Untangling the Johari Window: Part 2/2

Last week we introduced the Johari Window (pronounced "Joe-Harry"). Described as a "graphical model for interpersonal awareness," the Johari Window provides a framework we can use to understand and improve our interactions with others.

Joseph Luft, the "Joe" in "Joe-Harry," described ten principles of change that can offer deep insights into how the constant movement of what we know and don’t know about ourselves and others affects our lives and relationships.

We made it through the first five last time. If you missed it, you can catch up here. This week we will share the remaining five, but first, a quick review.

The Johari Window

The Johari Window is a simple two-by-two matrix. For all our behaviors, tendencies, motivators, desires, etc., there are those we are aware of for ourselves (known to self) and those of which we are unaware (unknown to self). This is the x-axis of the matrix.

Likewise, there are those aspects are known to others, and those that are unknown to others, the y-axis of the matrix.

Combining the x and y axes results in a four-quadrant matrix:

  • Q1: Open, known to self and others
  • Q2: Blind, known to others, but unknown to self
  • Q3: Hidden, known to self but not to others
  • Q4: Unknown, to both self and others

Recall that the size of each quadrant—each pane of the window—is not fixed. The relative size of each pane changes all the time.

Given these dynamics, Luft identified ten principles of change.

A Quick Re-cap of Principles 1-5

  1. A change in any one quadrant will affect all other quadrants.
  2. It takes energy to hide, deny, or be blind to behavior which is involved in interaction.
  3. Threat tends to decrease awareness; mutual trust tends to increase awareness. Forced awareness (exposure) is undesirable and usually ineffective.
  4. Interpersonal learning means a change has taken place so that Quadrant I is larger and one or more of the other quadrants has grown smaller.
  5. Working with others is facilitated by a large enough area of free activity. It means more of the resources and skills in the membership can be applied to the task at hand.

Principles 6-10

On to the remaining five principles!

Principle #6: The smaller the first quadrant, the poorer the communication.

We often describe the evolution of a group as forming, storming, norming, and performing. You can’t skip the first two phases. This is where Quadrant I gets bigger. People have to know enough about each other to communicate effectively, an obvious prerequisite to effective teamwork.

Leaders must create a safe clearing that people feel comfortable stepping into. This is what expanding Quadrant I looks like.

Principle #7: There is universal curiosity about unknown areas, but this is held in check by custom, social training, and by diverse fears.

If you met an amputee, would you ask her how she lost her arm? Or would you pretend not to notice? Do you think she actually believes that you might have overlooked the fact that she is missing an arm? How much energy does this charade take (see Principle #2, above)? How much are these fears and social norms in the way of real relationships?

Our culture conditions us to believe asking such personal questions is impolite. Certainly one must be sensitive (see Principle #8, below), but in general, we are far too hesitant to ask people real questions about who they are.

As author David Brooks points out in his wonderful new book, How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others and Being Deeply Seen, most people desperately want to talk about their life experiences, and often the more difficult the experience, the more they want to talk about it.

Be sensitive, be respectful, and be culturally aware, but know that the world would be a better place if we knew each other a little better, a little more deeply. And from the other direction, recognize that others genuinely want to know who is hiding over there in Quadrant III.

Principle #8: Sensitivity means appreciating the covert aspects of behavior in Quadrants II, III, and IV and respecting the desire of others to keep them so.

An emotionally intelligent leader can accurately gauge how and when to solicit self-disclosure (moving information from Quadrant III to Quadrant I), give honest feedback (Q-II to Q-I), and knows how to foster self-discovery (Q-IV to Q-I or -III).

Principle #9: Learning about group processes as they are being experienced helps to increase awareness (larger Quadrant I) for the group as a whole, as well as for individual members.

When we work together as a group, a leader who can not only address the content of the work, but also the context and the group dynamics in which the work is happening, in real time, helps the group and its members learn, grow, and become more self-aware.

Effective leadership means stepping out of the content of the discussion and noting, for example, “Hey, did you notice how half the room went silent when you said that? What’s up? How is everyone feeling? What happened there?”

Principle #10: The value system of a group and its membership may be noted in the way unknowns in the life of the group are confronted.

When we work with groups, seeing what group is willing to confront, and where they stay silent, tells us a lot about how well the group functions, or doesn’t function. Groups that are unwilling or unable to change the sizes of the hidden quadrants cannot perform at a high level, whether performance means effectively running a company or getting along as a family.

How many people have decided that their ideas about politics must be hidden away in Q-III when they get together with their families for the holidays? How much energy does this suck out of the room (refer once again Principle #2 above).

The Johari Window at Work

The Johari Window offers a framework for understanding interpersonal dynamics, but it's more than that. It provides actionable insights that can transform how we interact with others. We can use it to foster deeper connections and more effective communication.

Neither is the Johari Window limited to individual growth. It can also be a guide for organizational and team development. By applying the four quadrants and the ten principles we have shared, leaders and team members alike can create environments where openness, trust, and mutual understanding flourish. This, in turn, enhances collaboration, innovation, and overall team performance. The Johari Window is a simple model that offers powerful results.

If you'd like a guide for your journey through the four quadrants, we are here to help. Book a free, 30-minute introductory coaching session to get started!

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Executive Coaching, Corporate Training, and Group Facilitation

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Executive Coaching, Corporate Training, and Group Facilitation

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