The Johari Window is a powerful psychological tool that helps us form a more accurate image of ourselves. In fact, although most people think they know themselves very well, a study published in the Consulting Psychology Journal revealed that only 10 to 15% actually have a fairly accurate image of themselves.
We all have psychological blind spots and shadows that we refuse to accept. But this ignorance usually increases when we close ourselves off to criticism, so that those around us avoid giving us their opinion for fear of our reaction. That can lock us into a kind of echo chamber in which we only hear ourselves. The Johari window proposes us to leave this self-referential scheme and open ourselves to feedback to better understand our qualities and defects.
What is the Johari window?
The Johari window is a model of analysis developed in the mid-1950s by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. In fact, its name is due to the acronym of their initials: Joseph and Harrington (Johari).
Its main objective is to enhance self-awareness, especially when we are in groups or social environments, in addition to improving communication with those around us. To achieve this, these psychologists analyzed the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and illustrated the communication process mediated by the image we have of ourselves and the one we project.
They resorted to the concept of interpersonal space, dividing it into four well-differentiated areas according to the nature of the information we transmit. Two of these areas represent what we know about ourselves and the other two what others perceive about us, but which generally escapes us. In this way, they proposed a framework where the personal merges with the interpersonal to expand our self-image and, at the same time, improve our communication skills.
The quadrants of the Johari window
1. Public or open area. It includes information about us: our attitudes, behaviors, emotions, feelings, skills, points of view… It is the most transparent area since not only do we know it but we also show it to the others. In fact, it is the area where most interpersonal relationships occur. It could be summarized as what we know about ourselves and consciously share with people, a space of confluence between our self-image and the image we project to the world.
2. Blind area. We are not an open book to ourselves. For that reason, this quadrant of the Johari window contains everything that people perceive about us, but of which we are not fully aware. They are our psychological blind spots, what we ignore about ourselves but that others can perceive. It could be, for example, a fear that we have not recognized or a defect that we refuse to accept and that someone has pointed out to us.
3. Hidden area or facade. It contains everything that we know about ourselves, but that we are not willing to share with others. It is generally made up of our greatest fears, insecurities, traumatic experiences, secrets, impulses, desires or simply opinions that we wish to keep private. This information usually remains compartmentalized for various reasons, whether because we do not trust the others enough to share these most intimate data, because we do not want to be judged, criticized or rejected if we show ourselves as we are or because we fear that our vulnerability will be used to hurt us.
4. Unknown area. This quadrant of the Johari window contains everything that we do not know about ourselves and that also remains hidden from others. In some ways, it is the equivalent of Carl Jung’s shadows, although it can also include talents, abilities or passions that we have not discovered. It refers to characteristics of our personality that have not yet come to light. Many people, for example, discover their resilience just when they face adversity, so that until that moment they are not aware of how strong they were.
How to apply this technique?
The Johari window is an excellent tool to go deeper into ourselves and accept what we are blocking or rediscover new facets that we are not aware of. However, we will need the help of others.
We will have to ask people we trust to complete the quadrants. It is important that they are sincere since the objective of this technique is precisely to compare the image we have of ourselves with the image that we project and that the others have formed of us.
Of course, we must also complete the quadrants. Making a list of about 10 characteristics or traits that we think define us as a person is usually enough. Then we just have to contrast our self-image with the image that others have of us, placing each characteristic in the corresponding quadrant.
Generally this technique yields very interesting results because we are not usually fully aware of the perception that others have of us. Doing it with an open mind can reveal things we didn’t know.
Although the Johari window shows four equal quadrants, we actually need to adjust the size of each one as we receive new feedback. Readjusting its dimensions will allow us to appreciate if there are large imbalances.
For example, a relatively small public area may indicate poor communication or it could signal that we are too closed off from the others. Likewise, a blind area that is too large could reveal a problem with self-awareness, indicating that the others can see things about us that we refuse to accept.
What is the Johari window for?
The Johari window helps us develop internal and external awareness. It allows us to understand how the others see us in contrast to the image we have of ourselves.
As a result, this technique can help us know ourselves better and discover our blind spots. It is also an opportunity to accept parts of ourselves that we rejected and incorporate them into our “self”, so that we have a more global and precise vision of who we are, from which we can work to become the person we want to be.
The Johari window is also particularly beneficial for improving interpersonal relationships. It can allow us to reinforce the qualities that we want to transmit to others and iron out those that are affecting our relationships. In fact, a study carried out at Kafkas University revealed that this technique can improve our well-being by helping us expand our public area and smooth out the rough edges in our interpersonal relationships, which are usually the main source of conflicts and problems in our daily lives.
For example, the Johari window could tell us that the others do not perceive us as a person as flexible and open as we assume or that we are not as empathetic or kind as we imagine. That discovery can help us shorten the distance between our self-image and what we project, allowing us to be more authentic in our relationships.
This technique could also reveal that we are keeping too much personal information hidden, which becomes a barrier to establishing deeper connections with the others. Or perhaps it reveals to us that we are showing too much of ourselves and the others are taking advantage of our vulnerability with manipulative behavior.
In any case, being more aware of our strengths and weaknesses, with a willingness to incorporate the perception of the others, can help us become aware of our behaviors and reactions, as well as their impact on those around us.
The idea is to expand our horizon based on the image that the others have of us. Confronting our self-concept with what we project will allow us to make the necessary adjustments to feel better about ourselves and, at the same time, polish our communication skills to improve our interpersonal relationships. And that is usually a change that is always worth it.
Erginsoy, D. (2019) Expansion of the Open Area (Johari Window) and Group Work Directed to Enhancing the Level of Subjective Well-being. Journal of Education and Training Studies; 7(5): 76-85.
Sala, F. (2003) Executive Blind Spots: Discrepancies Between Self- and Other-Ratings. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research; 55(4): 222–229.
Newstrom, J. W. & Rubenfeld, S. A. (1983) The Johari Window: A Reconceptualization. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Excercises; 10: 117-120.