Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

Dialogue by Invitation Only

Posted Dec 27, 2013 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, No Comments

Can I invite you to a dialogue?  The truth of the matter is that we can only engage in dialogue by invitation.  I can invite you, and you can invite me.  When you invite me, in responding to the invitation, I become a you—a you for you.  Even more importantly, I become a you for me.  By our invitation to dialogue you do something for me that I cannot do for myself—become a you.

        We could talk about many things, of course, develop ideas and even learn from each other.  This talking together, more than likely, will be a sharing of what I think and what you think.  We could even limit ourselves to “I-statements.”  In such conversations, you do not appear to me as a “you,” and you do not call me to become a “you” for you.  What we miss in these conversations is the invitation—an invitation to exist in the profound calling of the second-person pronoun—the you.


            So what is so special about the second-person pronoun?  When I am addressed as a you, I am no longer contained by my behavior—no longer on automatic pilot—but instead become an actor—responsible for my response to you. 


            “How do you do?”  If I listen to this, I must ask myself: “How do I do?”  Not just “how do I do?” in general, but “how do I do” in the presence of you—you who have invited me to share with you how I do what I do.  I know, we miss this invitation most of the time; we simply say “fine” or “OK.”   I also know that this question, in many cases, is not an invitation to become a you, but to become some “I” or even a “me.”  Who would not like to avoid the invitation to become a you, or to recognize you as a you?


            Still, we need to talk.  I cannot do what needs to be done by myself.   Furthermore, all the “I’s” we can assemble will not make an effective “we.”  If we are to do what needs to be done, it will be because we have accepted each other’s invitation to engage in dialogue.  My wish for the New Year is that we are invited and that we invite others into dialogue.


Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

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