Improving Communication Using the Johari Window
The Johari Window is a psychological tool that is often used to help people better understand themselves (self-awareness) and their relationships with others.
The Johari Window model was created by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, back in 1955 while they were researching group dynamics. On an interesting note, the model was named by combining their first names (Joe and Harry).
Since then, the model has been used widely in corporate settings (as well as the self-help industry) as a tool to assist in self-awareness, communication, interpersonal relationships, and group/team development and dynamics.
In the workplace, the Johari Window is an effective means of opening up the channels of communication. This is done by building trust and communication between team members, which in turn builds respect, productivity and teamwork.
How the Johari Window Works
The model is made up of four quadrants (also known as perspectives, regions or areas). Each of these quadrants represent the four levels of knowledge (feelings, motivations, information) that exist between individuals. The quadrants are:
Open Area – These are the things that are known by the individual about themselves, that are also known by others. For example, both Tom and his workmates know that Tom is punctual as he always arrives to work on time and is never late for a meeting.
Blind Area – These are the things that the individual doesn’t know about themselves but they are known by others. For example, Beth and Joe know that Tom prefers to sit in the same seat in their meeting every week, but he does so without knowing he is doing it.
Hidden Area – These are the things that an individual knows about themselves, that others do not know. These are the private things that we choose not to share. For example, Tom is going through a rough patch with his son which is making him feel quite stressed.
Unknown Area - These are the things that no one knows.
As we become more comfortable with those around us, the Open Area will expand to include more things. The Hidden Area will shrink as we build better relationships with people and the Blind Area will shrink when we are given feedback by others.
The bigger the Open Area, the better the communication that is shared.
Using the Johari Window
Using the Johari Window as a team exercise is simple to implement, and can really help open up the lines of communication within your workplace.
The steps to do this are:
Provide each team member with a blank grid of the Johari Window and a list of adjectives (these are provided below).
Have individuals choose a specific number of adjectives from the provided list, that they feel, correctly describes their own personality and write these down on a piece of paper.
Have individuals then pick adjectives (from the same list) that they feel best describes each other (focus on one person at a time), also writing these on a piece of paper for each person.
Once these adjectives are picked, the individual should then divide these into the Johari Window grid as follows:
Open Area – Place all the adjectives that both the individual and the other team members used to describe the individual.
Blind Area – Place all the adjectives that the team picked but the individual did not pick to describe themselves. These are elements of the subject's personality that others see, but they may not themselves.
Hidden Area – Place all the adjectives that the individual used to describe themselves that were not picked by the rest of the team. These represent the things we know about ourselves but others may not see.
Unknown Area – Place all the remaining adjectives that neither the individual or the team picked. These represent the things about the subject that neither they nor their peers identify with them. This may be because they do not apply to the subject, or because there is a collective unknown, or ignorance towards these personality traits.
The Johari Window's adjective list is made up of 56 words that can be used as possible descriptions of the subjects.
They are: able, accepting, adaptable, bold, brave, calm, caring, cheerful, clever, complex, confident, dependable, dignified, empathetic, 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, spontaneous, sympathetic, tense, trustworthy, warm, wise, and witty.
While these adjectives are the most common ones used, the Johari Window technique can also be used with habits, skills, information etc.
Using the Johari Window to Improve Communication with Your Team
Step One: Educate
If you decide to use the Johari Window technique to help bridge some of the gaps in communication within your team, then education is the first step. You will need to lay out exactly what you expect of team members during this exercise, the purpose of completing it and what impact you want it to have. After this is done, you can proceed with the technique.
Step Two: Open Up
After you have shared the details of the technique with your team, it is time to get everyone thinking about how they see themselves, and how they see each other. This will help when it comes to picking adjectives, and working on the Open room of the window.
One of the best ways to do this is by starting really small. Sharing small, harmless details can help build a foundation of trust that will help the process work smoothly, and help with opening communication channels.
As everyone starts to open up more, and more, you can share larger things like feelings, ambitions and goals. While opening up is good for building trust, there is no need to encourage people to share their deep, dark secrets.
Step Three: Encouragement
Encouraging your team to provide personal feedback is a great way to make sure everyone is getting what they need from this process. This not only helps make sure that things that fell into the Blind Area can be addressed, but also helps make sure things in the Open Area stay open.
Step Four: Reflection
After completing the exercise, it is important to allow people the time to reflect on the feedback received and what this means. It is also important to come together as a team and reflect on what they got out of the exercise and how it has helped communication/trust etc.
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