Discover your Weaknesses and Growth areas with the Johari Window Model

There's a saying that paraphrases the Johari Window Model:

"If one person calls you a horse, ignore them. If 3 people call you a horse, look in the mirror. If 5 people call you a horse, buy a saddle."

It just means if there are enough people telling you something, you may want to listen to them. Doesn't mean they are 'correct', it's just they have a reason for thinking that way.

This model was created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram to help understand how we process information and our self awareness. Within the Johari Window Model there are 4 quadrants:

Quadrant 1: Open

These are traits that are out in the open. These are the things you and other people know about you.

Ideally you want to have the 'open' window as large as possible. In a team environment, this is where we are most productive or constructive.

This open area is where there is a higher level of trust and good communication. When things are "out in the open" (good or bad), the group knows where everybody is coming from and it allows easier communication.

Quadrant 2: Blind

These are the things about you that you are not aware of but other people see. Characteristics in this quadrant can be the most important quadrant for you to use.

This quadrant, is probably the most sensitive to provide feedback than the other 3 quadrants; especially if it's not a positive characteristic. There are areas in life where we may really be worse than we think, and the best way is to just be open to (or give) constructive feedback. It's not easy when when we are kept in the dark about things, but not all of us are ready to accept this kind of feedback.

The process of getting in-depth feedback is part of self actualization within Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs development model.

Quadrant 3: Hidden

These are things that you know about that others do not. The hidden self could be feelings, talents, information (secrets), fears or anything that a person does not make known to others.

It could be something deep or something "light". For instance, a guy who likes watching romance films (shhh!) and doesn't tell his spouse because he wants to be perceived more as a 'man'. Where in reality it could be holding back the happiness of that person because the spouse would love to do those kind of things.

The point is, there are some things that don't need to be kept hidden, but that choice should be made by of us and not imposed by others. We all have secrets; just be sure it's not holding you back in some way. After all, the more we reveal about ourselves in a high trust environment the more effective your your team will be.

Quadrant 4: Unknown

These are the things about you that you and others do not know. This area represents the opportunity to explore new ideas about yourself.

Within the unknown window lies your hidden abilities or skills. This is the area where you have the opportunity to explore new things. Since they are unknown, there's usually less pressure on you to "try" the things in this window.

On the other hand, within the unknown lies repressed feelings, unknown fears, behaviors conditioned since you were a child. It all depends on what you wish to analyze and the end goal you wish to achieve through such analysis.

The Johari Window Model a useful tool in self analysis: after all, you cannot consciously change what you don't know. The key is to be open to the feedback other people are giving you. Everybody knows at least somebody that has some glaring blind spots and just won't listen.

This model can be applied to just about any area where there are more than 1 person (business, family, etc). You could use this to analyze emotions, business activities, skills evaluation, personality traits, etc.

Johari Window Exercise

Here's an exercise the founders of the Johari Window Model came up with that could be a good starting point.

  1. Pick the 5-6 characteristics that represents yourself from the list below
  2. Then have 5-6 other people pick 5-6 characteristics that represents you from the list below
  3. From there you can build your own simple Johari Window Model
    • Categorize as open For the traits that at least one other person identified that you identified
    • Categorize as Blind for all traits that others have listed and you did not
    • Categorize as Hidden for all traits you listed that others did not list
    • Categorize the rest of the traits as 'unknown'
able
accepting
adaptable
bold
brave
calm
caring
cheerful
clever
complex
confident
dependable
dignified
energetic
extroverted
friendly
giving
happy
helpful
idealistic
independent
ingenious
intelligent
introverted
kind
knowledgeable
logical
loving
mature
modest
nervous
observant
organized
patient
powerful
proud
quiet
reflective
relaxed
religious
responsive
searching
self-assertive
self-conscious
sensible
sentimental
shy
silly
smart
spontaneous
sympathetic
tense
trustworthy
warm
wise
witty

Examine the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I'm a believer in aligning your skills and tasks to your strengths, and the Johari Window Model can definitely help you discover talents, or potential you never knew. However, I think this tool is best used to examine unknown, glaring weaknesses that needs to be addressed. The list of negative traits developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram is a Nohari variant. These are the blind spots worth addressing.

In western culture, we generally do avoid direct confrontation on other people's negative qualities. Which is generally not the case for eastern cultures; they tend to address "negative" issues directly.

So, for us in western culture, here's an analogy that could work: Before a meeting, you bump into one of your friends and he sees a big, huge booger in your nose. While embarrassing, wouldn't you like to know if you have a booger in your nose before everybody at the meeting sees it?

It's generally better and easier to have your friends or people you trust give you feedback on these kind of issues. So, here's a quick list of "negative qualities" to get you started.

blasé
boastful
brash
callous
chaotic
childish
cold
cowardly
creepy
cruel
cynical
distant
dispassionate
dull
embarrassed
foolish
glum
hostile
humorless
ignorant
impatient
imperceptive
inane
inattentive
incompetent
inflexible
insecure
insensitive
intolerant
irrational
irresponsible
lethargic
loud
needy
over dramatic
panicky
passive
predictable
rash
selfish
self-satisfied
simple
smug
stupid
timid
unethical
unhappy
unhelpful
unimaginative
unreliable
vacuous
violent
vulgar
weak
withdrawn

In conclusion, the Johari Window Model is a simple tool to discover strengths, blind spots and areas to explore. This feedback model works best in a team environment that has a high level of trust. To be effective, be sure to analyze the positive and negative qualities; use feedback to your advantage, it can pay dividends.

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