Reality Testing – Developing Your Mental Picture

  Reality Check Image

The first time you put in those new prescription contact lenses or donned glasses, the world was a much clearer, brighter place. The truth is that we get used to seeing things in a certain way and perhaps don’t notice that things could be seen in a better perspective.

Reality Testing, one of the fifteen competencies on the EQ-I (Emotional Quotient Instrument), defines our ability to accurately size up situations. It is the capability to see things objectively—the way they are, rather than the way we wish or fear them to be. The emphasis is on pragmatism, objectivity, being well grounded and realistic.

Strength in Reality Testing is a significant factor for problem solving—being able to accurately read a situation and then know what action to take. It is also, essential for strategic planning, conflict resolution and negotiation.

Leaders with high Reality Testing actively examine rather than passively or naively assume. They avoid exaggeration and keep things in the right perspective, even when the news is not good.

In Optimizing People—A Practical Guide for Applying EQ to Improve Personal and Organizational Effectiveness, by Reuven Bar-On and Rich Handley, the authors outline ways to improve in the critical area of Reality Testing:

  • See if you are on track reading a particular situation. Talk about your perceptions to others. Build courage to hear unpopular voices.
  • Look for evidence. Ask yourself—“Who says it is so?”, “Where’s the proof?”, “Where is it written?”, “Is there evidence to confirm my assessment?”
  • Pause and reflect. Take stock of where you are on a project or situation. Evaluate what is being done and what has been accomplished.
  • Develop a close network of honest confidants and mentors. Find the kind of people who can tell you when you are wrong and why.
  • Check inward. What is your level of Independence and Self-Regard? Some people fall short of Reality Testing because they lack Independence and Self-Regard. Although, they start out clear-headed, they turn to others to sway them and make the decisions.
  • Examine your self-talk. Are you clouding the situation/issue with illogical judgment?

Seeing clearly through Reality Testing leads to success because it brings with it the capabilities for identifying and addressing issues and recognizing and building on those opportunities. Finely honed skills in this area also, provide leaders with reading a team’s emotional climate and building on the power of relationships.

“A leader’s intelligence has to have a strong emotional component. S/he has to have high levels of self-awareness, maturity and self-control. S/he must be able to withstand the heat, handle setbacks and when those lucky moments arise, enjoy success with equal parts of joy and humility. No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, by my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.”

Jack Welch, Former CEO and Chairman, GE