The Johari Window
Originally published on Jan 1 2018, Last updated on May 6 2021
The Johari Window is a psychological tool developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955 while researching group dynamics at the University of California (Luft, J. & Ingham, H.1955). The name itself has is a merger of the first names of the two psychologists and was initially called JoHari Window. It is widely popular because of its simplicity and practicality for self-awareness, personal development, group development and understanding relationships.
How is the Johari Window Model used?
In current times, Johari Window is especially popular because of the increased emphasis on the nurture of soft skills, empathy, interpersonal and intergroup development, as well as behaviour (Gaw 1976). Other names include ‘disclosure/feedback model of self-awareness’, which is also popular by the name of an ‘information processing tool’. The Johari Window actually represents information like feelings, views, attitudes, experiences, skills, drive/motivation, intentions that a person holds in relation to their group and also what others hold about the person.
Elements of the Johari Window Model:
There are two factors at work within the Johari window. The first factor is what you know about yourself. The second factor relates to what other people know about you (Shapiro, Heil and Lager, 1983).
- The open/Free area is all the information that a person is aware of him or herself, and which is also known to others such as your behaviour, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and “public” history. This area is smaller for new group members as compared to an established team member because the latter has been associated with the group longer and has shared a greater exchange of communication. The open area can be expanded horizontally into the blind space through a process known as ‘feedback solicitation’ which is engaging and listening to other team members’ feedback about him. This helps if other team members willingly contribute by offering feedback (without being insensitive). Moreover, the open area can also be stretched downwards into the hidden space by the person’s disclosure of information, feelings, etc about him/herself to the group and group members and by group members asking the person about him/herself. The aim of any group should be to develop the ‘open area’ for every person because when we work with others in this area we get more effective and productive. Open/free or ‘the arena’ is seen as the space where cooperation and good communication takes place, away from confusion, conflict and misunderstanding of any sort.
For example, A person knows he has very good organisational skills and others frequently seek his advice on ways to get better organised.
- The blind area is the region where information is known to others but the person himself is unaware of it. This includes habits, talents, quirks that the individual might not know himself but others know well. This region is not productive for the group or the person himself. By soliciting feedback from others and increasing self-awareness, this area can be shortened and the open area is expanded. However, the feedback should be non-judgemental and beneficial to avoid emotional trouble. Managers can take some responsibility for helping an individual to reduce their blind area and increasing the open area by encouraging disclosure and sensitive feedback.
For example, A team member is not aware that he tends not to listen to others while also insisting his ideas be heard. Another team member takes the opportunity and makes him aware of this blind spot to suggest what might be more helpful in this case for the team and all ideas must be heard equally.
- The hidden area deals with the information that is known to the person but is not known to others. This could include some traumatic incident, certain habits, sensitivities, fears, ulterior motives, manipulative or malicious conduct, secrets – in short, anything that the person has kept private from others. Relevant work and performance-related information should be moved to the open area through a process of ‘disclosure’. Reducing the hidden area can help in improving cooperation, building relationships, better understanding within the group and increasing performance. Effective disclosure also reduces the likelihood of confusions and misunderstandings due to lack of communication, which undermines the overall productivity.
For example, A leader is asked to present a proposal of a project to the executive team but the leader is not comfortable speaking to a group of senior leaders although she is very outgoing.
- The unknown area is the region unknown to the person himself as well as unknown to others. The latent information could be an inclination or talent that was not tapped before due to various reasons, an ability, some illness etc. Efforts can hasten the pace of self-discovery and can also be aided by the observation of others. A lot of information is uncovered by the responses and reactions of individuals when faced with a certain situation and through counselling. Managers and leaders can help by creating an environment that encourages self-discovery and promotes constructive observation and feedback among team members.
For example, A person is asked to lead the implementation of a major project but this person usually works in the background. As he works on the projects he discovers his talents and that he is enjoying the lead work and so the task is no longer difficult for him.
Johari is a very elegant model and with its powerful ideas, it may help optimise the value to people so they can properly understand it in their terms. It also empowers them to use the thinking in their own way to incorporate the underlying principles into their future thinking and behaviour.
Luft, J., Ingham, H. (1955). “The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness”
Luft, J. (1969). Of Human Interaction. Palo Alto, California: National Press. p. 177
Gaw, B. (1976). The Johari window and a partnership: An approach to teaching interpersonal communication skills: Communication Education: Vol 25, No 3. [online]
Shapiro, D., Heil, J. and Lager, F. (1983). Validation of the Johari Window Test as a Measure of Self-Disclosure: The Journal of Social Psychology: Vol 120, No 2. [online]