The Johari Window: Creating Better Understanding Between Individuals and Groups
The Johari Window is a communication model that can be used to improve understanding between individuals within a team or in a group setting. Based on disclosure, self-disclosure and feedback, the Johari Window can also be used to improve a group's relationship with other groups.
Developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (the word "Johari" comes from Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham), there are two key ideas behind the tool:
That individuals can build trust with others by disclosing information about themselves.
That they can learn about themselves and come to terms with personal issues with the help of feedback from others.
By explaining the idea of the Johari Window to your team, you can help team members understand the value of self-disclosure, and gently encourage people to give and accept feedback. Done sensitively, this can help people build more-trusting relationships with one another, solve issues and work more effectively as a team.
Explaining the Johari Window
The Johari Window model consists of a foursquare grid (think of taking a piece of paper and dividing it into four parts by drawing one line down the middle of the paper from top to bottom, and another line through the middle of the paper from side-to-side). This is shown in the diagram below:
Using the Johari model, each person is represented by their own four-quadrant, or four-pane, window. Each of these contains and represents personal information – feelings, motivation, etc. – about the person, and shows whether the information is known or not known by themselves or other people.
The four quadrants are:
Quadrant 1: Open Area
What is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others.
Quadrant 2: Blind Area, or "Blind Spot"
What is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know. This can be simple information, or can involve deep issues (for example, feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, unworthiness, rejection) which are difficult for individuals to face directly, and yet can be seen by others.
Quadrant 3: Hidden or Avoided Area
What the person knows about him/herself that others do not.
Quadrant 4: Unknown Area
What is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others.
The process of enlarging the open quadrant vertically is called self-disclosure, a give and take process between the person and the people he/she interacts with.
As information is shared, the boundary with the hidden quadrant moves downwards. And as other people reciprocate, trust tends to build between them.
Don't be rash in your self-disclosure. Disclosing harmless items builds trust. However, disclosing information which could damage people's respect for you can put you in a position of weakness.
Using the Tool:
The process of enlarging the open quadrant horizontally is one of feedback. Here the individual learns things about him- or her-self that others can see, but he or she can't.
Be careful in the way you give feedback. Some cultures have a very open and accepting approach to feedback. Others don't. You can cause incredible offence if you offer personal feedback to someone who's not used to it. Be sensitive, and start gradually.
If anyone is interested in learning more about this individual, they reciprocate by disclosing information in their hidden quadrant.
For example, the first participant may disclose that he/she is a runner. The other participant may respond by adding that he/she works out regularly at the local gym, and may then disclose that the gym has recently added an indoor jogging track for winter runners.
As one's levels of confidence and self-esteem rises, it is easier to invite others to comment on one's blind spots. Obviously, active and empathic listening skills are useful in this exercise.
The Johari Window in a Team Context
Keep in mind that established team members will have larger open areas than new team members. New team members start with smaller open areas because little knowledge about the new team member has yet been shared. The size of the Open Area can be expanded horizontally into the blind space, by seeking and actively listening to feedback from other group members.
Group members should strive to assist a team member in expanding their Open Area by offering constructive feedback. The size of the Open Area can also be expanded vertically downwards into the hidden or avoided space by the sender's disclosure of information, feelings, etc about himself/herself to the group and group members.
Also, group members can help a person expand their Open Area into the hidden area by asking the sender about himself/herself. Managers and team leaders play a key role here, facilitating feedback and disclosure among group members, and by providing constructive feedback to individuals about their own blind areas.
In most cases, the aim in groups should be to develop the Open Area for every person.
Working in this area with others usually allows for enhanced individual and team effectiveness and productivity. The Open Area is the 'space' where good communications and cooperation occur, free from confusion, conflict and misunderstanding.
Self-disclosure is the process by which people expand the Open Area vertically. Feedback is the process by which people expand this area horizontally.