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While it might be daunting to solicit feedback from your superiors, it is a necessary part of professional development – especially if you are someone who breaks out in hives at the thought of criticism. Experts state that the best way to improve job performance and gain a clear comprehension of your work value is by frequently asking your boss for feedback. If you want to get the most out of your ask, and time it well, there are a few trade secrets you should know. Here’s a breakdown of what works and what doesn’t:

DO put care into the wording. Instead of nervously questioning, “How am I doing?”, Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow LLC and a leadership development strategist suggests saying something more like, “I feel like I’ve made really good progress in my work on [XYZ project], and I’d love to keep getting even better. What’s one thing I could do differently on the next project to make me even more effective?” This style of writing gives off an air of authority while remaining relatable to those who are interested in furthering themselves.

[Related: 5 Questions to Ask When You’re Looking for Feedback]

DON’T get defensive. A comparison you want to avoid is measuring yourself against your colleagues (“Well, Jane does it that way all the time and no one says anything!”). According to Matt Brubaker, CEO of FMG Leading- an executive development and coaching firm based in San Diego and Philadelphia- being defensive is sure to come across poorly. “[Defensiveness] is your boss’s worst fear—attempting to help you grow, and immediately getting sandbagged by a defensive response,” he cautions.

DO ask for feedback in a specific area. By inquiring about a single, specific thing you can do to improve in an area or on a project, your boss can rapidly provide constructive feedback, Azulay says. “When you ask for [general feedback], it can feel overwhelming to the person you’re asking,” Azulay adds. “It’s hard for their brain to focus on something helpful and specific in response to such a broad and vague request.”

[Related: 3 Constructive Ways to Give Your Boss Feedback]

DON’T wait too long. Make it a habit to frequently and promptly ask for feedback from your supervisor. For example, let them know beforehand that you would appreciate their input on a project, or shortly after you finish and turn it in. According to Erin Daiber, founder of Erin Daiber Coaching and Consulting, if you wait too long to ask for feedback from your boss, they’re less likely to give you specific and actionable answers. If they can mark down feedback in real-time, however, there’s a higher chance that the conversation will result in clear next steps for you to take.

DO look forward. If you receive feedback that isn’t ideal, “use it as an opportunity to grow, and don’t beat yourself up,” Daiber says. In more common terms, your boss trusts that you are old enough to take constructive criticism—so make the necessary changes, and continue working.

[Related: Constructive Criticism: Six Strategies for Receiving and Processing Feedback]

Photo: Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

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