The Johari Window is an assessment tool that helps you better understand your personality and the way you perceive yourself and others. In this article, you'll get a simplified breakdown of what the Johari Window is, how to use it to improve your self-awareness and personal and workplace relationships.
'Knowing thyself' is the very foundation of wisdom and personal development. People who have self-knowledge are conscious of how others view them. This type of self-knowledge enables them to understand other people, enabling them to build effective relationships. They are aware of their own intentions, motivations, attitudes, biases, and emotions.
Without self-awareness, you can't improve or become wiser and without understanding yourself, it is nearly impossible to understand others, dooming you to a life of faltering relationships both at work and at home.
The Johari Window is a simple yet revealing visual tool for examining, understanding and training:
Developed in the 1950's by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, the name is derived from combining their first names.
There are two key ideas behind the tool:
With the help of feedback from other people, you can learn about yourself and deal with personal issues
You can build trust with others by disclosing information about yourself
The model also looks at two dimensions to understanding yourself:
Aspects of your behaviour and style that are known or not known to yourself on the x axis below
Aspects of your behaviour and style that are known or not known to others on the y axis below
Combining these dimensions results in four quadrants or areas of self-awareness as shown here.
The four quadrants are commonly known as:
The size of the panes or quadrants is flexible and should change over time. Your ultimate aim is to increase the size of your Open area by reducing the others through self-disclosure, discovery and feedback.
Let's look at each area in more detail.
This is also known as your public self. This is what is known about you by others including your behaviour, knowledge, skills, attitudes and public history. There are no secrets here.
People tend to be more productive, cooperative, and trusting when they know more about themselves and one another. Therefore, the Johari Window ideally has a large Open area.
A large Open area can indicate that you have good self-awareness including about your abilities, feeling and behaviours and that those around you are well-informed. Someone who has a small Open area may be young or new to a job, because they may have revealed little about themselves or have a low degree of self-awareness. An introvert, someone who is uncommunicative, or someone who is difficult to work with may also have a small Open area.
The Blind quadrant contains things that others can see or know about you but you have no awareness of yourself. This can also be known as a blindspot and this lack of self-awareness can often be a cause of disharmony with others. For example, you may be someone who likes to give matters deep thought which others construe as being indecisive, which you were not aware of. Information in this area can be positive or negative.
This area can also harbour issues such as resentment or anger which you have not faced up to and dealt with. Therefore you should aim to make the Blind quadrant as small as possible by seeking and accepting frank feedback from others and using self-reflection to identify behaviours that you are being naive or are in denial about.
As the name describes, this area is about what a person knows about themselves but keeps from others - issues or fears, something from your past, hopes, dreams etc that you keep secret. It can also be known as the closed, avoided or facade quadrant. Making the Hidden area smaller by revealing things about yourself can lead to greater trust, personal growth and deeper relationships.
The type and amount of disclosure you share with your personal contacts will be different to the disclosure with your work colleagues. Don't feel pressured to reveal personal things you are not comfortable with to your workmates, but withholding workplace information can lead to friction, tension and distrust, which contributes to malfunctioning teams.
Also known as the unconscious area where things are unknown to you and unknown to others. Sound confusing? How do we know this square even exists?
Information in this quadrant is revealed by taking on new experiences. For example, you and your colleagues may not know you have excellent people management skills until you are put in charge of a team. Working on a project may uncover excellent negotiation or stakeholder management skills. Again, the aspects that are revealed can be positive or negative.
It's possible that a large Unknown area indicates that you still have a lot to learn about yourself. However, it may be a sign that you are still young or inexperienced.
Reveal more of this area by getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.
You can end your use of the Johari Window here with these informal techniques or you can use the following technique with yourself and your teams for a more systematic approach.
Method for using the Johari Window
Look at the below list of characteristics. From them select the words that you think best describe you.
Then ask colleagues if doing the exercise for your work self, or friends and family if doing it for your personal self, to select the words they feel best describe you.
Draw the Johari diagram and fill in the quadrants as follows:
Open - write the words that both you and others chose
Hidden - write the words that only you chose
Blind - write the words that only others chose about you
Unknown - write the words that were not chosen by you or others but that you are prompted to consider as your self-awareness increases
Ensure you accept the input from others openly and graciously - do not make them regret participating!
Look at the window and reflect on its contents. Think about how you can increase the size of your Open pane by revealing more of yourself. If you are surprised by what others think of you might want to reduce your Blind area by seeking more feedback and using it constructively to better yourself. Think about what new experiences you can try to uncover the Unknowns and unlock the unrealised potential within yourself.
Method for using the Johari Window for your team members
Having large Open areas between your team members facilitates trust and easy communication as well as collaboration, effectiveness and productivity. With large Open areas, team members can communicate freely, reducing conflict, mistrust and misunderstanding. You should encourage team members to be open, constructive, and positive in their communication as well as provide constructive feedback to minimise their blindspots.
Longstanding team members will tend to have larger Open areas as more is known about them, with the converse being true of new team members. Facilitate the bonding of new people by respectfully asking questions about themselves. A key trait of an effective leader is to encourage positive development of the Open areas of team members.
To run this in a team environment there are a few things to be mindful of.
Set ground rules to ensure an environment of trust is established to facilitate honest communication and constructive feedback that is delivered sensitively. You do not want people to feel vulnerable, embattled or picked upon by the experience.
It is also important that no one feels pressured to share information they are not comfortable disclosing.
With this in mind, you may decide it is safer initially to undertake the process on a one-on-one basis rather than in a group setting.
Here is the complete Johari Window model showing areas of movement and mechanisms by which to alter each quadrant.
The Johari Window is a simple but effective way to help you become more self-aware and understand others’ perceptions of you, and used carefully it can assist in developing trusting, collaborative, effective and therefore high-performing teams.
Add the Johari Window to your personal and team development toolbox and commit to an ongoing expansion of your Open area to reap the full rewards.