The Johari Window: What it Means & How to Use it

Improve Your Communication Skills With the Johari Window Model

If you have ever struggled with giving away TMI (too much information) or self-disclosure, then the Johari Window is for you. Created by Joseph Luften and Harry Ingham in 1955, the Johari Window is a very simple model to use. Originally conceived as a tool to help people further understand their interpersonal communications and relationships. The name comes from a combination of the creator’s first names, Jo and Hari. This model can help people better understand how they communicate with others.
This article is a practical description of the Johari Window. It will help you understand the definition, meaning and fundamentals of this powerful communication skills and coaching tool.

Uses for the Johari Model

You can use the Johari Window to help you with a number of scenarios.
It will help you to better understand:

  • How you communicate with yourself and others
  • How you present yourself to yourself and to others.
  • Your perception of yourself and how others perceive you.
  • How to identify actions vs. motivations.

What Do the 4 Quadrants of the Johari Window Mean?

There are four quadrants in the Johari window. They represent four combinations:

Square split into four labelled with the four elements of The Johari Window model
This tool will help you to better understand communication with others

Quadrant 1: Open Area / Arena

[You Know It – Others Know It]
This space is about the behaviour(s) you know about and that others also see and acknowledge. It takes the name Open Area, or Arena because the information in this panel is about behaviours, feelings and emotions. It includes anything about you that you are willing to share. This area drives clarity and builds trust.

All contact in this environment happens through a two-way mechanism. Consequently, the individual socialises with others about themselves and receives continuous input from the other group members. As a result, the group becomes more efficient and the relationship is very dynamic.
The process of soliciting feedback is very common in this group. This takes place within a group that has an understanding, and the other person’s feedback is heard.

Quadrant 2: Blind Area / Blind Spot

[You Don’t Know It – Others Know It]
The Blind Area, or Blind Spot, is the area where others know certain information about your personality. However, this is information that you are not aware of. Feedback from others can make you more aware of your negative traits. Moreover, it can also draw attention to the positive ones you are not appreciating.
Other people may interpret your personality differently from how you may expect. Consequently, for efficient communication, you should try to reduce this area.
The Blind Spot can be very hard to manage, and it can lead others to talk about you. This is because they see something you don’t.


Quadrant 3: Hidden Area / Facade

[You Know It – Others Don’t Know]
The Hidden Area, or Facade, is the information that you conceal from others. You know the information in this space, but others are unaware of it. The reason for this could be that the information is of a personal nature. Consequently, you might be reluctant to share. This includes, for example, secrets, past experiences, and feelings.
Many people like to keep their information private and don’t like to share it with others.

Quadrant 4: Unknown Area

[You Don’t Know – Others Don’t Know]
The information in the Unknown Area is unknown to you as well as to others. For example, feelings, personal details and talents.
There is no contact over this Unknown Area. Purely because both sides are unaware of this, so it will not become the subject of discussion.

Johari Window Example

Here is an example of an exercise you can do within a group or team using the Johari Window:

  1. Give the subject the list of 55 adjectives (see below). Ask them to pick 5 or 6 that they think describes their personality best.
  2. Give their peers (the other team members) the same list. Ask them to pick 5 or 6 adjectives they think describes the subject best.
  3. You arrange the adjectives on the Johari Window based on awareness.

Below is a list of the positive adjectives commonly used in the Johari Window exercise. You can use negative ones too:

A MBM poster with a list of positive adjectives
These adjectives can be used to describe an employee by themselves or their peers

Placing the adjectives on the Johari Window:

  • Open Area –  Place adjectives selected by the subject and peers in this area.
  • Hidden Area –  Place adjectives selected by the subject only in this area.
  • Blind Spot – Place adjectives selected by the peers only in this area.
  • Unknown – Place adjectives not selected by anybody in the unknown area.

Objective of the Exercise

The objective is to share more information. In doing so, this will increase your Open Area and reduce your Blind Spots.
The best communication happens when the Open Area is the largest. This is because the more you know about yourself and the more other people know about you, the more you can connect and communicate.  Consequently, by asking for feedback you can reduce your Blind Spot. At the same time, this will increase the amount of information you share in the Open Area

Summary

The Johari Window is useful for gaining insight into your behaviours and those of others. It gives you helpful information about your relationships with others. Furthermore, it gives you the chance to improve yourself.

By broadening the Open Space, and being constantly aware of this, mutual trust will increase. If there is more understanding of each other, the Blind Spot and Hidden Space can be used for small conflicts and disagreements. Those situations brought about by a lack of mutual understanding among others.

By asking questions openly, and engaging with each other, the different parties can discover what the underlying ideas, opinions and motives are that led to this behaviour. The Blind Spot will, therefore, move to an Open Space and people will be more respectful of each other’s views.

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