This morning, I was reading an personal advice column in the Washington Post. It was about a woman whose mother-in-law is constantly bad mouthing her and who is trying to protect her son from the MIL’s barbs. The columnist’s advice was to keep the MIL away from her impressionable son. But a reader offered a different perspective, saying that kids can see through those things and they can develop good relationships with grandparents in spite of this negativity. I don’t know who is right, but it shows the need to look at something from a different perspective or even various viewpoints. In other words, the woman seeking advice needed a reality check.
What is a reality check?
A reality check often provides a perspective we hadn’t considered before or that we have discounted. It’s why we often seek advice when making big decisions.
Why do you need a reality check?
If you are facing any sort of challenge—marketing, communications, interpersonal—you need a reality check. When you don’t get advice or outside perspective, you will make decisions that are not always sound. This is why there’s value to doing research and holding focus groups before you launch a product. It’s the value of hiring consultants to provide non-organizational viewpoints when you are trying to find a solution.
It’s like when you don’t get someone to proofread your work and it goes out with a typo or two. (As an aside, last month I saw a big typo in a poster for a large consulting firm’s advertising campaign. It was classic…I wish I had a picture). You are so involved in something you no longer have a clear-eyed view of it. You don’t see the shortcomings or the mistakes or the errors in judgement.
It’s the value of professional advice and an outside perspective
In communications, the lack of a reality check often results in you missing the target or having a miscommunication. If you think something is clear because you understand it, it could be that somebody else does not get it. Perhaps you are using jargon that only people in your field use. Perhaps you are using language that is above the grade level of your audience. For example, a few years ago, I wrote some marketing copy for a hotel booking software company. I wrote that using this software would give hotel operators exponential growth. The client hated it! He said that most people won’t understand what exponential means. I am not 100% sure he was right, but at the same time, he gave me a reality check about the words I was choosing to use.
Reality checks help avoid mistakes
Reality checks in the form of outside counsel can often save you from making costly mistakes. You get a reality check whenever you hire a professional to do something for you. It could be market research, or graphic design, or UX design, or copy editing. Let someone who has experience and an outside perspective help you.
Do you need a reality check?