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What is the Johari Window?

Johari Window

Teams cannot function effectively without communication and shared information. When perspectives, abilities, and feelings are in the open, team relationships are dynamic and productive. Individuals can improve their team’s success by actively seeking ways to share information within the group, and by pushing for transparency, candor, and authenticity.

In 1955, the founder of Johari Window, Joseph Luft, along with Harrington Ingham, developed the model for individuals to visualize and understand themselves and their relationships with others. A portmanteau of their first names, it is a tool for organizing and inventorying personal characteristics from both inside and outside perspectives. To explain the Johari Window, one would describe it as a model that categorizes self-awareness into four areas: open, blind, hidden, and unknown.

The horizontal axis of the window describes an individual’s knowledge, while the vertical describes the group’s knowledge. Information can be known or unknown along either axis, creating four distinct quadrants:

Open Quadrant or Arena

This first area contains information or descriptions known to both the individual and the group. The Johari Window theory posits that individuals can grow personally and interpersonally by expanding their Open Area through feedback and self-disclosure. In discussing personal examples, one might reflect on how others' perceptions of their openness differ from their own self-assessment.

Blind Quadrant or Blind Spots

In the second quadrant are things known to the group but not to the individual. This ranges from small matters that escape self-recognition to deep issues that are readily apparent to others but the individual is willfully blind to.

Hidden Quadrant or Façade

The third area is known to the individual but not to the group. It contains secrets and sometimes private information hidden by intentional and unintentional façades.

Unknown Quadrant or the Dark

This fourth and final quadrant comprises information about the individual that is known to neither the individual, nor the group.

Johari Window Theory
Johari Window Theory

Create a Johari Window*

Moving Between Quadrants

Originally, a Johari Window was filled in from a list of 56 adjectives, but its use has since been expanded to include habits, skills, and all sorts of facts. Typically to complete one, an individual will fill in the first and third quadrant, while the group fills in the first and second. Together, the parties can fill in the fourth quadrant with descriptions or questions relevant to the exercise.

Categorizing information is a necessary first step in the Johari method, but what follows is at the heart of the exercise. Teams function most effectively when the information contained in the open quadrant is maximized. This is accomplished by transferring information out of the other three quadrants. This can happen in five ways:

  1. Observation: The group can observe the individual to learn more. This information is no longer completely unknown, but will remain a blind spot unless it is shared with the individual through feedback.

  2. Self-Disclosure: Sharing information about yourself with others. This can be thought of as moving information upwards.

  3. Self-Discovery: Information that is pulled horizontally from the unknown quadrant and into the hidden quadrant. This information can then be shared by self-disclosure to move it into the open quadrant.

  4. Shared Discovery: Through joint efforts, knowledge can be moved diagonally from the unknown to the open quadrant.

  5. Feedback: By pointing out blind spots to the individual, information is transferred horizontally into the open quadrant.

Practical Applications of the Johari Window

Enhancing Team Communication

When teams engage in Johari Window exercises, such as sharing personal perceptions and feedback, the 'Open Area' of the model expands. This process leads to a deeper understanding among team members and enhances collaborative efforts. For example, a team member may discover through feedback (Blind Area) that their way of communication is perceived differently than intended, leading to adjustments and improved interactions.

Personal Self-Awareness and Growth

Using this tool for self-awareness involves individuals engaging in activities that help uncover aspects of their 'Hidden' and 'Blind' areas. Personal examples might include reflecting on personal traits and comparing them with peer feedback. Such exercises help in identifying discrepancies between self-perception and public perception, leading to significant personal growth. In a student sample, they might discover unknown strengths or weaknesses through peer interactions, aiding in their developmental journey.

Exercises and Activities for the Johari Window

Conducting a Johari Window Session

To conduct a session, individuals or groups start by selecting adjectives from a predefined list that they believe describe themselves, forming the 'Open' and 'Hidden' quadrants. Others in the group then choose adjectives they think describe the individual, contributing to the 'Blind' area. This process, a classic Johari Window exercise example, helps in unveiling aspects of personality not previously recognized or acknowledged.

Feedback and Self-Discovery Activities

Feedback activities focus on expanding the 'Open Area' by reducing the 'Blind' and 'Hidden' areas. A common activity involves team members providing anonymous feedback to each other to uncover Blind Spots. This can involve exercises where individuals guess traits about each other or share constructive feedback. An exercise example for the Johari Window could include a group activity where members pick adjectives from a list that they feel describe themselves and compare it with the group's perception. A personal Johari Window example could involve recognizing that your perceived self-confidence might actually come across as arrogance to others. An example in a workplace setting might involve discovering that colleagues perceive one's quiet nature as lack of engagement. Another example of the Johari Window in action is when a person learns through feedback that their helpful nature is actually seen as interfering by others.

Comparing the Johari Window to Other Models

Johari Window vs. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The Johari Window theory, while focusing on interpersonal dynamics, contrasts with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which emphasizes individual psychological needs. Because the Johari explanation revolves around the idea that increased self-awareness and understanding others can improve communication and relationships, it complements Maslow's model in the pursuit of self-actualization.

Emotional Intelligence and the Johari Window

The Johari Window model complements theories of Emotional Intelligence (EI) by providing a framework for understanding and managing emotions in oneself and in relationships with others. It aligns with EI's components of self-awareness and empathy, crucial for effective personal and professional interactions.

Real-Life Examples and Case Studies

In real-life scenarios, it has been applied in various settings. For instance, a Johari Window activity in a corporate workshop might involve team members providing anonymous feedback to each other, revealing aspects of the Blind Area. This practical example demonstrates its effectiveness in enhancing mutual understanding and resolving interpersonal conflicts in professional environments.

In a student sample of Johari Window, participants may reveal that they view a peer as more creative than the peer views themselves.

How to Apply the Johari Window to Your Team

It doesn’t take long to work through a quick Johari Window exercise. A common example is in team-building exercises where members learn about each other's perceived strengths and weaknesses. Even as a basic team building exercise and communication training tool, it can reliably jump-start a conversation. In making your first Johari Window, stick to the list of adjectives Luft and Ingham developed in the 50s. These are mostly positive, and form a good starting point for a positive first experience. You can focus on a single individual at a time, or work through the steps for each team member in turn.

Johari Window Step-by-Step Guide

Construct the WindowDraw or project a 2x2 matrix on a surface everyone can see. Label the columns, rows, and each quadrant. Here’s a template to get you started.
What’s Known to SelfLook at the list of adjectives, and pick five or six that you think describe you well. Don’t worry about sounding modest, just try to be honest.
What’s Known to OthersRepeat this process for the other members of the group, selecting a handful of adjectives you think describe them accurately.
Combine KnowledgeFor each individual, combine the list of adjectives the group has generated. (You could include hash marks beside repeated words to signal a strong consensus about it.)
Fill in the Window PanesCompare this list with the list the individual generated about themselves.
  • Where an adjective appears on both lists, place it in the open quadrant.
  • If an adjective appears on the individual’s list, but not the group’s, place it in the hidden quadrant.
  • When an adjective appears on the group’s list, but not the individual’s, put it in the blind quadrant.
  • Any adjective that appeared on neither list can go in the unknown quadrant.
OrientationSpend a few minutes discussing the adjectives that appear in the open quadrant.
DisclosureAsk an individual to disclose by talking about one of the adjectives they selected for themselves, but the group did not.
FeedbackHave the individual select one of the adjectives the group has identified but the individual did not. The group now has the opportunity to give some feedback to the individual about this adjective.
DiscoveryElect a few adjectives from the final quadrant. Does this adjective apply to the individual? Why did nobody pick it?

Remember, a Johari Window is a tool for communicating. Communication can only happen on the common ground found in the arena. It helps a team outline and expand the scope of their communication by understanding what is already common knowledge, and working to bring other important information into the open through discovery, disclosure, and feedback.

While using the original Johari adjectives is a good way to practice your first window, it is just the beginning. Expand the list of descriptors to include negative traits if your team is comfortable with critical feedback and disclosure. When you feel you’re ready for more flexibility, start using the Johari Window to discuss the goals, thoughts, skills, or knowledge of your team. The more you use the method, the better trust and communication you can build in your team.

An Alternative Application

Johari Windows were first devised as a tool to promote communication and strong teamwork. However, they can also be useful in more adversarial situations. In a negotiation for instance, parties may have direct or indirect knowledge of each other’s goals, bottom lines, and BATNAs.

When the parties share this information, the negotiation takes place in the open, based on common knowledge. When information is concealed, both parties work simultaneously to protect their own secrets and uncover their opponents’. These parts of the negotiation are in the shadows, where parties may have guesses but no solid footing.

Negotiation Information - Johari window
Negotiation Information - Johari window

Create a Johari Window*

In Getting to Yes, the authors, Ury and Fisher, advocate candor in negotiations, in order to foster trust and mutually beneficial outcomes. The expanded opportunities openness provides, they argue, usually outweigh the downsides of handing over information. However, this may not always benefit negotiators, depending on the negotiation style of their opponents.

When faced with an opponent who is more interested in pushing you to a bottom line than in finding common ground, consider playing your cards close to the chest. If such an opponent imagines your best alternative is better than it actually is, you could allow them to continue laboring under this mistake. In such circumstances, a shrewd negotiator might withhold sharing their BATNA, and set a credible bottom line based on the fictitious alternative.

Sharing information can weaken your position, but so can withholding it. Be prepared for your bluff to be called if you mislead your opponent, and remember that unless you share your best alternative, you opposition may simply assume you don’t have one.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Johari Window

What is the concept of the Johari Window?

The Johari Window definition most recognized is as a psychological tool used to understand and improve self-awareness, group dynamics, and interpersonal relationships. Developed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, a diagram of Johari Window typically includes four quadrants that represent different aspects of self-awareness and knowledge between individuals. Each Johari Window quadrant represents different levels of awareness about oneself, ranging from 'Open' to 'Unknown'. These quadrants are the Open Area (known to both self and others), Blind Area (unknown to self but known to others), Hidden Area (known to self but hidden from others), and Unknown Area (unknown to both self and others). The model is used to enhance communication, personal development, and understanding within groups. Knowing how to use the Johari Window effectively involves giving and receiving honest feedback and being open to discovering unknown aspects of oneself.

What are the 4 stages of Johari Window?

The four stages of the Johari Window include:

  1. Open Area: Information about oneself that is both known to the individual and to others, encompassing shared traits, skills, and experiences.
  2. Blind Area: Qualities or habits that others can see in an individual, but the individual is unaware of.
  3. Hidden Area: Aspects that the individual knows about themselves but chooses not to reveal to others, such as private thoughts and feelings.
  4. Unknown Area: Elements about a person that are undiscovered or unrecognized by either the individual themselves or by others, potentially including latent abilities or unconscious motives.

What is the controversy with the Johari Window?

The controversy with the Johari Window mainly revolves around its practical implementation and the potential discomfort it can cause. The model relies heavily on the willingness of individuals to give and receive honest feedback, which can be challenging in environments where trust and open communication are lacking. Additionally, some critics argue that it oversimplifies the complexities of human psychology and behavior, potentially leading to misinterpretations or superficial analysis.

What is Johari Window model in education?

In the context of education, the Johari Window model is applied to foster self-awareness, improve communication skills, and enhance interpersonal relationships among students and educators. It encourages an environment of open feedback and self-disclosure, helping students to understand themselves and their peers better. This model can be particularly effective in promoting social and emotional learning, developing empathy, and building a supportive and collaborative classroom culture.

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