You are on page 1of 6

Insights into Buber‟s I & Thou

Buber uses the following example in his

book published after I and Thou entitled
Between Man and Man.

In the deadly crush of an air

raid shelter, the glance of
two strangers suddenly meet
for a second in astonishing
and unrelenting mutuality;
when the All-Clear sounds it
is forgotten; and yet it did
happen, in a realm which
existed only for the moment
(p 204)

Although fleeting these dialogic moments

(which “disappear in the moment of their
appearance”) bear with them life‟s deepest
“The sphere of the „between‟”

Mutual confirmation

Making the other present

Overcoming appearances

Experiencing the other‟s side

Moving toward personal wholeness

Realistic trust
I-Thou relationships our direct, open, mutual and

I-it relationships are a one-sided experience of

knowing, using, and categorizing people and things

Both ways of relating are necessary for human life

A person ideally lives in a healthy alternation

between the one and the other worlds

The I-Thou comes first; and the I-It grows out of it;
and I-Thou again and again becomes I-It

Meeting Thou happens. Only after Thou becomes It

do we speak of meeting in other verb tenses, as
“having happened” or “had happened.”

I-Thou encounters cannot be traced to an origin or cause.

If they could, the act of tracing them would immediately
throw them into the realm of I It again.

Encounter with a Thou represents a high point of

relational life, a peak, a sudden flash that illumines a
person‟s way
Martin Buber‟s I & Thou: Practicing Living Dialogue
by Kenneth Paul Kramer

“Dialogue becomes genuine when each of the participants

is fully present to the other or others, openly attentive to
all voices, and willing to be non judgmental. Dialogue
becomes technical when the need to understand
something, or gain information, is the focal point of the
exchange. Dialogue becomes in fact monologue when
only one person is interested in imposing his or her point
of view to the exclusion of all other views. Lacking real
otherness, monologue eliminates the possibility of being
surprised. Practically speaking, these distinctions
significantly affect human behavior. Genuine dialogue
moves beyond the exchange of informational content,
beyond simultaneous or dueling monologues, to an
immediate, direct engaging and being engaged in which
attentive listening and inclusive responding flow back and
forth.” (Kramer, p. 33)

Genuine dialogue is not possible without mutual

engagement. “Mutuality” occurs in “real” conversations
in brief moments where people, as it were, “happen” to
and for each other.
After meeting his mother thirty years after she
had abandoned him Buber coined the word
vergegnung “mis-meeting.”

Mis-meeting designates the failure of real

interactive mutuality between persons

Genuine meeting requires unconditional

trust and a willingness to be vulnerable to
the other.

Just as we live in a continuous cycle

between awareness of I Thou relationships
and I It relations we live in a continuous
exchange between meeting and mis-

When, instead of responding to others as

unique persons we treat them as objects among
objects as projected images that fit the structure
of our knowledge, we disrupt our own capacity
to encounter the thou of others - to affect the
renewal of genuine dialogue, inter-human trust
is needed. (Kramer, 46)
When two or more persons simultaneously step
into direct relationship, a new quality of
communication springs forth.

I do not dialogue with myself, but with the


Dialogue does not happen on my side of the


The other person does not dialogue with

himself or herself but with me

Genuine dialogue happens between us in a

dynamic, mutual reciprocity

Buber affirms that dialogue does not simply

occur by my intending for it to occur

No matter how intensely I attempt to enter I

Thou dialogue I cannot generate it alone

“Genuine dialogue happens by virtue of

relational grace, which arises from and
generates the spirit of genuine meeting.”
(Kramer, p. 77)