Gummy Bears Are Evil & Difficult Conversations Are Magic

December 4, 2020      By Stacy Cutrono

Ultimate Takeaway
  • Shying away from difficult conversations is normal, but it can mean missing an opportunity to strengthen a relationship.
  • Whether at work or in life, the conversation is the relationship.
  • Identifying opportunities to strengthen relationships at work can be made easier by first listening to your employees.

Gummy bears created a difficult conversation.

I spend my days coaching others to optimize their well-being during these unusual times — here are some great ways to maintain your wellness while you stay at home. But, can I be real for a moment? Quarantine has not been kind to me. In the weeks and months since the pandemic flipped the world on its head, maintaining balance has been a struggle. Even with all my knowledge and experience, I am challenged to maintain my own well-being.

Recently, I decided to make a fresh start on my nutrition. I cleaned out the snack cabinet, removed junk food from my virtual grocery cart and stocked up on healthy snacks like fresh fruits and nuts. I started going for walks every time I had the urge to cruise by the kitchen. I was starting to regain control over something in this unending year of challenging changes and it felt GOOD! So, you can imagine my frustration when every other week my husband purchased a box of gummy fruit snacks — my snack nemesis. And not just any box, the 40-pack family-size box! “Why does he do this to me? Doesn’t he understand how hard I’m working to get back on track with my well-being?” I shout in my head as I unpack the groceries.

Well, actually no — he doesn’t. It occurred to me after a few cycles of this that I had not communicated the goals I was trying to achieve. My husband DIDN’T know that the innocuous and well-meaning act of purchasing fruit snacks was negatively contributing to my feelings of accomplishment. He thought he would buy me a treat I don’t often let myself enjoy, and on the flip side I experienced it as a sabotage of all my well-laid plans.

The conversation is the relationship.

The light bulb turned on and I flashed back to one of the central tenets of my Fierce Conversations training — the conversation is the relationship. I realized I had disengaged from the difficult conversation about my own well-being and in doing so had isolated myself from the relationship with my spouse.

At UKG, our genuine commitment to our people is fulfilled by consistently engaging in dialogue with each other about our responsibilities in the workplace and also about the challenges we are facing in these unprecedented times. We offer our people training for career development side-by-side with workshops on sustaining resilience. So how do you ensure your difficult conversations (about fruit snacks and work) are meaningful and serving to strengthen your relationships?

  • Be transparent about what you are experiencing and encourage the people in your personal and workplace circles to do the same.
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable by sharing the challenges you face, whether that is managing your workload or balancing childcare. We are all only human.
  • Actively listen when the people around you indicate they are struggling. Offer support whenever it makes sense to do so and refer to any workplace or community resources available for extra assistance.

Difficult conversations make life easier.

As the pandemic stretches in to its ninth month, it’s important to consider what difficult conversations we are avoiding. With all of the pressures 2020 has brought to our families, communities and businesses, it’s only natural that we may shy away from difficult conversations. In doing so, we may be doing ourselves and our people a disservice by missing an opportunity to strengthen our connections.

So, take stock of the difficult conversations you’ve been avoiding and why. Do any of these feel familiar?

  • Perhaps you are worried about discussing your workload out of fear it will diminish the superhero persona you’ve cultivated.
  • You might be making assumptions about the type of support others need from you instead of asking and listening.
  • Maybe you are so thankful to be in a good place that you are avoiding taking risks or pushing for innovation.

In my case, I was expending so much effort getting myself on track that I lost sight of the all the simple ways I could get support from the people around me. The difficult conversations, the ones we have with ourselves and loved-ones, are the dialogues that push us to grow both personally and professionally.

Remember the gummy bears.

The intense feeling of betrayal I felt dissipated after having a conversation with my husband about my well-being goals. He shared many of the same goals, and we’ve moved forward together while making sure to carve out time to discuss the things that weigh on us the most. It turns out gummy bears are not evil at all, but they will forever serve as my reminder to have the difficult conversations — maybe they can for you as well.

There are many difficult conversations that never happen simply because the people we need to have them with aren’t aware. To be proactive about having any difficult conversations in your organization, discover how UKG Pro Employee Voice (formerly Perception) can help to break the ice.


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