Reality Testing: Do You Live In Your Head Or Are You Tuned In To Your Environment?

– Posted in: Emotional Intelligence
two people with questions and light bulbs coming out of their heads

Image by nugroho dwi hartawan from Pixabay


Reality Testing is part of the Decision Making composite, which also includes Problem Solving and Impulse Control.

What is Reality Testing?

Reality Testing is the capacity to remain objective by seeing things as they really are. This involves recognizing when emotions or personal bias can cause one to be less objective. Reality testing involves the active search for objective information to confirm, support, justify, and validate feelings, perceptions and thoughts. Strong reality testing skills allow one to keep things in the proper perspective and experience things as they really are, without fantasizing, daydreaming, or attaching wants, desires, and ideals to a context. An important aspect of Reality Testing involves the ability to concentrate and remain focused when presented with emotionally evocative situations. In essence, Reality Testing is all about perception, clarity, and objectivity.[1]

What It Is Not

Reality Testing does not mean exclusively relying on data and facts or being unimaginative. It is not being disconnected from emotions nor ignoring human relationships.

If You Have It

If you have a good level of Reality Testing you have an accurate assessment of where you are and what you are doing. You are facing reality and are not given over to fantasy or fears. You validate your assessment with facts and data and compare this information to your subjective perception of what is happening. This allows you to be tuned into the world around you and makes you look and sound practical and grounded.

If You Don’t

If your level of Reality Testing is on the low side you may be at times unrealistic because you see things through rose color glasses. Or on the contrary you may tend to fear the worst and “catastrophize” things.  Others may then perceive you as prone to exaggerations or untrustworthy. You may tend to construct narratives and to collect data that reinforce your emotional state, rather than letting reality influence your emotional state.

Practice Exercises

Reality Testing is critical in making good decisions. Making an accurate reading of your environment helps you identify and address problems as well as recognize and capture opportunities. Improving your Reality Testing strengthens your logical judgment and boosts your capacity to identify and to debate your own irrational self-talk. Here are a couple of exercises you can try:

  1. Practice telling a story without exaggerating any details and using only specific verifiable facts.
  2. Test your perceptions: invite a couple of people to describe an event that you have all experienced together. Notice the details common to all accounts; notice the differences.

What is typically more important for you when assessing a situation: data and facts or your subjective perception? Are you aware of it? How much – or how little – do you validate your perception with objective data? What do you notice when listening to other’s perspectives?

Benefits of Reality Testing

Discerning the difference between the way things are and the way we fear they are or hope they might be is the essence of reality testing. How do we go about this necessary task? It involves a search for objective evidence that will confirm, justify, and support our thoughts and perceptions. As well, Reality Testing is the capacity to “read” situations accurately, to size up what’s going on. At its most sophisticated, it allows us to tap into a group’s emotional currents and power relationships, the shifting political alliances and allegiances that swirl beneath the surface. Reality Testing lets us tune in to a situation while keeping it in a broader and correct perspective, without excessive fantasizing or daydreaming. It enables us to concentrate and focus on ways of coping with what we discover and to keep our emotions in check, uncolored by illusion.[2]



[1] EQ-i 2.0. Manual, MHS Assessments.

[2] The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, Steven J. Stein & Howard E. Book, Third Edition, 2011

Please follow and like us:
Visit Us
Follow Me
0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.