The Johari window model was created in 1955 by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham to help individuals better understand themselves. The word “Johari” is a combination of the first names of each inventor. The Johari window model is a self-awareness tool used to improve relationships with others.
Understanding the Johari window model
A core premise of the model is that our interactions with others are ultimately shaped by:
- How we see ourselves, and
- How we are perceived by others.
If both views are aligned, then the interaction is more likely to be effective and engaging.
The four panes of the Johari window
Alignment can be assessed by populating a matrix with four cells, commonly referred to as the four panes of a Johari window.
Each pane helps the individual evaluate the degree of alignment (or disparity) in their interactions with others.
Let’s look at each pane:
Open area (known to self, known to others)
This area contains well-known information that most individuals are happy to talk about.
It encompasses skills, values, experience, personality, values, and feelings.
Blind area (not known to self, known to others)
Or things that people know about us that we are unaware of. Information is often withheld for fear of hurting feelings or starting an argument.
In a business context, this area includes blind spots that are crucial for professional development. They can be both positive and negative traits.
Hidden area (known to self, not known to others)
Commonly referring to information that the individual chooses not to disclose.
These may include fears or ambitions that are withheld for fear of reprisal or judgment.
Unknown area (not known to self, not known to others)
As the name suggests, this is information unknown to either party.
It may relate to talents or abilities that, through a lack of opportunity or confidence, have not yet been discovered.
Creating a Johari window for individuals
Creating a Johari window involves self-reflection and as such, the insights gleaned may be uncomfortable for some.
But it need not be a daunting process. Here is how you can use a Johari window to accelerate self-improvement:
Choose a group of trusted peers
This may be a group of people who know you intimately. In business, it may simply be members of your team.
Select your Johari words, otherwise known as Johari adjectives
Many teams choose to use a preselected list of 56 terms that include such descriptors as brave, confident, energetic, intelligent, shy, wise, warm, trustworthy, mature, quiet, proud, or idealistic.
Teams can choose to use their own adjectives so long as there is a large and varied group to choose from.
Then, select 5-10 words you believe best describe your personality.
Select 5-10 adjectives
Ask each member of the group of peers to then select 5-10 adjectives.
Place words selected by both you and others in the “open” pane
Place words only selected by yourself in the “hidden” pane.
Place words that were selected by peers but not selected by you in the “blind” pane
All remaining words should be placed in the “unknown” pane.
Evaluate the results
How much overlap is there between how you see yourself and how others perceive you?
Whatever the results, the goal must be to increase the size of the “open” pane relative to the others.
Johari window model examples
In this section, we’ll populate the panes in a Johari window with information from two examples.
Self-reflection and personal action
The first example describes an employee using a Johari window for personal and professional development:
- Open area (known to self, known to others) – the employee starts by discussing their personal development opportunities with their direct superior. To improve their qualifications, the individual wants to obtain experience by managing complex projects, improve workshop facilitation skills, and increase their confidence when interacting with C-level executives.
- Blind area (not known to self, known to others) – in the second pane, the individual asks for periodic feedback from superiors, managers, and colleagues. This establishes important relationships within the organization and demonstrates to those in power that the individual can use initiative.
- Hidden area (known to self, not known to others) – the employee has a fear of public speaking and sales presentations after once receiving a negative comment about their overall demeanor. As a result, they strive to make a better first impression with key stakeholders with relaxed and open body language.
- Unknown area (not known to self, not known to others) – to cultivate a growth mindset, the individual looks for mentors and becomes a member of Toastmasters International. There, they connect with like-minded individuals and learn important communication, leadership, and public speaking skills.
While Johari windows are often associated with communication, teamwork, and self-awareness, they are also relevant to the negotiation process.
Here, each party may possess direct or indirect knowledge of the other party’s objectives, BATNA, or bottom line.
When these important pieces of information are freely shared, the negotiation tends to be open, collaborative, and mutually beneficial.
When information is concealed, however, the negotiation is more adversarial since both parties protect their secrets and become motivated by self-gain.
For this example, we’ll replace the terms “self” and “others” with Team A and Team B:
- Open area (known to Team A, known to Team B) – as noted, this is information that is freely available to both teams. Each has different interests and objectives, but the open area enables both to utilize the same environment to satisfy their interests and reach a desirable outcome.
- Blind area (not known to Team A, known to Team B) – this is information valuable to Team A such as Team B’s bottom line. Team A can obtain access to this information via prior research. Alternatively, it can share its own bottom line or other withheld information in exchange.
- Hidden area (known to Team A, not known to Team B) – where Team A possesses information that Team B does not yet have access to. From Team A’s perspective, it can make this information common knowledge to advance discussions, but in so doing, risks reducing its negotiating power.
- Unknown area (not known to Team A, not known to Team B) – information that is not known to either party may be an unforeseen or unpredictable future event or data that, for whatever reason, has not been collected in its entirety.
- The Johari window model is a self-awareness tool that seeks to bridge the gap between how the individual perceives themselves and how others perceive them.
- The Johari window model is named after a matrix, or window, with four panes. Each pane is called an area, representing varying degrees of alignment or disparity in perception.
- The Johari window model can be a daunting process for those not accustomed to detailed self-awareness. But by focusing efforts in the right areas, the model can be a very effective tool for self-improvement.
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