadership, and communication, I stumbled into what I labeled Genuine Dialogue and began to build a whole case for better communication skills. It was new and enlightening to all of us, and in the process, those of us lucky enough to work together—grew together. Sy

Why It Matters

I wish to discuss the power of making rational, risk/reward assessments based on evidence and logic compared to decisions based on fear and anxiety and their impact on oneself and others.

All humans possess both capabilities to either run and hide or to face events head-on using the best of their resources. Based on research, the capacity to make decisions based on relationships with others is essential in being a contributing member of a group/tribe. In other words, the attribute of deciding which actions to take based on what is best for self and one’s tribe is an advanced development within human behavior.

During my history as a leader and the philosophy I gained from my experiences, the choices I made almost always had to do with problem-solving—not running away from them. So, whether it was an event with people, nature, or happenstance, I believe I had no other choice but to stand my ground and deal with what had to be dealt with. In my opinion, certain actions and behavior people choose are often so potentially powerful that choosing one course over another may be life-changing.  This may not be a consideration at the time, but it could be the seed that grows into a powerful and contributing life choice. On the other hand, choices some people make may be harmful to them and others, but they are caught in the grip of their “fight or flight” pattern. Their behavior is all about protecting themselves, all others being incidental.

A recent example is worth relating: We live in a senior village, a resort-type setting where I believe all here have had two vaccine shots. On one recent night, we sat with a newcomer, and during a light conversation, I asked her if she had her shots. She answered “no” and went on to say she did not intend to do so. I replied that she was imposing her fears and the possibility of contracting covid 19 on those she now lived with. Her response was, “I can do what I want.’  My immediate response was, “not on the people living here.” She moved out soon after.

In my opinion, she is a selfish person and probably has no sense of responsibility towards her family (if she has one) or the people she was presently living with. Apparently, evolution is not assured for all.     Sy