The Johari Window Model: Developing Self-Awareness & Trust - Peter Boolkah

In the high-stakes world of business, understanding ourselves and how we interact with others is paramount to success. When it comes to fostering positive and productive relationships, both within and outside of our organisations, we often overlook an invaluable tool – the Johari Window.

The Johari Window is a model that offers a practical approach to facilitate better communication and understanding among group members. It was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955 who were researching group dynamics at the University of California. The model was first published in the Proceedings of the Western Training Laboratory in Group Development by UCLA Extension Office. Luft later refined this model for even greater effectiveness.

Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting your journey, the Johari Window Model is used as a stepping stone towards unleashing the full potential of your business relationships. It’s a conduit for enhancing self awareness, building trust, and promoting more effective communication. So, let’s delve into this transformative model and uncover the hidden facets of our world.

What Is The Johari Window – Definition

Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed the Johari Model as a psychological model to visualize the process of self-discovery and understanding relationships. The ‘window’ is depicted as a square divided into four panes or quadrants, namely: the Open, Hidden, Blind, and Unknown areas. These quadrants represent aspects of our personality that are known or unknown to ourselves and others.

It’s important to note that these quadrants are not fixed; you can increase or reduce the size with time, depending on various factors such as personal growth, communication, and life experiences. For example, divulging a previously concealed aspect of your life to your team would result in a reduce the size of the Hidden Area and increase your Open Area.

Understanding these quadrants and how they can change over time can help people better understand themselves, improve communication, and, ultimately, build stronger relationships.

The Three Main Goals of The Johari Window

The Johari Window theory, while simple in its design, packs a profound punch. It is aimed at achieving three primary objectives that are crucial in both personal and professional contexts. These goals pave the way for nurturing self-awareness, fostering open communication, and cultivating robust relationships.

Increase Self-Awareness

The first and arguably the most critical goal of the Johari Window is to increase self-awareness. This refers to a comprehensive understanding of our thoughts, behaviours, emotions, motivations, and how these affect our interactions with others.

The model prompts us to reflect on the Open and Hidden areas of our ‘window’, encouraging us to disclose more about ourselves and grow the Open quadrant. This not only makes us more self-aware but also builds trust with others, as we are seen as more genuine and authentic.

Furthermore, by asking for feedback and being open to it, we can uncover the blind spots – aspects of our personality unknown to us but evident to others. This process of self-discovery leads to a more profound self-awareness, empowering us to make conscious decisions that align with our true selves and ultimately contribute to our personal and professional growth.

Improve Communication & Interpersonal Relationships

The second major objective of the Johari Window is to improve communication and interpersonal relationships. By expanding our open self through self-disclosure and feedback, we encourage honest and transparent communication with others.

This openness not only reduces misunderstandings but also fosters mutual trust and respect. It further allows us to understand and respect the unique perspectives of others, leading to more empathetic interaction.

Moreover, by revealing our hidden selves, we allow others to understand us better, facilitating deeper and more meaningful connections. The blind spot, once revealed through open feedback, can help us correct behaviours that may have been hindering effective communication.

Facilitate Personal and Team Growth

The third pivotal aim of the Johari Window is to facilitate personal and team growth. As we peel back the layers of our personality, confront our blind spots, and bring our hidden aspects to light, we embark on a journey of personal evolution.

This unfolds not only in improving self-awareness but also in the shedding of unhelpful behaviours and the nurturing of more constructive ones. But the benefits of the Johari Window extend beyond the individual, positively impacting team dynamics and organisational culture.

As team members embrace transparency and open feedback, trust blooms, and collaboration thrives. When individuals grow, teams grow. When teams grow, the entire organisation flourishes. The Unknown area, often overlooked, can also serve as a source of untapped potential. With exploration and openness to new experiences, this quadrant may reveal undiscovered talents or strengths, further fuelling growth.

The Johari Window - Peter Boolkah

The Four Quadrants of The Johari Window

Now that we’ve explored the significance and goals of the Johari Window, let’s delve deeper into its core – the four quadrants. Each quadrant contains unique insights about our personality and whether that information is known or unknown to oneself or others in four viewpoints. By understanding these quadrants, we can navigate our relationships more effectively and facilitate growth.

Quadrant 1. Open Area

The open area, also known as the ‘arena’, is the first pane of the Johari Window. This quadrant encompasses actions, behaviours, and information that is not only known to the individual but also to those around them. Essentially, this is the realm of public knowledge. It comprises information, facts, skills, and attitudes – in short, everything that is openly communicated and exchanged between the individual and others.

The openness of this quadrant is a testament to its transparency, an arena where nothing is hidden. Everything within this quadrant is out in the open, readily available for everyone to see and understand. This fosters clear communication, promotes mutual understanding, and paves the way for harmonious relationships. It is in this arena where trust is built, respect is earned, and authentic connections are formed.

Quadrant 2. Blind Area

The Blind Area, often referred to as the ‘blind spot’, embodies the second pane of the Johari Window. Actions and behaviours residing in this quadrant are visible to those around us, yet we, as individuals, remain unaware of them. This fascinating dichotomy can lay bare both positive and negative attributes, unearthing hidden strengths and highlighting areas ripe for development.

This can prove particularly instrumental during 360 reviews, where feedback from peers, subordinates, and superiors can shed light on these unseen aspects of our persona. The blind spots uncovered during such evaluations offer invaluable insights into how others perceive us, providing a robust foundation for personal and group development. By acknowledging and addressing these blind spots, we can fine-tune our behaviours, hone our skills, and enhance our interactions, thereby facilitating an upward trajectory in our growth journey.

Quadrant 3. Hidden Area

The third quadrant of the Johari Window is known as the Hidden Area or ‘Façade’. In this area, the personal characteristics are known to the person, but remains concealed from others. This hidden information may encompass a range of personal elements – feelings, ambitions, dreams, and opinions – that the individual opts to withhold for fear of negative reactions or judgments. The decision to keep certain information hidden isn’t necessarily deceptive; it’s often a protective measure, a product of our instinctive desire to control how we are perceived by others.

However, as trust grows within relationships, individuals may gradually decide to share more from this quadrant. The process of revealing these hidden aspects of your life can lead to deeper connections and enhanced mutual understanding, breaking down barriers and fostering an environment of authenticity and openness.

Quadrant 4. Unknown Area

The final quadrant represented by the Johari Window, often referred to as the Unknown Area, constitutes a realm of mystery. This quadrant is a repository of information, behaviors, skills, and other personal elements that remain elusive, not only to others but also to the individual themselves. It is a landscape largely unexplored, hiding within its folds subconscious information and early childhood memories that have sunk into oblivion.

Furthermore, this area could be a treasure trove of untapped potential, concealing certain latent talents or abilities that are yet to be discovered. The journey into this quadrant is akin to venturing into the wild, uncharted waters of the subconscious, often revealing profound insights about an individual’s personality and potential. The unraveling of this area is a courageous leap towards self-discovery, a step into the hidden and unknown self that brings the promise of personal growth and transformation.

How to Use The Johari Window Model

To effectively harness the Johari Window, we must first embrace an open and honest mindset. The process begins with self-disclosure, sharing information about ourselves within the open area, and progressively revealing elements from the hidden self. This intentional transparency fosters trust and encourages others to do the same.

Feedback forms the next critical step. By actively seeking and gracefully accepting feedback from others, we can illuminate our blind spot, uncovering behaviours and attributes of which we were previously unaware. This feedback can be sought through various methods, such as 360 reviews, anonymous surveys, or simply open conversations. That said, it’s important to have an open and accepting approach to feedback, with a growth mindset, viewing it as an opportunity for self-improvement rather than criticism.

The hidden and unknown area presents a unique challenge. To tap into its potential, one can employ various self-discovery methods such as introspection, meditation, or professional counselling. These tools can help unearth hidden talents, forgotten experiences, or subconscious behaviours, increasing your open area and contributing to personal growth.

Regularly revisiting the Johari Window facilitates ongoing growth, allowing us to continually reassess ourselves and our relationships. As our open area expands, we become more self-aware, understanding, and emotionally intelligent, enhancing both our personal and professional lives.

The 55 Adjectives of the Johari Window

55 Adjectives - Peter Boolkah

Personal Characteristics

Personal characteristics are a critical facet of the Johari Window. These characteristics, often embodied in the form of adjectives, serve as the building blocks of our persona. They shape our behaviours, influence our interactions, and fundamentally define who we are.

The Johari Window model incorporates a set of 55 adjectives, each offering a unique reflection of our personality traits. This list of adjectives includes positive traits like ‘adaptable’, ‘confident’, and ‘dependable’, to traits that might be perceived as less advantageous such as ‘nervous’, ‘defensive’, or ‘compulsive’.

The value of these adjectives lies not in the pursuit of stereotypical ‘good’ traits, but in embracing the totality of our personality. When acknowledging all these traits, we cultivate a holistic understanding of ourselves, paving the way for self-acceptance and growth. Moreover, these adjectives form the basis for feedback in the Johari Window model. By inviting others to pick adjectives that they believe best describe us, we gain insights into how we are perceived, further illuminating our blind spot. As we reconcile the differences between our self-perception and the perception of others, we edge closer toward self-awareness and authenticity.

As you delve into the Johari Window model, challenge yourself to identify with these adjectives. Embrace them, question them, and reflect on them. Remember, these are not labels but mirrors, offering a glimpse into the complex mosaic of your personality. Explore these personal characteristics in the spirit of self-discovery and growth, always understanding that personal development is a journey, not a destination.

Defining the Goals

The path toward self-discovery and growth is an expedition with no fixed endpoint. It’s a continuous journey of exploration and evolution, where the destination is often as fluid as the journey itself. In such a journey, defining the goals provides a semblance of structure, serving as guideposts to navigate this complex terrain.

Within the context of the Johari model, the primary goals typically centre around increasing the Open Area’. This expansion signifies increased self-awareness and mutual understanding between individuals within a group, leading to improved relationships and enhanced personal growth. Other specific goals may include minimizing the blind spot through active feedback or unveiling the mysteries of the Unknown Area through self-introspection or professional counselling.

These goals, however, should not be rigid constructs but flexible aspirations, adaptable to fit your evolving self-awareness and understanding. Approach them with curiosity and openness, viewing them less as targets to be achieved and more as catalysts for growth. As you define your goals, remember to be kind to yourself, understanding that the journey of self-discovery is a process, not an event. Practice patience, keep an open mind, and let your journey toward self-awareness and personal growth unfold naturally.

Openness & Feedback from Others

Embracing openness and actively seeking feedback are essential components of the Johari model. This dual process enables us to decrease the size of the blind area and increase the open area, thereby increasing self-awareness and enhancing relationships.

Openness is a voluntary act of sharing – it involves revealing aspects of our personality, feelings, and experiences with others. This candid sharing builds trust, encourages reciprocation, and fosters mutual understanding. However, openness requires vulnerability, and it’s crucial to ensure a safe, respectful space to share personal aspects without fear of judgment or negativity.

Feedback, on the other hand, is a mirror reflecting how we are perceived externally. It shines a light on the blind spot, revealing traits and behaviours we may not be aware of. While receiving feedback can at times be challenging, viewing it as a constructive tool for growth can alleviate any discomfort. Be open, welcome diverse perspectives, and consider feedback as a gift that helps you improve and grow.

Why It Is Important to Use The Johari Window for Leadership & Organisational Development

Since Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham first introduced this model in 1955, it has remained a valuable tool for leadership and organizational development, paving the way for enhanced self-awareness, improved communication, and inter-group development and interpersonal development.

For leaders, understanding their Open Area allows them to lead with authenticity, leveraging their strengths and addressing their blind spots. This self-awareness fosters trust and respect, essential elements in cultivating a positive team culture.

Moreover, the Johari Window encourages open communication and feedback within teams. As managers and team leaders embrace vulnerability and share aspects of themselves, they inspire their team members to do the same. This openness nurtures an environment of mutual understanding, breaking down barriers and fostering stronger relationships.

Feedback plays a fundamental role in this process. In revealing the blind self, feedback allows leaders to address behaviours that may be hindering their effectiveness. This insight also aids in personal development, enabling leaders to evolve and adapt their leadership style in line with both their personal growth and the needs of their team.

In the broader context of organizational development, the Johari Window contributes to a culture of transparency and continuous learning. As team members become more self-aware and communicative, they work more effectively together, leading to improved collaboration and productivity. Furthermore, by encouraging self-reflection and feedback, the Johari Window enables you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and fosters a growth mindset within the organization, promoting ongoing learning and development.


How to do Johari Window exercise?

Conducting a Johari Window group exercise entails a few simple steps. First, you’ll need to select a number of adjectives from a predefined list that you feel describe you best. Next, ask a group of people who know you well to do the same from their perspective. The common adjectives from both lists go into the Open Area, while the ones you chose belong to the Hidden Area.

Adjectives selected only by others constitute the Blind Area, and any adjectives that neither you nor others selected fall into the Unknown Area. It’s worth noting that this exercise is only as valuable as the honesty and openness of the participants. For the best results, ensure a safe and open environment to facilitate genuine feedback and self-reflection.

What is an example of a blind area?

A Blind Area refers to the attributes or behaviours that others can see in us, but we can’t see in ourselves. For example, you may have a habit of interrupting others while they’re speaking, but you’re not aware of it. However, your colleagues notice this behaviour and may find it annoying or disrespectful.

This is an example of a blind spot – something that is obvious to others, but invisible to you. The Johari Window exercise can help uncover these blind spots by inviting feedback, providing a more balanced perspective, and encouraging personal growth.

What are the benefits of the Johari Window?

The Johari Window offers numerous benefits on both a personal and organisational level. For individuals, it helps increase self-awareness by highlighting strengths, blind spots, and areas for improvement. This newfound insight enables individuals to better understand their behaviour, motivations, and emotional responses, thereby fostering personal growth and enhancing interpersonal relationships.

In the context of a team or organisation, the Johari Window promotes open communication and feedback, helping to build trust and mutual understanding among members. This openness leads to stronger team cohesion, improved collaboration, and, ultimately, more effective performance.

Moreover, the model encourages a culture of continuous learning and development within an organisation. As individuals become more self-aware and adjust their behaviours accordingly, the collective capacity of the team is also enhanced. In this way, the Johari Window is not just a tool for personal development, but also a catalyst for organisational growth.

How do I reduce the hidden area in Johari Window?

Reducing the Hidden Area in the Johari Window involves both self-disclosure and receiving feedback. Self-disclosure is the process of willingly sharing personal information, thoughts, feelings, and experiences that you’ve kept private. This could be achieved through open conversations, sharing experiences, or even structured team-building exercises. Recognise that every individual has a comfort level when it comes to self-disclosure, and it’s essential to respect that boundary.

Feedback from others is another powerful tool in reducing the Hidden Area. Encourage a culture of open and constructive feedback within your team. When others provide insights into their perceptions of you, they’re helping to uncover aspects of yourself that may have been hidden. This could be through regular one-on-one conversations, 360-degree feedback, or even anonymous suggestion boxes.

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