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Johari's Window


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The Johari Window is a way of looking at relationships and the communication process. The process of communicating and of transacting with others is one of the most important elements of our lives.

Communicating or transacting with another person has been studied for years by many experts and the information available on the subject is overwhelming. However, communication between people can be broken down into some very simple terms.

Two behavioural scientists, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, have done just that. They have developed a model which can be looked upon as a communication window through which you give and receive information about yourself and others.

This information comes in many forms: verbal and non-verbal, fact and opinion, feelings and thoughts, perceptions, etc. The important thing about their model is that it accounts for this variety of information, it deals with the subtleties of communication between people, it helps define the quality of a relationship at various points in time, and it is simple enough to be displayed graphically. Their model is called the Johari (Joe and Harry!) Window.

The model is based on a square, four-pane window which represents all that can be known about you:

It focuses on what you know about yourself and what others know about you. When you come to use the model in practice, it will be best to choose a particular relationship - manager, partner, parent, child - because each of your relationships is likely to result in a different type of window.

On the other hand, there are 'things I know' about myself and 'things I don't know' about about myself. This can also be visualized...

If we combine these two conditions into one visual display that describes the relationship between you and your manager, we get the following four-paned window...

The first pane, also called the 'Arena', represents your 'Open Self' and contains things that you know about yourself and about which others also know. It is characterized by free and open exchange of information between yourself and others. The behaviour here is both public and available.

The second pane, also known as the 'Blindspot', represents your 'Unaware Self' and contains information that you don't know about yourself but others do. When you interact with others, you communicate all kinds of information that you are not aware of, but is being picked up by others. This information may be in the form of verbal cues, mannerisms, the way you say things, or the style in which you relate to others. The extent to which we are insensitive to much of our own behavior, and what it may communicate to others, can be quite surprising and disconcerting.

In pane three are things that you know about yourself but of which others are unaware. For one reason or another you keep this information hidden. Your fear may be that if people knew your feelings, perceptions, and opinions about various things or individuals, they might reject, attack or hurt you in some way. As a consequence, you withhold this information.

This pane is called the 'Hidden Self' or 'Façade'. Another reason you may keep information to yourself is that you do not see the necessary support for sharing. Your assumption is that if you start revealing your feelings, thoughts, and reactions, you might be judged negatively. You cannot find out, however, how others will react unless you test these assumptions and reveal something of yourself. In other words, if you don't take some risks, you will never learn the reality or unreality of your assumptions. On the other hand, you may keep certain kinds of information to yourself when your motives for doing so are to control the situation.

The last pane contains things that neither yourself nor other people know about you. Some of these things may be so far below the surface that you may never become aware of them. Other things, however, may be below the surface of awareness for now, but can be made known through an exchange of feedback. This area is called the 'Unknown Self' and represents such things as early childhood memories, latent potential, and unrecognised resources. As knowing all about yourself is extremely unlikely, the 'Unknown Self' in the model can never be completely eliminated.

One goal you may set for yourself in your relationship with others is to decrease your 'Hidden Self'. How can you do this? Since this area contains information that you have not revealed, you can decrease your 'Hidden Self' by exposing some of this information. One example might be to discuss your reactions to what is going on in your relationships, what things make you annoyed, satisfied, etc. In this instance, you are disclosing yourself in terms of your perceptions, feelings, and opinions about things in yourself and in your relationships. Through this process others will know where you stand and will not need to guess or interpret what your behaviour means. The more self-disclosure you give, the larger your 'Open Self' becomes.

Another goal you may set for yourself is to decrease your 'Unaware Self'. How can you decrease your 'Unaware Self'? Since this area contains information that people know about you but of which you are unaware, the only way your can increase awareness of this material is to get feedback. As a consequence, you need to develop a receptive attitude to encourage people to give you feedback. That is, you need to actively solicit feedback in such a way that they will feel comfortable giving it to you. Again, the more you do this, the larger your 'Open Self' will become.

In the process of exposing information and asking for feedback, some people tend to overdo one at the expense of the other, thereby creating an imbalance of these two behaviours. This imbalance can have critical consequences in terms of the individual's effectiveness in communicating and relating to others. Both the size and shape of the 'Open Self' are important. The size is a function of the amount of exposure and feedback used and the shape a result using one of these processes to the neglect of the other. For example, using a great deal of exposure and soliciting very little feedback.

In order to give you some idea of how to interpret windows, I would like to describe four different shapes which characterise extremes in terms of exposure and soliciting feedback. These descriptions will give you some idea of how people, characterized by these windows, might appear to others.

The first is a window which might describe the relationship you would have with a close friend. The size of the 'Open Self' increases, and the norms that have been developed for communicating facilitate this kind of exchange. The large 'Open Self' suggests that much of the person's behavior is above-board and open to the other party in the relationship. As a consequence there is less tendency for the friend to interpret (or misinterpret) or project more personal meanings into the person's behaviour. Very little guesswork is needed to understand what the person is trying to do or communicate when interactions are open both in terms of exposure and soliciting feedback. It is not necessary, and perhaps not wise, however, to have a large 'Open Self' with everybody. The people with whom you have casual acquaintances may see this kind of openness as threatening or inappropriate in terms of the kinds of relationships you have with them. It is important to note, however, with some of your more significant relationships, that when most of your feelings, perceptions, and opinions are public, neither person has to engage in 'game playing' kinds of behaviour.

The second example is that of an interviewer and the large 'Hidden Self' suggests a person whose characteristic participation style is to ask questions but not to expose or give information. Thus the size of the 'Hidden Self' is very large and the amount of information flowing out from the individual is minimal. This person responds to the general norm of maintaining a reasonable level of participation, however, by soliciting information.

Many of remarks are in the form of: "What do you think about this?", "How would you have acted if you were in my shoes?", "How do you feel about what I just said?" and "What is your opinion about the situation?". This person wants to know where other people stand without revealing their own position. You will notice that the amount of 'soliciting feedback' is proportionately much greater than the amount of 'exposure'. Since people with this profile seldom reveal themselves, it is hard to know where they stand on issues. At some point in the relationship's history, the other party may confront them with a statement similar to "Hey, you are always asking me how I feel about what's going on, but you never tell me how you feel". This style, characterised as the 'Interviewer' or 'Interogator', may eventually evoke reactions of irritation, distrust, and withholding.

Window number three has a large blind spot. People with this profile maintain their level of interaction primarily by self-disclosure but soliciting feedback very little. Their participation style is to tell others what they think of them, how they feel about what is going on, and where they stand on issues. Sometimes the they may lash out at the other party in the relationship or criticise the situation as a whole, believing that they are being open and above-board. For one reason or other, however, they either appear to be insensitive to the feedback given or do not hear what others tell thjem. These people may either be poor listeners or may respond to feedback in such a way that others are reluctant to give them feedback. As a consequence, these people do not know how they are coming across to other people or what their impact is on them. Because they do not appear to utilise the corrective function of soliciting feedback, many of their reactions or self-disclosures appear out of touch, evasive, or distorted. The result of this one-way communication is that they persist in behaving ineffectively. Since these people are insensitive to feedback, they do not know what behaviours to change. Their 'solicitation of feedback' is limited while their 'exposure' is much greater. This style of interaction comes across as a 'Bull in a China Shop'.

The last window, having a large 'Unknown Self', represents people who do not know much about themselves and neither do others. Theses people may be silent members or he observers in a group, who neither give nor ask for feedback. People with this profile are mystery people because it is difficult for others to know where they stand. They appear to have a shell around them that insulates them from others. When confronted about the lack of participation, they may respond with: I learn more by listening. Individuals who are not actively involved in a relationship or who do not participate get very little feedback because they do not provide others with any data to which they can react. The person who is very active in a relationship exposes more facets and provides others with more information about which they can then give feedback. While this kind of exchange may cause active participants some discomfort, they learn considerably more than the participant who does not give or solicit feedback. This profile is called the Ostrich because they have their heads in the sand. It takes a considerable amount of energy to maintain an Open Self this small, especially in a group situation, because of the pressure which most communication norms exert against this kind of behaviour. Energy channelled in maintaining a closed relationship is not available for self-exploration and personal growth.

The goal of effective communication, of soliciting feedback and self-disclosure is to move information from the Unknown Self and the Hidden Self into the Open Self, where it is available to everyone. In addition, through the processes of giving and receiving feedback, new information can move from the Unknown Self into the other areas. People may have an 'aha' experience when they suddenly perceive a relationship between a here-and-now transaction in the group and some previous event.

It is not an easy task to give feedback in such a way that it can be received without threat to the other person. This technique requires practice in developing sensitivity to other people's needs and being able to put oneself in other people's shoes. However, the necessity to practise and improve one's ability to effectively communicate is critical.

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