Johari Window

Johari Window. Psychology Fanatic article header image
Johari Window. Psychology Fanatic
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The Johari window is a communication tool designed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950’s. The Johari window assists individuals gain self awareness into their own behaviors, beliefs and feelings and how others perceive these qualities. This four quadrant graphic matrix provides a framework for the dynamic processes of self-discovery and interpersonal communication.

Key Definition:

Johari Window is a four quadrant graphic matrix, depicting various levels of self awareness as expressed in relationships with others. The model is widely used for training in self understanding, self awareness, personal development, and improving group and interpersonal communications.

History of the Johari Window

In the 1950’s, American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed this four quadrant model to symbolize the dynamics of self awareness and communication in interpersonal relationships. They referred to the model as ‘Johari window.’ Johari is a construction of their first names ‘Joe’ and ‘Harry’ (Ravindran, 2007). They formally published their paper in the early 1960s.

Since the publication, instructors and therapists have used their model for understanding and training in “self-awareness, personal development, improving communications, interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, team development and inter-group relationships” (2007).

While Luft and Ingham largely created the diagram for teaching communication in groups, it also accurately portrays the complexities of communication in intimate relationships. Within the four sections, we see shades of psychological concepts of defense mechanisms, protective reactions to past trauma, and personality traits. I will make expand on these connections as we explore the different areas within the Johari Window graphic.

Four Quadrants of Johari Window

The model divides personal awareness of information (behaviors, traits, beliefs, histories, etc.…) into four quadrants—open, blind, hidden, and unknown. While this image of the Johari window presents the four areas as equal, the quadrants actually differ between relationships, context, and adapt overtime. The four quadrants interrelate. Accordingly, when one section expands, one or more of the others retract.

We don’t measure ourselves or others with the four quadrants like a personality type. Instead, the Johari window is a tool to better understand interpersonal communication for a particular group (or relationship). Our personal balance between the four quadrants may vary greatly depending on the group we are assessing.

Johari Window. Psychology Fanatic. Diagram
Johari Window. Psychology Fanatic. Diagram

Open Area

In the Johari window, the first quadrant represents the “Open” area. This is the part of ourselves that everyone knows, including ourselves. This open area serves as the foundation for healthy relationships and effective communication. This is not the same as the big five personality trait of openness, which refers to open to new experiences.

A large open area in a particular relationship means that the person and the other(s) in that particular group know a lot about each other. By the very nature of new relationships, the open area is very small. However, overtime the open area expands as familiarity grows, and partners or team members build trust.

Intimate relationships exemplify a large open area where each partner shares the intimate secrets and the other honors these tender revelations. Ravindran explains that the open or free area, “can be seen as the space where good communication and cooperation occur, free from distraction, mistrust, confusion, conflict, and misunderstanding” (2007).

While openness is a quality of productive, healthy relationships, this does not imply we should be open in every relationship. Some unscrupulous others may misuse or take advantage of personal revelations. These relationships are not healthy and we should limit them.

Blind Area

In the second quadrant is the “Blind Spot” or “Façade” area. This represents aspects of ourselves that are visible to others but our hidden from our own awareness. We are afraid. Hidden information about ourselves is typically unpleasant. Perhaps, hidden information about ourselves, conveniently pushed into unconscious realms, may be unknown for a purpose. We deny, project, and repress thoughts that ignite fears and insecurity.

From a defense mechanisms standpoint, we most likely would wish these areas in our blind area were also hidden from others. The blessing of the blind area is that this information is available. By seeking feedback from others, we may reduce these blind spots, expanding an accurate self-perception.

People readily provide feedback if we receive it graciously. If we defensively react to these revelations, most people begin to filter their feedback, effectively leaving us blind to key aspects of our lives.

Hidden Area

We call the third quadrant the “Hidden” or “Avoidance” area of the Johari Window. The thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that we consciously keep to ourselves, choosing not to disclose them to others reside here. We may hide these self aspects for a variety of reasons. Ravindran explains that “the hidden area could…include sensitivities, fears, hidden agendas, manipulative intentions” (2007).

Much of the information here may rightfully belong in the private. Business meetings usually are not the place to air personal laundry. Our home life may remain private. However, this area id also littered with information that rightfully should be shared in appropriate relationships. Our fears of rejection often prevent adequate sharing. We hide large portions of our selves, hoping people will embrace the shell of a person we choose to reveal.

When the hidden area is large in significant personal relationships, we can not enjoy true intimacy. Yet, if a partner has repeatedly used private and confidential exposures for their personal gain and manipulative games then keeping information private may be advisable. However, once we start withholding information from a lover for safety then, perhaps, we should take a long look at the reasons for staying in the relationship.

We intentionally hide some information about ourselves for strategic purposes, which sometimes may be manipulative or nefarious. Consequently, exposing our agenda may invite interference. The unscrupulous may create business’ deals with criminal or unfair future designs. Consequently, much evil is done by keeping others in the dark.

Personal explorations into our fears and protections can be challenging but these journeys lead to personal growth, enhancing our connections with others.

Unknown Area

Lastly, we have the fourth quadrant, known as the “Unknown” area. This represents the untapped potential, talents, and qualities within us that remain unexplored and undiscovered. It encompasses the mysteries of our own being, waiting to be unlocked and utilized. Exploring this unknown territory requires courage, expressing a willingness to step out of our comfort zones. The person with an opportunity mindset curiously seeks growth by tapping into this quadrant of unexplored wealth.

One reason we resist journeys into this area of personal information is not every discovery here is pleasant. Our unconscious mind masterfully ditches a lot of disquieting parts of our self from the conscious mind. Some is readily visible to others (information in the hidden area). However, some of the dirty little facts and imperfections about ourselves sneaks behind the closed screens, hidden from ourselves and others.

Alfred Adler wrote that “Individuals are often unaware of their own life skills because they undervalue themselves, we will find also that many individuals are not sufficiently aware of their own shortcomings. They may consider themselves to be good people, whereas in reality they do everything out of selfishness” (2009).

Just because information is unnoticed does not mean it does not have an impact. Much hidden information in the unknown area intrudes and influences our lives in many untold ways. Because the information is hidden, we struggle to improve in certain areas.

Many therapies target uncovering information concealed in the hidden and unknown panes that may be contributing to disrupting symptoms. Judith Sutherland, Ph.D., explains that the purpose “is to bring into conscious awareness the existence and impact of maladaptive behaviors, attitudes, and incongruities between attitudes and behaviors” (1995).

A Few Words by Psychology Fanatic

In conclusion, the Johari window beautifully illustrates elements of self-awareness and active communication in groups and personal relationships. We can use the framework of the Johari window for self examination and assessment, encouraging personal and professional growth. M. Terese Verklan, PhD., wrote that discoveries in the unknown quadrant of “novel characteristics moves the information from the unknown to the open, hidden, or blind window, depending on how we each recognize the behavior” (2007). Accordingly, through self examination, we may learn how to expand our open area, acknowledge blind spots, sharing hidden aspects, and embracing the unknown. These explorations into our interpersonal relationships and relating skills may deepen our understanding of ourselves and others, leading to more authentic and fulfilling relationships.

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Adler, Alfred (2009). Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality. Oneworld Publications; 3rd edition.

Ravindran, P.T. (2007). Exploring the Conceptual Frame Work of Johari Window: Ingham and Luft’s Johari Window Model – for Self-awareness, Personal Development, Group Development and Understanding Relationships. Journal on Management, 1(3), 52-58.

Sutherland, Judith (1995). The Johari Window A Strategy for Teaching Therapeutic Confrontation. Nurse Educator, 20(3), 22-24.

Verklan, M. Terese (2007). Johari Window A Model for Communicating to Each Other. The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, 21(2), 173–174.

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