Trust and open communication are the cornerstones of good teamwork. The Johari Window model involves using trust and communication to help us work better with others and work to better ourselves. It is a tool that can be used to illustrate how individuals within a group understand one another. While the Johari Window template is fairly simple, the results it yields can lead to surprisingly powerful changes.
The Johari Window Model History
American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Inghram developed the idea behind the Johari Window model while studying group dynamics at the University of California Los Angeles in 1955. They decided to name it with an amalgamation of their names, turning "Joe" and "Harry" into Johari. Luft later further expanded on the idea, giving us the fully fleshed out model we have today.
The Johari Window Model Goal
The model is an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand tool used for illustrating and improving self-awareness and understanding between members of a group. In the process, the members of the group practice using open communication in order to help their teammates better understand themselves and how they can help their team members. This, in turn, builds trust within the group by allowing each member to not only learn more about their teammates, but about themselves as well.
Using the Johari Window Model
The Johari Window is represented by a four-quadrant window pane with each pane representing whether or not information (such as experience, views, attitudes, skills, motivation and feelings ) is known or unknown to the individual or others. The top two columns are labeled as "things known to self" and "not known to self," while the two rows on the side are labeled as "known to others" and "not known to others."
If you look at the boxes inside, the top left window includes things known to the self and others and is the "open area." The top right window is things others know about the individual, but they don't know about themselves, making it the "blind area." The bottom left area is things the individual knows about themselves but others do not, which is why it is called the "hidden area." Finally, the bottom right is the "unknown area" that both the self and others are unaware of.
With the Johari Window test, when an individual first meets a group, their teammates do not know much about them, meaning the open area and blind area will both be relatively small while the hidden and unknown areas will be very large. As the group gets to know each other better, the other individuals in the group will start to learn things about the individual that they both know and do not know, and the open area and blind area will increase whereas the blind and unknown area will shrink. As the group helps the individual get to know themselves better, the entire right column will shrink and, ideally, the open area will become massive while the unknown area becomes smaller and smaller.
The Open Area
What an individual and their teammates both know about the person goes in the open area. In a group, the ultimate end goal is to end up with an open area that is as large as possible. Leaders are particularly important when it comes to helping someone expand their open area by making them feel comfortable enough to share more about themselves, asking them questions to draw more information out and by offering sensitive criticism and positive feedback to reduce the hidden area.
As a person gets to know her teammates better, she will likely reveal more information about herself through the process of self-disclosure, which will expand the open area downward, reducing the size of the hidden area. She can also provide positive or constructive feedback about other group members, which will also expand the open area into the hidden area by reducing the number of secrets she keeps about them. Her teammates may further expand her open area and reduce the amount of hidden area by asking questions about her, adding to the exposure process.
Feedback solicitation is the process in which a person listens and accepts the feedback given to them from someone else and it is through this process that information enters the open area from the blind area. For example, if other people realize Juan is an excellent public speaker based on how well he gives information to the whole group, they could share this with him and he may consider presenting the group's research to the board of directors, which he may not have done before they told him he was so good at public speaking. On the other hand, if Alice has a habit of looking at her hands while trying to talk to people, her teammates could gently make her aware of this problem so she could work to correct the habit.
The Blind Area
The blind area is what others know about an individual that they do not know about themselves. While you ideally want to reduce the blind spot as much as possible, it is important to realize that you do not want to eliminate it fully. That's because the blind spot is only reduced through feedback solicitation and while this process can be useful for giving someone information that can help them, they do not need to know everything people know or believe about them, particularly those things that may hurt without helping them.
Consider, for example, a man who has a medical condition that you know causes bad breath. While gently telling someone they could use a breath mint may sometimes help them, if you know the man cannot do anything about his breath due to a health issue, then telling his may expand their open area in the model, but it will not help him.
That being said, useful feedback is helpful and a critique that can help someone in a positive manner should be shared in a constructive, positive manner. For example, if you know people consistently talk about how Celia talks too quietly and they can barely hear her, it might be helpful to encourage her to talk louder by saying that she has useful things to say, but you can't hear them much of the time. It's also worth remembering that most people tend to assume that others believe the worst about them so positive feedback can improve self-confidence. By telling a man he has an excellent vocabulary and that you always enjoy reading his emails, his might be pleasantly surprised and feel better about how others see him.
The Hidden Area
Like the blind area, the hidden area needs to be reduced as much as is reasonable, but should never be fully eliminated. After all, the people you work with don't need to know everything you feel about them, especially things that could hurt them. That being said, many insecurities are better off being shared with your teammates as they will make everyone feel more comfortable about you and with their own insecurities. Plus, sharing your insecurities will often make you feel less insecure.
It's important to recognize that what is shared from the hidden area should always be at the discretion of the individual themselves and if someone is hesitant to share, you should not push the issue.
The Unknown Area
When a person has feelings, talents, knowledge or other information that they're unaware of, it stays in the unknown area until someone else learns this information or until the person recognizes it themselves. Some information in the unknown area will stay unknown forever but it is good to minimize this area as much as possible through self-actualization and by letting others get to know you. Through feedback solicitation, self-actualization, self-disclosure and the exposure process, information from the unknown area can be moved into the open area.