In a recent article in Marketing News, a publication of the American Marketing Association (yes, I'm a member), Marilyn Kennedy Moats makes a keen suggestion in her column about careers.
Always solicit negatives.
I think that there is wisdom in this idea and that it renders three personal benefits:
1. You really do have a chance to improve. (If you're not a lifelong learner, you probably won't get much out of this blog!)
2. You have a chance to get more of what you want. An article in Wall Street Journal last fall noted that the people who get ahead aren't those that produce more, but those that produce more of what their bosses want. If this doesn't make sense, read "Point B" above.
3. You have a chance to reduce tension. Unspoken differences are often the most debilitating, and since most managers are not very good at providing feedback, this will help a lot of them over the hump. They will feel better when they've actually stated their issues. You will get more of 1 and 2.