Successful leaders thrive on honest feedback.

Although it can be hard for any of us to really listen to constructive criticism, feedback is absolutely essential for anyone who wants to see improvements in their personal and professional development.

Seeking out honest and useful feedback from those around you is a key to improving every aspect of your life, from your communication behaviors to your relationships.

However, it may surprise you to learn that getting honest feedback can be just as hard as hearing it.

Often people shy away from giving honest feedback because it can be perceived just as negatively by the person offering it as the person receiving it. No one wants to give feedback that could damage a professional relationship.

For many of us, receiving negative feedback registers as hurtful and tends to drive us back into our shells.

Similarly, offering feedback often feels like we’re trying to prove the other person wrong.

We all know instinctively that this can be dangerous and have long-ranging repercussions in the office, even if the person receiving the feedback is not our boss.

Despite all the potential pitfalls and hurt feelings, soliciting sincere feedback is absolutely necessary. We need to know how the world really sees us if we want to be more persuasive and effective. Honest appraisals and checkpoints act as signposts that let us know whether or not our interpersonal skills are improving over time.

How to Get Feedback Without Asking for It

The good news is that there are ways to glean honest feedback about how others see you without even asking them—you just need to be observant. Here are two of the best ways to accomplish this:

1. Keep a record of people’s casual comments to you that reflect your strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, pay attention to, but don’t react, when you overhear others speaking about you.

Compare your lists of both positive and negative comments from different people and look for similarities and insights. You can combine lists from both work and home or put them side by side to see how they differ.

2. Try turning the sound off at times. While people are talking, take a brief moment to tune out their words and focus on their body language instead.

  • What does their posture and body language tell you?
  • Who are the leaders in the room that receive the lion’s share of attention?
  • Who is being ignored and why?
  • How do people react to you, your comments and your behaviors?

The bottom line on feedback is that it can be immensely valuable to your improvement and fatal to your self-deception.

Never stop questioning whether those around you are merely holding up a mirror so that you can admire yourself.

Seek out those who can offer you painful truths. The fact is that it is in our human nature to surround ourselves with an echo chamber of people who have too much to lose by challenging our misconceptions. Fight this natural tendency with all your willpower.

Encouraging those around you to show you how you look to them can be painful, but it’s a key step to self-improvement. Doing so will tell you what you need to change.

"Happiness can be learned, but it must be earned." Click to tweet.

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