When Everything isn’t Rainbows and Unicorns...

Have you ever had a colleague that sugar-coated everything?

You know the type...rainbows and unicorns abound at every corner while glitter and sunshine radiate around their entire world.

At first, this habit is endearing—“What a positive and encouraging person,” you think.

But over time—especially when things get tough—the sugar-coating starts to feel like a band-aid on problems in the workplace and in relationships.

Pretending like the elephant isn’t in the room is detrimental for everyone. It highlights a complete lack of self-awareness and demoralizes team members if the issue goes unaddressed.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to love people well and encourage them. But I also want to be genuine in my interactions—even when things go south.

True authenticity can be scary in business relationships, however, because we fear if we are TOO vulnerable—if people REALLY know where we stand—we risk losing connections, losing opportunities, or even losing our jobs.

So for many, our business relationships come with an extra layer of self-protection that never fully gets removed—we guard our words and responses more carefully than in other environments.

You know the look…


Just as we talked last week about authenticity in personal relationships, this week we’ll explore how those same principles show up in our professional lives—especially when things aren’t all rainbows and unicorns.

Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world.
— Adam Grant


Beyond the biological effects of maintaining authentic relationships that we talked about last week, studies have shown that businesses perform better when teams interact genuinely with one another.

When things are going well in business, transparency is easy to come by. In hard times, however, it becomes more and more difficult to be genuine and vulnerable with others because the stakes can seem too high.

So how do we cultivate authentic interactions in the workplace and in our networks—especially in hard times—so we can all experience greater success?

Wharton Business professor, Adam Grant says, “Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world.”

Some of you may use that quote as justification to post every random thought onto Twitter. Don’t do that... 😉

We do, however, encourage you to erase that gap in your personal and business conversations. 

Whether you’re building a collaborative network or simply interacting with colleagues, the people in your network and in your workplace are watching and analyzing how transparently you manage conflict. 

For example,

  • You know on the inside your underperforming team member isn’t going to change, so do you reveal that on the outside and talk to them directly about their performance?

  • You know on the inside a client has been treating your fellow colleagues poorly, but you’re afraid to lose their business. Do you reveal on the outside what you know to be true on the inside?

  • You know on the inside a prospect—who could be valuable—is behaving inappropriately or unethically. Do you call them out even if you risk losing a sale?

  • You know on the inside your co-workers are dropping balls, but instead of fixing it, they spend time gossiping about the situation. Do you close the gap and reveal your inner turmoil on the outside, either privately or publicly?

  • You know on the inside you’ve been struggling to manage all the tasks that have been thrown your way, but do you reveal that on the outside to your boss?

It’s easier said than done, right? 

So how should we go about engaging in authentic, albeit difficult, conversations?

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.
— Brené Brown


  1. Take Initiative. Don’t let the problem come to you—be proactive and assertive. If you’re feeling tension with someone, don’t sit on it. Call the elephant into the middle of the room. But then…

  2. Seek Understanding. As we said last week, being “authentic” is not equivalent to “giving people a piece of your mind.” While it’s important to lean into conflict when it arises, it’s even more important to understand where the other person is coming from. Listen well and confirm your understanding of the person’s perspective by repeating back what you’ve heard. “You feel that…{insert what you’ve heard}. Is that correct?”

  3. Share your perspective with empathy. Be direct, be assertive, but mostly, be empathetic. You can be honest and forthright without being degrading or demeaning. When you’re in the middle of a difficult conversation, people respond so much better when it’s evident you care deeply about their well-being.

The heart of authentic relationships (business and personal) is in being true to yourself and your values. Disagreements are bound to happen, but when we can each embrace tension with compassion and honesty, it is more likely those feelings will be reciprocated by others in our network and in your workplace.


At Contact Mapping, we know conversations are the crux of every relationship.

If you want more strategies for engaging in transparent and vulnerable conversations, you definitely need to grab a copy of our Coffee Shop Interview.

It’s the tool every professional can use to expand their networks and build meaningful, authentic relationships.