How To Improve Communication Using the Johari Window

How To Improve Communication Using the Johari Window

We all have those few people with whom we share our innermost thoughts and feelings. But the majority of friends, acquaintances, and co-workers only know our “facade” self – the person we choose to let everyone see and know. And our communication with them is less intimate and, often at work, pretty standard and almost formal.

What if managers and team leaders decided to share more of themselves with their teams? Would there be a change in the behaviors and relationships among those team members? According to two psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, it will. And they developed a model back in 1955 to show just how this can happen. It’s called the Johari Window.

What is the Johari Window?

The Johari Window helps you understand how you perceive others and vice versa.

The model below shows four quadrants of a person’s “self.” When that person comes to understand each of his “personas,” he becomes more self-aware and also comes to know how others perceive him too.

There are two overriding concepts here – trust can be enhanced by revealing more information about yourself to others and by receiving and accepting the feedback that they give to you. This works in reverse too, as you learn more about others and provide feedback to them too.

Once people are aware of these four personas, they can work to improve their interactions with others in the workplace, building trustful relationships that will improve team productivity.

Here is a basic visual of the Johari Window model, and the four “selves” that each person has:

Source: Research Gate

Now, let’s unpack each of these four personas in detail.

The Open Self

The Open Self is your “public” persona – those things you know about yourself and that others know about you. For example, you are pretty pedantic and everyone around you knows that and tries to adjust.

The Blind Self

The Blind Self summarizes your hidden negative qualities – something you don’t realize that you have. For instance, you may not notice your micromanagement tendencies.

The Hidden Area

Your Hidden Area encompasses all the personal things that you do not share with others. If you are going through a rough patch in your marriage, it is not something you speak about to your team members. It does, though, cause some stress, and that may be reflected in your approach to your work.

The Unknown Area

The Unknown Area covers all the things that no one knows, not even yourself. So, you may have buried issues from your childhood that are impacting your performance or your leadership style. Suppose you had an overbearing father as a role model. As a result, you may also display overbearing and authoritarian qualities without realizing it.

An Example of the Johari Window in the Workplace

You have a new hire on the team – Megan. Here is how the Johari Window will come to play as she works for you:

  • At first, everyone knows just a few basics about Megan. But she does share a few new things over lunch e.g. that she has a dog and loves painting. So her “open quadrant” is getting larger
  • Then Megan begins to reveal some of her “blind self” through her behaviors. She often speaks a bit too loud. Her co-workers are comfortable giving her feedback and she becomes more aware of this. So this bit moves to her Open Area.
  • Megan becomes friends with another person. She feels more comfortable sharing some personal details with her, and later with everyone else on the team. In other words, more data moves from hidden to open self.

How Managers Can Use the Johari Window

Your main goal is to enlarge the “open” quadrant for yourself and all of your team members. This helps develop closer bonds on the team, steer up engagement and motivation. When team members “open up” among themselves and become more self-aware, they understand their strengths and weaknesses, and ways in which they can improve their behaviors and relationships.

Here are several steps that should help you accomplish just that.

Be a Model

Expose your personal self a bit more and openly request feedback, especially for areas in your “blind” quadrant – things you don’t realize you are doing that may be frustrating to your team members.

Maybe you are micromanaging too much. Perhaps you are not as good of a facilitator as you should be. As you expand your “open” quadrant, your team members will feel more comfortable doing it themselves and become more receptive to feedback that you give, both positive and negative.

Prompt Others to Reveal their “Hidden Selves”

Here’s one specific exercise that helps with this:

Ask each team member to jot down a few adjectives describing themselves on a large piece of paper. Then pass it around so that others can add several for themselves. Afterward, you can either share the final list with everyone or exchange the deets privately.

Further, you can also ask your team members to submit, anonymously, some of their “hidden” things. While these may not be revealed to other team members, the exercise serves a good purpose. It will allow team members to understand that their co-workers do have situations in their personal lives that often come to work with them. Overall, it serves to increase greater empathy.

Encourage to Give and Receive Feedback

Present team members with the quadrant model. Ask them to describe their team members in the area of quadrant two. Again, they can do so anonymously. These descriptions can be shared privately with individual team members, to give them insights into their “blind” behaviors.

Conclusion

The Johari Window is not new. But it is as relevant today as it was in 1955. After all, we still struggle with self-awareness and are slow to trust new people. The goal of Johari Window is to help you understand more about yourself and the people you work with or manage. And prompt them to progressively expand their “open persona” and diminish the information in three other quadrants.

If you put this model to action and educate your teams through concrete exercises, you will get a far more collaborative and productive team!

Photo by Mimi Thian

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