Knitting Group Relationship Filter
November 21, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out how to convey to the new head of my knitting group that I am really too busy until January to help with events.

I joined a knitting group in January of this year. The organizer was trying to buy a house and the meetups were very infrequent, something that frustrated members. Long story short, in October after 3 months with no meetups, she realized she could no longer be our organizer. She asked for volunteers to step in. I said I would help organize if no one else would BUT there were several issues including my unavailability until the beginning of January. She wrote back saying that another member with more availability had volunteered, but she would make me the assistant organizer. This seemed like a good compromise.

In October I met with the new Organizer, let's call her L. I explained to L my current availability issues. I'm an English professor so during some times of the year, I'm fairly free and could easily host events every other week. Unfortunately, at certain times of the year, I'm insanely busy and really unavailable. On top of dealing with the usual end of semester drama, my mother's boyfriend died in July so I need to spend time with her during the holidays as she is not coping well with the loss.I explained this at dinne,r and she seemed to understand.

Or so it seemed, as dinner moved on she suggested that it would be OK if I just stopped by for 15 minutes or so every other meetup. I said I would try, but that honestly, I could only make it to two of the proposed Meetups in the next two months and even then I couldn't make it for the full time.

Last week was one of the meetups. I was able to attend for the whole time, but was distracted thinking about work issues. At the end of the meetup, L said "Oh so I'll see you at the Thanksgiving meetup on Tuesday." I explained over dinner that I would be traveling that day. In that moment she said, "Oh then we'll have it Monday." Feeling put on the spot I said OK thinking that I could stop by for a while. Then I had the work week from Hell. I've spent this entire weekend working, and I have a huge project due on Tuesday. I emailed her on Saturday to tell her I might not be able to come or if I did that I would only be there briefly. She acted put out as she had "changed the meetup" just so I could attend even though I never asked her to do so and then tried to pressure to me come "For an hour." I explained that I wasn't sure I had an hour to spare, literally, but I would try my best. I also reinforced that until January 1, my work schedule is really intense.

Today, I received notification that she has selected me as host for the holiday party on December 5. While someone else is literally hosting (ie having them over), this means I have to stay for the entire time, bring food, and help coordinate the event. I honestly do not have time to do all of that. I agreed at the original dinner to stop by for a while, not be a co-host. As an assistant organizer, I can manually remove myself as a host, but I'm worried about the potential fall out of such a choice.

How do I convey to this person without upsetting her that I really do not have the time to be a co-host at this time, and she needs to understand that I'm really not available until January?
posted by miss-lapin to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like using simple words like NO, NOT possible, CAN'T, NOT AVAILABLE - over and over. As in - My work schedule does not permit me to host or be involved until January. My schedule varies due to time of the semester and between that and family commitments I cannot host or even attend an entire meeting. Repeat as necessary.
posted by leslies at 11:25 AM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dear L,

I am not available to co-host events until January.

Miss Lapin
posted by trinity8-director at 11:26 AM on November 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

This all sounds really, really intense for what I take to be a casual group of friends and acquaintances sharing the same relatively laid-back hobby.

It's completely unfair for someone to dump hosting responsibilities on you for an event just two weeks away. You really should have no qualms about explaining to her, once again, how busy you are and exactly what you can and can't agree to. If you wanted to be more diplomatic, why not suggest your group all meet up at a restaurant, where nobody has to take on the overwhelming task of hosting and all its attendant food-related annoyances. You could show up for as long as you want, and nobody would suffer.

In any event, she's had fair warning about your limited availability and appears to have "forgotten." Therefore any "fall-out" from your removing yourself as host is unwarranted and not your fault.
posted by Pomo at 11:28 AM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have never been involved in a knitting group with this kind of intense planning and commitment. It sounds like a recipe for continuing drama - I would consider looking for another group, maybe one based out of a shop or other drop-by-when-and-as-you-like group.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:38 AM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sounds like resignation time.
posted by galadriel at 11:39 AM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yes, use your words.

You're an English professor, treat this person's request the same way you would a student who said: "Yeah, I know you say our reports are due today, but just the same, I'm going to turn it in in March."

Her demands of you are incompatible with (your) reality.

Tell her that, really, as you mentioned earlier, you simply are
not available until January.

Don't be "nice" and say something appeasing just to be polite when you're put on the spot.

Saying you might be able to do something, or can pop by for 5 minutes is just going to let her schedule you for a mile from your gift of an inch.
posted by blueberry at 11:39 AM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Sorry, but as we discussed over dinner, I'm not available to co-host or organize events until January due to my work schedule. I will try to stop by events when I have time, but I can't guarantee my attendance at any given event so I can be acting as an organizer.

Even once my schedule clears up in January, it's important that you not assign events to me without specifically consulting me first. My schedule is variable and I will always need to check my previous commitments before taking on anything related to [insert meetup group name here]."

But you may also want to keep in mind that she might be just not really understanding the Meetup interface if she's new to the whole Organizer thing. She may have thought she was just RSVPing you, or that she was supposed to tick off all of the Organizing team that she was expecting to attend in the 'Who's Hosting' selection box. Unless she's given you some other clear indication of what she expects of you as a host of the holiday party, you might want to check first that she actually knows what she's doing in terms of button pushing.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:43 AM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think you owe her anything more than trinity8's email, and I think you should stop negotiating with this woman (only an hour, only 15 min, maybe I can come, etc.) but if you want to smooth things over a bit...:

Dear L,

I'm sorry if I wasn't clear before, but between my work and family commitments, I really cannot commit any time toward co-hosting the holiday party or attending any other events or meetups until January. Once my schedule is freer, I'd be happy to host. Based on our previous conversations, I thought you understood this. I look forward to seeing everyone again in January.


Then STOP attending and stop responding to emails or even answering the phone when she calls. She's trying to strong-arm you into things you've communicated that you cannot do. However, your continued negotiations with her mean she knows you're willing to give a little on your boundaries. You aren't respecting your own boundaries, so she's not respecting them either. She might get mad, and she might say something unkind about you in a meetup, but that's not your problem. You can't control her emotional response to you, so don't try. This group sounds like more stress than it's worth.

If you happen to run into her on the street, just tell her you've been having your own private grading party, night after night, with 7000 freshman papers, many cups of coffee and your trusty red pen. In other words, hold your ground and don't show up again until January.
posted by BlooPen at 11:45 AM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I find that the more I apologize for saying no, the worse it goes. They feel uncomfortable and I am immediately identifying myself as a pushover. It makes one look really wimpy and pathetic.

I used to apologize profusely for saying no, and felt so guilty I tried to explain myself and give all kinds of reasons and justifications. I just didn't know how to say no and worried way more about what 'I thought' people thought of me than about my own sanity and peace. This inability to stop desperately trying to please people often hurt those around me, too, my family, etc. It's not such an innocent character flaw. The real motivation is avoiding conflict and not wanting to look like the bad or "selfish" guy. But caring that much what other people think is totally self-focused anyway.

It hurts people because we're spread so thin we are drained, become resentful, and worst of all, develop a really unattractive martyr complex. We then resent people for even asking us. As if they're the problem, when really, we just can't say no.

My question is, how willing are you to be misunderstood?

People seem to respond to my "no" so much better when I unemotionally, lightly, and very very simply say, "Nope, I'm completely booked up and WON'T be able to help this time. Someone else will have to step up." PERIOD.

No is a complete sentence. Really try to resist the temptation to justify your decision. Walk away from the conversation or change the subject QUICKLY. Especially until you learn to be more comfortable with setting healthy boundaries.

Anyone who harasses you for setting normal, reasonable boundaries is the person with the problem, not you. Don't succumb to manipulation or bullying.

I hope that helps.
posted by sleeping beauty at 11:51 AM on November 21, 2010 [16 favorites]

This seems like way too much planning for a knitting group - mine has a standard time where people show up at a local cafe. No need to respond or organize anything. Maybe when you have more time you can steer the group to that sort of model if you still feel like attending. And it is totally normal for people to not have time to do anything during the entire month of December!
posted by gnat at 11:57 AM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Once you've stated your boundaries, if she continues to try to cajole you via email, not responding is a real option to consider.
posted by salvia at 12:14 PM on November 21, 2010

Find another knitting group. This organizer may continue to misunderstand you in the future and yeah.. you really don't need to deal with drama for something that is supposed to be leisurely and fun for you.
posted by Seboshin at 12:29 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I were you I'd tell the knitting knazi that you not only can't co-host until January, but that something has come up and you're not going to be able to co-host at all. Because something tells me that this woman's demands are only going to get worse once you go from unavailable to available.
posted by hazyjane at 12:29 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your knitting group sounds like the board of any non-profit arts group.

"NO." the end.
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:30 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ditch this group.

The new organizer is going to make this a misery. You've told her. She knows. She doesn't care. Nothing you do will make someone who doesn't give a crap about you start giving a crap. Sorry.

Good organizers build strong groups. She's not going to do that. The members will all fizzle out soon enough anyway. Stop by your knitting store and find a more reasonable group.
posted by 26.2 at 12:41 PM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

It seems like she expects the assistant organizer to assist - it would probably be best to step down from that post to make your unavailability clear, and to let her get an assistant who IS available to assist.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:18 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reading your account, I could see that you hedged a lot but weren't absolutely clear about how unavailable you really would be this fall and winter. I totally understand: you knew that help was needed, and you were willing to help if you could. Why say no, when at the time it seemed like maybe?

Look at this from L's point of view. Although you told the former chair that you wouldn't be available till January, you agreed with her that your being the assistant organizer sounded like a good compromise. She passed that on to the new leader of the group, and L. seems to have latched onto that, and plugged in her own definition of 'assistant.' Since then, you've told her several times, "I might not be able to..." It's not your fault; one would think she'd be logical and realize that she needed to look to someone else or postpone events until 2011, but her mind doesn't work that way. She needs to be told bluntly that you cannot come to meet-ups.

I used to be unable to say 'no' and I was anxious and very resentful when people wouldn't understand my hints and maybes. Eventually, I resented their even asking me. I had to push myself to be more clear. It was very hard at first, mostly because it made me very anxious -- both saying no, and enduring their questions and attempts to persuade me. I've gotten better, but it's never easy. On the other hand, I do feel very good about not doing things I don't want to do, and not doing something poorly because I don't have time to do it right.

The uneasiness about saying no might never go away. But it'll be a lot better for you if you can do it anyway. Please stop hoping that the tenacious (pushy) people will 'get it' when you stop short of outright refusing their requests. It's not going to happen, frustrating though that may be.
posted by wryly at 2:05 PM on November 21, 2010

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