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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The One Word That'll Make Asking for Honest Feedback Less Scary

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When we’re asking for feedback on our work, it’s not always an “I feel awesome” moment. Yes, sometimes our questions lead to a round of applause and a “Fantastic job!”

But more often, they lead to our boss rattling off critiques, or co-workers stating, “It’s OK, but maybe you should try this instead,” and we immediately have to go back to the drawing board, feeling defeated and embarrassed.

One option is to never ask for feedback, but that only hurts you in the long run. How else are you going to be sure your final product satisfies your manager, team, or company’s needs? And how else are you going to improve upon your skill set?

The other option is to know how to ask for it, without hurting your reputation and confidence.

Take it from a psychologist: It’s all in the wording, or, rather, one word specifically. In a recent Business Insider article, Robert Cialdini, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, recommends this simple swap: Instead of saying “Can I get your opinion on this?” say “Can I get your advice on this?”

According to Cialdini, this rephrasing can actually make the person see you as more competent and be more supportive of your idea. The reason, psychologically speaking, is because “opinion” suggests that the person must look inside themselves for the answer, while “advice” encourages them to work in collaboration with you to find the solution. Basically, “you get an ‘accomplice’ as opposed to an evaluator,” Shana Lebowitz, author of the article, summarizes.

Also, if we’re being honest, asking for someone’s opinion isn’t all that productive—you’re merely inviting the person to point out flaws in you, your project, or your process. Asking for advice, on the other hand, takes it one step further and asks not just for their thoughts, but how they would fix the problem. One’s constructive criticism, while the other’s just criticism.

So, the next time you’re scared asking for feedback will only damage your image, try this handy word play. You might get some actually useful advice—or at the very least you’ll make yourself look smarter in front of your colleagues.