Utilise the window to grow

By Trigunesh Mukherjee

A framework that is used quite widely by behavioral scientists is the JOHARI WINDOW. The first names of the two scientists who developed the framework, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, combined to form the word JOHARI.

The popularity of this framework stems from the fact that it can be utilized for various aspects of management - Leadership, Relationship, Analyzing Interpersonal Conflict, Effectiveness, Interpersonal Styles etc. The theory, amply proven over the years, rests on the hypothesis that each one of us has a window with four openings, so to say, according to which we relate to others. Here, the concern is with ‘significant others’ and our interaction with them.

The aim of Johari Window, quite simply, is to learn about self in relation to others and to improve the self. Based on one’s responses, a questionnaire enables the measurement of where one stands.

The dynamic windowpanes

All of us know a lot about ourselves including how we interact with people or would like to. The people around us also know a lot of this mainly because we let people know. Therefore, a common ground comes into existence. What we perhaps let others know (about us) are things or qualities that we are comfortable with or would like people to appreciate or admire in us. These are usually our strengths or good points, our influences and so on. This part we deliberately and consciously like to share with the others.

Then there are things we not readily want o share with others. We thereby introduce a new windowpane - an area that is not common ground. Weaknesses, fears, hidden agendas and feelings and sometimes, even strengths may lie in this area. Sharing these makes one feels vulnerable and there is a fear of being harmed, rejected or being exposed. So, there are characteristics and qualities that we don’t let others see or know. In effect we hide a bit of ourselves from others. A lot of time and energy is spent by many of us in managing this area.

Most of us have this notion that we know everything about ourselves which, of course, is a grave error because there is a lot about us that others observe or perceive that we do not know - because they don’ tell us. At times when they do, we think we know better and ignore or block what others have to tell us. The key here is to note that it is not only the intent that something is done with, but the impact on others that is also important.

In addition, there is that huge area we have no time to explore - perhaps because we are too busy to do so - which is, therefore, neither known to us nor known to the others.

In that fashion, the Johari Window divides itself into a two by two matrix - one column indicates what we know about ourselves and the second column is about what we don’t know about ourselves. The two rows indicate what others know about us and what they don’t know about us.

Thus, we have the four panes or four openings of the window.

Arena or Shared-Self “I Know” and “Others Know”

Facade or Hidden-Self “I Know” but “Others Don’t Know”

Blind Spot “I Don’t Know” but “Others Know”

Unknown or Potential “Neither I nor Others Know”


The Critical pane

To sustain an effective and meaningful relationship with the significant others around us there is no better pane to operate from than the Shared Self. If both people concerned in an interaction are working from their Shared Self, the interaction would be focused, with all information available to both parties, no hidden agendas or feelings, and all energies directed towards the interaction. This is the ideal situation. Though it is tempting to challenge the practicality of this in all situations, it may be a good idea to explore this further with an open mind.

It may also seem impractical to not have a Hidden-Self or Facade in all situations. True, but keeping it as low as possible, especially in relation with the significant others, is a great step in building effective relationships.

There are two rather apparent techniques to increase the size of ones Shared-Self - sharing more and getting relevant feedback. How we are (as reflected in our Window) intimately influences our attitudes, relationships and leadership styles. This little square touches every corner of our lives; the more we understand it, the better


Because we are always in a hurry to talk and respond we have unlearnt a very vital skill, that of listening. If we were to utilize feedback, the first three rules, at least, would be “listen”. But even before that, we have to create an environment of easy flowing feedback. The problem is that the moment somebody starts to tell us something, we are already responding with a defensive answer, justification or “No, you don’t understand...” or “Yes, but...” kind of statements.

It is interesting to note that with a larger Arena (by reducing the Façade and Blind Spot), one also ends up exploring more of one’s own potential. Opportunities, experimentation, feedback are all triggers for us to pursue (or not) what lies in the Unknown box.

The shape of the windowpanes may vary slightly while relating to certain types of people (for example: with friends, with subordinates, with colleagues, with bosses) but the base framework of our window would be of a kind.

Refer to the grey box in the figures below


Turtle (Leave me alone)

Typically, this is a person who neither likes to talk too much about self, nor wants to listen to others about themselves. In other words, this is a person who does not disclose much and also does not seek much feedback. Such a person’s ARENA is likely to be very small and both FACADE and BLIND SPOT are likely to be large. It is also quite likely that the UNKNOWN would be large too. Appropriately called the Turtle because of the reluctance to show or be approachable.

Bull in a China Shop (Let me tell you)

There are people who like to talk and talk letting everybody know how they feel about everything but are not so inclined to listen when others speak. Such a person would have a large ARENA but skewed towards the left, therefore, a longish ARENA coming vertically down. Likely to `have a smaller FACADE but the BLIND SPOT will be large. Chances of the UNKNOWN being large are also high. The name because of the lack of care for others and their opinions and feelings.

The Interviewer (Tell me but don’t ask)

Some of us come across as concerned people because we ask a lot of questions. We want to know a lot about what others say but are not prepared to share too much of ourselves with others. The ARENA is likely to be large but along the top of the box. The FACADE is likely to be large for obvious reasons. However, the BLIND SPOT is likely to be smaller. The UNKNOWN is also likely to be big. Called the Interviewer -

Tell me more but don’t ask me much.


Open

Every now and then we come across people (hopefully some of us are in that category) who invite comments like “open person”, “transparent person”, “so comfortable” etc. This happens because the person seems to share a lot of information and at the same time likes to listen to a lot that is being said. Such a person’s ARENA will be large but in very balanced way; that is to say both FACADE and BLIND SPOT would be smaller. Because of his/her inclination to listen and take in cues from the outside the chances of his/her UNKNOWN being smaller is also high.

If you have filled the instrument and drawn your window, interpret it keeping in mind both the size and the shape. The size is indicative of how much we share or listen and the shape is related to the balance between the two. An appropriate or desirable window for meaningful and effective relationships therefore would be a large (for extent) square (for balance).

Imbalance seeks balance!

In all laws of nature, an imbalance of any kind always seeks equilibrium. Similar is the case here. Analyzing this a little more we would realize that a TURTLE is likely to be a fairly closed person. But what is not instantly apparent is that both the INTERVIEWER and the BULL IN A CHINA SHOP are likely to be pushed back towards being a TURTLE, though for differing reasons.

People will get sick and tired of listening to monologues and will start avoiding or evading or stop listening to the BULL. Due to the relationship, social requirement or hierarchy they may pretend to listen and pay attention but will in reality only do ‘ear service’. Thus all the sharing and self-disclosure of the BULL does not serve its purpose.

Similarly, the INTERVIEWER who initially seems “such a nice person” will get pushed back because people will start having doubts about the intention of such a person. They may question the attitude of only asking and not expressing and over time may doubt the intentions and motive. No one likes to put down their cards on the table without being allowed at least a glimpse of the other’s cards. Finally the INTERVIEWER is also pushed back as others around him give partial, incorrect or colored information to them - usually something that the INTERVIEWER likes to listen to.

Taking pains to maintain the panes!

There are a lot of direct linkages among the four sections that enable us to be more effective. Some areas we can look at are:

  • Disclosure is up to us and therefore the more we share information the more comfortable people will be in disclosing from their point of view, and thus providing us feedback. Both sharing and feedback have an inherent perceived risk and lowering that helps in the sharing-feedback process. The onus of lowering this lies with the person interested in receiving feedback.

  • Feedback (though it emerges from the Blind Spot) often enables us to explore the Unknown because it may trigger off thoughts that have not occurred earlier. There may be sudden realization - “Ah! I never thought of that way!” Also, any feedback maybe useful, even if it is not entirely true, as it validates ones own thinking and can provide reflective insights.

  • The more we hide (bigger the Facade) the more we have to lie (at least to ourselves) and more the emotional energy wasted. The less we hide the more free we feel. Think of any instance when you felt relieved after sharing something you had kept to yourself. The relief is the release of blocked up energies.

  • In the Facade if we keep stocking too much someday we will forget our stocks and there is every likelihood of a lot of it moving into the Blind Spot. We will be under a wrong impression that others don’t know.

  • To explore the Unknown we have to delve more into ourselves and share more. At the same time, seeking and utilizing feedback will assist us with the benefit of others’ observations and this exchange often triggers to open more of the Unknown.

  • The left column is our self-perception (including both reality and fantasy) and the top row is the others’ perception (including both reality and perceptions). The only common area is the Arena. A mismatch of the self-perception and others’ perception can lead to a credibility problem. The larger the Arena, the larger the common ground that ensures credibility and therefore more comfortable and sustainable relationships

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