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An Application Tool for the MBTI Instrument.

Emotional Intelligence: Getting Real About Reality Testing

by Grenae Thompson

It is hard to know the objective truth of situations. Each of us sees only one side (our own) of every interaction. Reality is often more complex than our simple senses are capable of appreciating. ~Harry Mills, PhD

Many years ago the host of the morning news show I Reality Testing Image
was watching announced,“Our next guest has adegree in Artificial Intelligence.” How funny! What a great put down, I thought. When I shared this with my husband, he didn't laugh. “It wasn't a put down,” he said. “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a real field of study, teaching computers to think and learn.” Oh.

When I first heard the term Emotional Intelligence (EI) years later, however, it resonated so powerfully with my experience, I had to know more. After reading Daniel Goleman's book on EI and researching the concept, our company decided to integrate EI into our leader coaching and development. We chose the Emotional Quotient Inventory® or EQ-i® published by Multi-Health Systems, Inc., as our first EI assessment.

The next step was to complete the assessment and receive feedback. Each EQ-i respondent receives an overall score which is also broken down into scores on five Composite Scales and 15 Subscales. (Click here to view the model.)

While my overall score indicated good EI, my lowest Subscale score was Reality Testing. Yes! I thought when I saw the low score. I was actually quite pleased. Who wants to be too well grounded in reality? It was great living on the fringe, having one foot in the real world and the other somewhere out there in the realm of possibilities. My motto was “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality” (Jules de Gautier).

Fortunately, the feedback specialist asked me to think about how that was working out for me. I explained that I was an idea person, comfortable getting information from the world of ideas and possibilities. As we talked more about Reality Testing, however, I began to realize that this could be contributing to some misunderstandings, being chronically time challenged, forming quick conclusions without all the facts, especially under the influence of strong emotions . . . you get the picture.

A Subscale score that is noticeably higher or lower than the other scores indicates that something might be out of balance and warrants a closer look. It was time for me to get real about Reality Testing.
“Reality Testing is the capacity to see things objectively, the way they are, rather than the way we wish or fear them to be” (The EQ Edge, Stein & Book). It is also the ability to stay focused when trying to evaluate and cope with the emotions associated with things that happen. We need objective evidence to confirm our emotions, perceptions and thoughts.

Why is Reality Testing important? Emotional Intelligence in general enables you to be aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others, manage those emotions and pick up on the messages they are sending. Reality Testing helps you remain objective so you can accurately identify emotions and deal with what is driving them.

The goal is to find balance among the unique facets of your Emotional Intelligence, not to “fix” a low score on one or more Subscales. Improving any area of life starts with awareness. Now that I was aware of my low Reality Testing, what could I do to improve? Here are some recommendations that helped me get started.

1) “. . . Give up your assumption that your first impression of a situation is always accurate” (Mills). Don't believe everything you think or feel! Gather more objective data before reaching a conclusion.

2) Set realistic boundaries on your time. It's difficult to say no when people are counting on you. Find ways to balance the needs of others with your own. Learn to manage the feelings associated with always putting others' needs first. 

3) Set more practical and attainable goals. The ideal might not be feasible no matter how guilty you feel that you aren't like Martha Stewart! Increase focus on practical actions. Use aids such as your phone, a timer, sticky notes or messages to assist with deadlines, time limits and other commitments. Ask for help if you are overwhelmed.

4) Practice. Spend time each day focusing on what is happening. Examine any strong emotions that arise and try to understand what is behind them that might be disrupting your ability to be objective.

5) Check with others occasionally to get their perspective. This will ensure that you are reading situations accurately.

Remember that a noticeably high score on one or more Subscales might lead to different challenges. For example, if Reality Testing is too high and out of balance with other areas, such as low Independence, a person might become too focused on facts and delay decisions or rely too much on others' opinions.

Who knew after my first impression of Artificial Intelligence all those years ago that my son would one day get his degree in AI! Fortunately, Emotional Intelligence insights are accessible to anyone who is willing to complete an assessment like the EQ-i 2.0 (the newest version of the assessment) and get feedback.

Take the opportunity to fine-tune your abilities to interact with others by learning more about how you identify and deal with your own and others' emotions. Use awareness and an action plan to improve any out-of-balance areas of EI.


For additional information on Emotional Intelligence visit here. For additional information on the EQ-i 2.0 give us a call (706-769-5836) or visit here.

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