Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bitch and Knit

I've just finished listening to the latest Sticks & String podcast and David's title essay "The Guild'" has been very cathartic for me. Not because he said anything that was specifically referring to me or that was deeply profound. Instead it was a matter of fact explanation about what a Guild does and where it originates from, and how people can enjoy and benefit from attending such meetings. I just needed to be reminded of this because over the past few months I got distracted from this fact.

Its a common feature for many Bloggers and knitting commentators to acknowledge the destructive power of negative feedback - how 1 anonymous remark can totally negate a lot positive praise from people who are not afraid to own their opinions.

This happens in other areas such as organising a group of over 60 members, running the meetings with up to 45 people present at any one time as well as fulfilling any legal and social responsibilities inherent in this group's charter. There are many people that could do this standing on their head with a blindfold on (though it may look a bit funny) and not suffer any qualms about whether or not everything is being done just right. I am not one of them.

I have posted in the past about my "inherent anxiety about social interaction" and I am amazed at how this doesn't stop me accepting volunteer roles such as Chair or Convener for the local Playgroup or Knitting Branch. I keep doing it - I think to the best of my ability - but am devastated when I hear, third hand, of disparaging or bitchy comments, never to my face and never with a name.

Such remarks totally destroy any enjoyment I get from being a part of the group and interacting and learning from the many skilled knitters that come to the meetings. I get preoccupied with rectifying the apparent major short coming they reveal and lose sight of why I am there. I feel I can't see the wood for the trees or the Jumper for the yarn.

And that's where David came in with his nicely timed essay. He reminded me of the enjoyment and enthusiasm I felt as a new member on first attending my first 'real' knitting group and the promise of skills and techniques it held.

Over the next 8 months I think I'm going to listen to that essay again and again - just to keep it all in perspective.

Thanks, David.


Shirley Goodwin said...

It's SO important to us as artists that we keep positive thoughts in the front of our mind, and don't let ourselves be swayed by irrelevant criticism (real criticism, as in assessment of our work, is a different matter). Anything that helps us to do that must be good!

Katie said...

Overthinking is common, especially in creative people. Overthinking the negative stuff can be very destructive. How do they say it? "Don't sweat the small stuff." You make really positive contributions and people appreciate you. Try sweating on that for a while.

This is also a reminder to us all how good positive feedback is. We too rarely give it or receive it.

missfee said...

I think you need to remind your guild group that they are a group and should work together if there are not enough chairs or someone hasn't been thanked they should pitch in... Or take on the job themselves - you do an amazing job and you cannot make everyone happy all of the time - you do more than most but just dong it and to the best of your ability - and raise a child and work and knit - so they can stick it basically

amanda j said...

There are always many people ready to sit back and criticise others. There are nowhere near as many people organising activities and trying to think of every possible outcome. Take heart, there are many more people who would appreciate what you do, but unfortunately we do not thank people enough. I try to make sure I let people know how much I appreciate what they have done, and hopefully they will 'pay it forward'! Do what you do because you want to, try to get enjoyment out of it and suggest to those who are negative they might like to have a go!

Lara said...

Nobody wants to stick their hand up for a volunteer position because it is human nature to critiscise others. If I had a dollar for every person that told me how to do my (unpaid) job, but was unwilling to pitch in and help, I'd have enough money to buy you quite a few beers.

You do your best, and your best is damn good. Particularly when you are the only person standing up to the task.

The upshot - nobody could do a better job, and you should be very proud of the work you do. You are the reason I am joining the mountains group instead of my "local" group. You're tops.

ScarfExchange said...

My fingers are crossed that I've re-signed in with my "anonymous" account... I'm your ISE4 pal - and this may be the only thing "anonymous" is good for. ;) Pretty please email me back at this email addy:
I couldn't get email to you through the exchange info...

I have some beginning plans for your scarf already but will read your blog before making any final decisions!

Your ISE4 Pal

M-H said...

Kate, as you know I'm not a fan of the Guild for exactly these reaons - too many people getting their kicks from criticisng others behind their backs. But I understand that the Guild has a place to play, even if I don't see myself as having a role in it. You are making a valuable ccontribution with your work. Hey, you're not perfect, but at least you're doing something.

Grandma Flea said...

Hi Kate
What you are feeling is normal, and what you are experiencing is common to many groups of women - I can hear the hisses and boos already (note I said MANY, NOT ALL, and I have worked in EEO related fields and know exactly what I'm saying ...).

After long consideration of this over the years, especially observing the differences between female and mixed sex committees when my children were in the guiding and scouting movements and between the "mother's clubs" and the mixed sex "P & C"s, I came to the conclusion that the dynamic of women's groups was a reflection of the lack of power that many women experienced in their lives at work and/or home and the different ways women and men resolve conflict. In my experience, women become bureaucratic and authoritarian when in positions of power in groups where mainly OTHER WOMEN are involved. And women are less likely to express dissension and conflict overtly - hence the back-biting and anonymous criticisms.

I realise that I am speaking from my experience as an older woman - I know my daughters are very direct - for me, uncomfortably so at times (I, too, have difficulty expressing anger, disappointment or other uncomfortable emotions in an assertive rather than emotional manner). I believe that for many younger women the situation is changing - reading the blogs about the AGM of the Guild is proof of that! - but even amongst younger women there are many who have not learnt to deal with issues directly.

Hang in there. There are lots of people who value what you do - and the other stuff says more about those people, than about you.

mehitabel said...

Grandma Flea said it all--I agree wholeheartedly! In quilting and in knitting groups, guilds especially, there seems to be a certain type of person who won't lift a finger to help but will make sure everyone around her knows what she thinks of the people who ARE doing! We've got a big guild here that is on the verge of imploding because the "control freaks" haven't allowed anyone to learn how to do it...and now they are older, retiring, moving away, and no one will take over.

Lynne said...

Kate, you have my full support in every way - I think you do a great job, sometimes under very trying circumstances.