intentionally promote a positive framework. It was with listening and open-mindedness,
even when challenged with contrary viewpoints, that allowed for an “appreciative
exploration” to emerge. An expression used to describe a position of engaging in dialogue
even when confronted with positions and “behavior that defies understanding” (Gergen,
2009, p. 168 170) and is further explored:
This is not a sneering search for the hidden foibles of their position, a gathering of
ammunition for subsequent confrontation. Rather, the invitation is to explore the
ways in which their positions are adequate to a tradition or form of life. In what
sense do they make sense? Invited, then, are forms of appreciative exploration.
(Gergen, 2009)
My stance of appreciative exploration allowed for individuals to candidly discuss their
freelance journey without judgment, confrontation or censorship and this presented some
unusual dialogue. A prime example is when my friend Ayad Rahim, a Blogger on the
Middle East, described the events that led him to shift politically from the radical left to the
far right. Ayad discussed the need to leave the “Arab tribe” because he felt at odds with
Arabs who saw Saddam Hussein as Bismarck rather than as a butcher. Was this
conversation solely about freelance work? Not really, but it was through listening and
reflecting that allowed his story to surface as an appreciative construction of his context
rather than my perspective of freelance. I discovered a rich discourse on the politics of the
Middle East and America. As a friend, I could appreciate how he occupies a unique perch
between America and the Middle East and how this needs to be cultivated in terms of his
writing. It did not have to connect to my research topic but it did add perspective and
value to a view of his own unique contribution and this idea may resurface in his future
freelance work. It gave me an appreciation of one’s personal context as deeply intertwined
to their professional identity. With conversations, the impact may not be clear until another
time and remind us that dialogue is full of potential to emerge at a later date.
Sure, there were moments of disagreement and agreement in all the conversations but
throughout we were fully open and engaged. Even when the conversation meandered, I
treated the situation like improvisational jazz moments described in Yes to the Mess:
Jazz players look for and notice instability, disorder, novelty, emergence, and self
organization for their innovative potential rather than as something to be avoided,
eliminated, or controlled. Indeed, jazz bands are very much human systems living
at the edge of chaos. To understand their social complexity requires cultivating an
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