“I have some feedback for you.” When you hear these words, do you go into fight or flight mode? Maybe you are a runner. You think about an escape route. So you defensively scramble for a convenient excuse to avoid the discussion entirely.

I know that the sting of negative feedback can hurt. It is tough to take for all of us. Especially if you feel you are giving your best — hearing that it might not be good enough can feel like a verbal slap. So it is only natural that you would want to avoid the experience. Unfortunately, if you keep avoiding it you will hurt your career over time.

Real progress comes when you can fight for your own continuous learning and improvement — when you can put your ego aside to make room for growth. Yes, I am talking about the uncomfortable experience of constructive criticism.

Growth comes when you can truly hear and act upon a thoughtful suggestion.

This does require you to be vulnerable. You may even feel hurt and it might take some introspection to really understand what was being said. But even the toughest feedback delivered with respect is a positive sign. It means that someone cares about you, believes in your potential, and wants to invest in you.

For constructive criticism to be effective, you need a foundation of trust and transparency — to know that the message will be delivered with kindness and good intentions. And of course, not all companies make giving this kind of feedback a priority or understand the best way to deliver it.

But even if your workplace is a “no-one-ever-does-wrong” place, I would argue that you are responsible for your own career growth and accountable for seeking out objective assessments of your work.

You can only improve when you know where to focus. So if you are not receiving the feedback you need to do your job, ask for it. When you finish a project or review work in progress, ask bluntly, “What would make this better?”

Simply asking this question can kick off a meaningful conversation. It shows you are ready and open to hearing the answer and take action. For example, you may learn that you need to more proactively communicate the status of your work. Or that a few members of the team are not completely behind your approach.

Feedback reveals how you can become more efficient, productive, and accountable to the team. And ultimately it highlights what you need to do to be more productive yourself.

Sure, hearing the truth can be humbling. But it is also incredibly valuable. And it is exactly what you need to keep improving and growing in your career.

So the next time someone wants to share some feedback with you, do not hide or take offense. Say “absolutely” and welcome the opportunity for growth that will come with it.

How do you seek out meaningful feedback at work?

Originally published on the Aha! blog