The Johari Window describes a fundamental process for improving emotional intelligence. Developed in the 1950s by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, the model is especially relevant with today’s emphasis on improving ‘soft’ skills — behavior, empathy, cooperation, collaboration, inter-group development and interpersonal development.

Two key beliefs support the tool:

  • Individuals can build trust with others by disclosing information about themselves.
  • Individuals can learn about themselves and come to terms with personal issues with the help of feedback from others.

The Johari Window can be used to improve

  • an individual’s understanding of self,
  • understanding between two or more individuals,
  • understanding between individuals within a team or in a group setting,
  • a group’s relationship with other groups.

The model

illustration

The window actually represents information — feelings, experience, views, attitudes, skills, intentions, motivation, etc. — within or about a person in relation to others, from four perspectives. Each of the window quadrants represents the information known about the person, in terms of whether the information is known or unknown by the person, and whether the information is known or unknown by others in the group. The internal boundaries of each pane change depending on the amount of feedback sought and received.

Open Area — what I know about myself and is also known by others (also known as open self, free area, free self or ‘the arena’). The behaviors revealed in this area are ones I am not defensive about. In new relationships the open area for each person is small because shared awareness is relatively small.

Blind Area — what I don’t know about myself but which others know (also known as blind self or ‘blindspot’). This area remains blind to me because others may not tell me for fear of offending me. This can be simple information or can involve deep issues (i.e. feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, unworthiness, rejection) that are difficult for me to face directly and yet can be seen by others.

Hidden Area — what I known about myself that others do not know (hidden self, avoided area, avoided self or ‘facade’). I keep secrets for fear of others’ reaction to them. Secrets may pertain to feelings, attitudes and behavior.

To Be Known — what I don’t know about myself and is also unknown by others (unknown area or unknown self). I may learn unknown material through self-reflection and feedback exchanges with others. This “to be known” area represents interpersonal dynamics, early childhood memories plus undiscovered strengths and aptitudes. Knowing all about myself is extremely unlikely. The unconscious extension in the model represents the part of me that will always remain unknown.

Goal: Expand the open area

The goal for using the model in relationships is to develop the open area for every person, because we are at our most effective and productive when we spend time with others in this area. The open area is the space where good communications and cooperation occur, free from distractions, mistrust, confusion, conflict and misunderstanding.

There are three ways to develop or expand the open area — using self-disclosure, feedback solicitation and shared discovery.

illustration

Self-disclosure expands the open area and decreases the hidden area — information known to me and not known to others.

illustration

Feedback solicitation expands the open area and decreases the blind area — information unknown to me and known to others.

illustration

Shared discovery expands the open area and decreases the hidden, blind and to be known areas.

As a first step, consider the things that you easily reveal. Is there a shared subject area or pattern? Also begin to consider the things that you keep hidden from others. List as many items that quickly come to mind. What shared subjects are covered or what patterns do you see?

In the coming weeks, I’ll share some exercises to help you improve self-disclosure, feedback solicitation and shared discovery — especially how to shift from surprising unsolicited feedback to creating a psychologically safe space for solicited feedback.