On Difficult Conversations and Emotional Responses

In the yarn industry and yarn community, there are some very difficult but important conversations happening right now. They are the types of conversations that can change a system at its core hopefully for the better but sometimes it gets worse before it can get better. Topics have ranged from racism in the yarn community, identity and gender politics to name a few.

The problem is how do you join in those conversations if you don’t feel ready or feel unqualified to do so? By this, I do not mean that you need a professional qualification I mean you don’t know where to start. You feel like you should speak but you can’t. This fear increases when you see the posts calling on others to speak out. The fear of misspeaking is real. People are being a lot more careful of the language and narrative of their posts and blogs. If anyone wants to know my personal opinion, yes the community is racist, I’ve said racist comments (without meaning to but ignorance is not an excuse for anyone) and the community can and should do better.


A large problem with conversations is communication and if you sit back and read those boards on Ravelry, follow the discussions on Instagram (which is as frustrating as it is enlightening) you slowly realise that if we want to see real change that we need to act together as a community, to move forward. There are a lot of people who want to help but don’t feel like they have the tools to do so because this is a new form of communication for them.  There is a quote from a book that I found quite relevant, in fact, it’s one of their opening chapters:


Great minds don’t think alike…but they can learn to think together.  –  Dwana Markova & Angie Mc Arthur


I can’t help but feel at the moment that there is a lot that can be learned and applied from the world of Collaborative Intelligence to where we are right now.  I have been collaborating in teams since 2000 on topics in science and technology, marketing and communication, project launches and book collaborations and the most successful projects have always been those where there was no direct leader but a sharing of intelligence and skill set.


But Nadia what has this to do with our conversations in the craft community?

We are drowning in voices at the moment. Every time I log on to a social media platform there is hours worth of reading there. I wish I had the time to keep up but I don’t. I will hold my hand up and say that I haven’t been able to.  There are loud voices and there are soft ones, there have been some vile comments and some shocking ones, so how do we get past this and build the community we have been calling for because it is not up to any one person to make the change it’s up to us all to do our part, our research and create the community that is inclusive and diverse as it is fun to be part of.

These conversations invoke an emotional response. We have knee jerk reactions when we shouldn’t, in fact, it’s hard not to. We habitually misread people and miscommunicate with them. It’s easier to do this in text when there are no visual cues. We have blamed and belittled one another and a lot of us have not been trained to notice the effect we have on one another. So then how do we move forward as a community without the communication skills to do so.


We need to learn how to think differently and with people who think differently than we do. 


In the last few weeks when I have said that our community has been having these conversations, people have shaken their head, baffled. I have been shocked and speechless at the responses that include “that is so silly”  “In knitting, really?”  “But why do we need to talk about it”

This has become quite a long post but I’m proud that our community is having these conversations. We aren’t the only ones to have them either, some of the biggest companies in the world of science, technology and finance are having them too. Just check out Inspirefest on Youtube to see some of those conversations. Our industry is smaller but it can be a leader, it can show other SME’s and independents how to tackle these issues and how to move forward.

Some of us feel lacking in the tools to do this well. We can learn, adapt and do better but only if we do the work and put the time in. We are all time poor, I’ve said so many times but even 10 minutes on lunch to read about communication, diversity, inclusion, gender issues or any of the topics you want to feel better adept at joining in on will make a difference. The only person who thinks you can’t is you. You can create change. Be it in your shopping choices, your support of designers across the world, your book purchases, the list goes on.

If anyone wants to learn more about communication and mind mapping I do recommend the book by Dwana Markova & Angie Mc Arthur “Collaborative Intelligence – Thinking with People Who Think Differently. [AF link]

Final Thoughts

I think that looking at how other communities and companies are adapting and creating change offers a  wider picture and can help to create the change we want to see in our own community and Industry. I’ve always been proud of being part of this community. Right now it’s hard. Hard to keep up, hard to stay focused and hard to write anything down and leave it on a blog for the fear of an onslaught of comments. The thing to remember is that the most beautiful things are the hardest to create. We are doing the work, putting the time in and I really want to see real change going forward. I think that we can do it as long as we communicate and can come together to do it. I’m not perfect but show me someone who is.

I am constantly learning and adapting. I’m doing the best that I can do at the moment. Is it enough, well it has to be because I have no reserves left. Like many of you, I am fighting on many fronts, personal issues, family issues, business issues and I’m tired but I can still lend my support by highlighting the discussions. Taking part in the workshops and talks and be present when I can. I am searching out voices of reason when I can on these topics and not just within our industry or community. Thank you to all who have been posting, having the conversations and have had the energy and time to do so.

These are just my personal thoughts and musings but maybe it might spark something in you today.


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