Have you ever received feedback or a comment which you felt was inaccurate? “Hey, that’s not true”, you exclaim.
But well, it happens. The first time my wife said I was stubborn, I said, “No way. I’m totally flexible.” She nodded and continued, “Sure, you are, but you’re adamant about certain things.”
When I thought deeper about what she said, I realized what I assumed about myself differs from how others perceive me. We exhibit certain behaviors without our knowledge which others notice. Our unconscious thoughts and action cause people to have an opinion about us which we’re unaware of.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know what others think about you? That’s exactly what Johari window helps you with.
- What is the Johari window?
- How to perform the Johari window exercise
- How to interpret the content of the 4 areas:
- 4. Unknown area
- Frequently asked questions:
What is the Johari window?
The Johari window is a method to understand yourself, your relationship with others, and the impression others have about you. It helps you understand if others perceive you like you think they do.
It serves as a self-awareness exercise for individuals and teams at the workplace to know themselves and each other better.
The technique was created by two psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham back in the 1950s. The name Johari is a combination of a portion of their first names. Some philosophers use the term Johari house with four rooms because it involves dividing the feedback you receive into four quadrants.
Since its inception, the method has gained popularity as a way to improve self-awareness in self-help groups. Corporates use the same activity to strengthen teamwork too.
In most cases, people are taken aback by the outcome of the Johari window. If you have never consciously asked for feedback from those you know well, their responses will leave you flabbergasted. You’ll realize what people think about you significantly varies from what you assume they do.
Though the result of the exercise changes every time, you must perform the activity at least once. You’ll gain better insights about your strengths, weaknesses, and windows of opportunities to become a better person as a whole.
How to perform the Johari window exercise
The Johari window model takes some work but is simple to execute. All you need is a set of people and sheets of paper. The entire exercise goes through three straightforward steps.
Step 1: List out your opinion about yourself
The entire exercise is centered around picking attributes off a list. The traditional method uses the following 56 adjectives as a baseline.
You’ll notice that most of these terms convey positive behavior.
You can add/remove items from the list to make the activity more suitable for your needs. A variation of the technique called the Nohari window introduces a set of antonyms of the original adjectives list. Introducing both positive and negative terms can help identify both your strengths and weaknesses for a better overall result.
Irrespective of the number and type of adjectives you use, pick 5 to 6 items on the list that you believe is applicable to you. If you want to go against conventional settings, you can pick more than 6 too. But keep in mind, the higher the number, the looser your association with the adjectives. Sticking to a smaller number forces you to pick only those attributes that depict your behavior.
As a team exercise, each person does the self-assessment individually.
Step 2: Ask others to provide their opinion about you
Pick a set of people who know you well enough. You can choose:
Hand them the same set of adjectives you used in Step 1. Ask them to note down what attributes among those do they believe are true about you. Each person providing you feedback must choose the same number of adjectives as you did. If you chose 6 attributes from the list in Step 1, so should the others.
The higher the number of people(assuming the right picks) you seek input from, the better insight you’ll have about yourself.
If you’re performing this as a team activity, every person must provide feedback for every other person in the group.
Step 3: Divide the input into 4 different quadrants
In the final step, you’ll have to tabulate the feedback you received. The Johari window breaks the input into 4 quadrants.
What are the four areas of the Johari Window?
1. Open area:
In the first quadrant, you must list down the attributes both you and the others(one or more people) chose. The model calls the section an open area because both you and the others agree about that specific adjective.
In the second quadrant, you must list those adjectives which others chose but you didn’t. This section is called the blind spot because failed to spot a strength or weakness in yourself, but others did.
3. Hidden area
In the third quadrant, you must list those adjectives which you chose but no one else did. This section is called the hidden area because what you considered as a strength or weakness went unseen by the others.
4. Unknown area
In the fourth quadrant, you must list those adjectives which neither you nor the others chose. This section is called the unknown area because no one found them relevant about you.
How to interpret the content of the 4 areas:
Now that you have content in each of the 4 quadrants of the Johari window test, you must make the best use of it. Unless you use the insight from the Johari window to change yourself, the entire exercise serves no purpose.
Here is how you can interpret each quadrant:
1. Open area:
You must aim to have the most number of adjectives under this quadrant. If you have one or more people vouching for what you mentioned, you’ve identified your quality well and so have the others.
If the listed attribute is a positive adjective, you must work on strengthening it further. For example, if the word ‘energetic’ falls within your first quadrant, use your vigor to inspire more people around you.
Negative attributes in the quadrant imply others notice a weakness in you. The good news however is, you already know the problem yourself. But, you have to ensure you work on improving yourself in that aspect.
Knowing your weakness and doing nothing to change is a sign of laziness or arrogance. For example, if you find ‘boastful’(from the Nohari window) in your first quadrant, you better reduce blowing your trumpet from now.
These are attributes others see in you, but you don’t.
When the blind spot is positive:
A positive attribute in the blind spot indicates you’re unaware of the good impression you’ve created. Or maybe, you believed it wasn’t strong enough to make a difference. Another possible reason is you assume your other attributes stand out better.
For example, if people consider you trustworthy, but that wasn’t among the adjectives you chose, you have lived up to the expectations of people more than you thought.
When the blind spot is negative:
Negative attributes in your blind spot are what you must focus on. The adjectives here indicate your weaknesses others have spotted in you but you haven’t. Or, you might have brushed them off as insignificant.
For example, if others consider you insensitive, but you did not notice it yourself, you have failed to see how your words and actions have hurt people. An unlikely reason to explain a negative blind spot is having so many poor attributes that you do not know which one stands out. Whichever the reason, you must work towards eliminating the negative behavior others see in you whether you believe it is true or not.
3. Hidden areas:
The adjectives in the hidden areas occur due to two different reasons.
These are qualities about yourself that you’re aware of but do not want to reveal to others. They may stem out of fear, insecurities, and confidential matters that you keep away from people on purpose.
For example, you might be sentimental as a person but hide that from others by appearing tough.
These are the adjectives you listed thinking others would notice about you, but no one did. The mismatch occurs when there is a difference between your perception of yourself and that of the others. The reason behind the disparity can have a different meaning altogether depending on whether the adjective is positive or negative.
If nobody else sees a positive attribute that you listed, it implies you’ve overestimated your skills or failed to do a good job at making others notice it in you. For example, if you consider yourself intelligent but others don’t, the most obvious causes are:
- You consider yourself more intelligent than you truly are
- You’re intelligent but others haven’t noticed it
- Though you’re intelligent, your other attributes out shadow your intelligence
If you have spotted a weakness in yourself, but others haven’t, you’ll have to dig further to decide if you need to act on it or not. Let’s say you considered yourself incompetent, but no one did, here are the possible causes:
- You’re being too critical about yourself
- Your weakness wasn’t apparent enough for others to notice
Sometimes, the people providing feedback aren’t comfortable to provide criticism. Even if the activity is anonymous, the number of people participating in the exercise and their level of trust can stop them from providing negative feedback.
4. Unknown area
Whether the adjectives in the fourth quadrant need any action depends on your choice, role, goals, circumstances, and so on. In general, these are qualities that you’re neither good nor bad at. This section is a playground for you to pick positive attributes to develop if you like.
For example, if you find ‘brave’ in your unknown area, you must decide for yourself if you want to work towards it. Before you do, remind yourself that neither you nor the others mentioned that as a concern. The outcome only indicates bravery isn’t among your top attributes. Whether you want to improve on that aspect is your choice.
You can leave the negative adjectives in the fourth quadrant alone because neither you nor others see that as a problem. That’s a good thing. If ‘foolish’ is under your unknown area, I’m sure you understand why you should not make an effort to appear stupid.
Frequently asked questions:
1. Can I increase the number of attributes chosen?
2. Can I use a different number of positive and negative attributes?
3. How many people should I request feedback from?
Those participating in the activity must have trust, the right intentions, and a comfort level to provide you genuine feedback.
4. Are the 4 quadrants equal in size?
5. Will my Johari window change over time?
Let’s take a real life example, you joined a new organization and asked your coworkers to provide feedback. You’ll hardly have any attributes in your open area because no one knows you well enough.
Most of what you pick will fall under the hidden area for the same reason. If you perform the same activity with the same people a year later, you’ll end up with a different outcome altogether.
Also, the people you choose determines how your final outcome takes shape.
The Johari window is a fantastic exercise to dig deeper into yourself and the perception people have about you. Often, we assume we’re doing all the right things, but your flaws remain oblivious to you.
The Johari window encourages you to ask for feedback. Not only does this help you spot your strengths and weakness from a bird’s eye, but it also fosters better relationships with people and makes them feel more valued.
That said, digesting the feedback you receive from people isn’t always easy. But, if you keep an open mind and a humble heart, you’ll reap the benefits.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.