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criticism

Everyone’s a critic, and in the professional world, that’s a good thing. Feedback makes us better workers, as Jennifer Winter says in a recent Daily Muse post, and honest criticism from coworkers is extremely valuable. Unfortunately, it’s often kind of hard to get. After all, progress reports tend to come sporadically — after big projects or during employee reviews — and aren’t the kinds of things most colleagues offer casually. Fortunately, Winter outlines “4 Steps for Asking for (and Getting) Truly Honest Feedback.” Read on and see how she suggests getting your peers to open up about your strengths and weaknesses.

1. Build Relationships — When you start a new job, Winter writes, it’s natural to want to know how you’re doing. But the people in your department just met you, and if you start asking for assessments too soon, you’ll seem overbearing. The key, Winter says, is to establish a rapport with the people around you. No one wants to give feedback to a stranger, so don’t be one.

2. Prove You’re a Good Listener — People are way more likely to share their thoughts if they think you’ll actually hear what they say and process the information, Winter writes. To prove you’re the sort of person who actually pays attention, listen to all of your colleagues’ boring stories and political diatribes and whatever else they see fit to share. Make good eye contact and nod your head. “Prove to your colleagues you’re a genuine listener, and you’ll begin building a strong foundation of trust that will enable honest feedback in the office,” Winter writs.

3. Offer Your Own Feedback — It’s the old “give a little to get a little” routine. When your coworkers do something good, let ’em know. If there are areas in which they could improve, give some less-than-positive criticism, too — just be sure you space out the negative stuff, so it doesn’t seem like you’re dumping on people. “Sometimes,” Winter writes, “people just need a little taste before they get an appetite.”

4. Acknowledge the Feedback You Get — You won’t always agree with what your colleagues tell you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider what they say and respond thoughtfully. After folks share constructive criticism, reconnect with them and talk about what worked and what didn’t. “Your colleagues need to know you’ll not only listen to their feedback with an open mind, but that you’ll take that advice to heart, as well,” Winter writes.