Giving and Receiving Feedback
The Power of the Johari’s Window Model
Joe Luft and Harry Ingram originally developed the “JoHari window” in the 1950’s to help people better understand their relationship with themselves and others. At the outset it had a simple but powerful goal – to provide a model for better communication and was therefore used as a simple reflection exercise at the beginning of many management training workshops.
The four areas of the model (or mental “rooms” as the management writer Charles Handy called them) are described below and shown in the diagram that follows these descriptions:
- The Open or Arena area: This so-called “room” on the chart below at top left represented traits of the subjects that both they and their peers are completely aware of.
- The Hidden or Façade area: This room representing information about the person that a person’s colleagues are unaware of (because they have not been shared and have been deliberately concealed).
- The Blind area: This room represented information that the subject is not aware of, but others are, and they can decide whether and how to inform the individual about these “blind spots“.
- The Unconscious or Unknown area: This room representing the participant’s behaviors or motives that were not recognized by anyone participating. This may be because they do not apply or because there is collective ignorance of the existence of these traits.
For many years this model enjoyed widespread use in many circles to aid better communication, and it was made great use of in business training to enable leaders to give better feedback and build team relationships. But while the use of Johari’s window has inevitably lessened over time as it has got older and more familiar (albeit now also forgotten/overlooked by many) it is perhaps time to re-invigorate its use and to help do so, in the diagram below is offered some enriched content to the 4-quadrant grid that might be drawn upon to have a wider discussion. This discussion is about who a person “really” is, both as they perceive him or herself and as others perceive him or her. In addition, the discussion can be extended to what a person is capable of becoming both in terms of direct feedback from others, in the blind realm, and in terms of a person’s as yet uncharted or undiscovered potential. The Johari’s window chart with new extended descriptors is therefore now as follows:
|Known to Self||Unknown to Self|
|Known to others||Open
Discussions here tend to center around the weather, where you are from, name, rank and “serial number” and are often seen as the “short-hand” or summary version of who a person is. Although this will vary from one person to the next the goal here for a given individual is often to check whether this “public persona” is fully aligned or whether it is even slightly misaligned (for example historically accurate information about a person has changed).
In this quadrant, signals are often sent unintentionally by body language and can be the subject of gossip in others, and an individual can be blissfully unaware of views, behaviors and habits that are either negatively or positively viewed. In either case, the ideal goal for an individual here is to develop a greater open-mindedness and ask people for feedback more often and in genuine ways so that he or she can have a more complete picture.
|Unknown to others||Hidden
Often concealed because these are the personal insecurities that we are often ashamed to admit or impulses we consider to be anti-social or inconsistent with our self-image (or even memories of events where we failed or performed badly) plus reactions to other people that we judge would be impolite or hurtful to reveal to their face. Some of this concealed information does not necessarily serve us well in building strong and honest relationships with others.
These are the hidden talents or potential we all have as well as many unconscious thoughts and feelings to which we may be paying little or no attention, as well as situations that catch us by surprise. By definition there is little we can do to plan to make conscious changes here but we can relax, reflect more and be more mindful on a regular basis (or pay greater attention to what is happening around us all the time).
As we can see, the Johari’s window model, despite its long use, still has a considerably greater contribution to make to our understanding of ourselves and others, and not only in the communication realm (as important as this is). It is therefore worth revisiting both personally and professionally, and particularly if you are a leader with people who work for you.