Others \ Myself - Ohio University

Known to Others
Not Known to Others
Known to Self
Not Known to Self
The Johari Window
A Window onto Interpersonal Communication
Look through any window, what do I see?
Smiling faces all around......
The Johari Window is a flat-pack, conceptual model for describing, evaluating and
aspects of interpersonal communication. Through the panes we present and receive
about ourselves and others. The data flows are dynamic. Via the model we can see
movement from
one pane to another as trust ebbs and flows and actors exchange feedback. The size/shape
of the
panes may expand or contract. The metaphor of the window only goes so far but imagine
window as one-way glass or cracked, dirty, blurred, concave or convex. We may explore
metaphors - the keyhole, the wall, the padded cell!
The literature on human behaviour is littered with two dimensional arrays - the Blake Grid
Kilman Conflict model are other examples. In everyday life our interactions are far more
than can be represented two or even three-dimensionally. Nevertheless the Johari window
some insights.
The Johari Model
What I see in me
What I do NOT see in me
What you see in me
What you do NOT see in me
The Window Panes
This pane represents free and open exchange of information between me and others; public
behaviour available to everyone. The pane increases in size as the level of trust increases
me (a manager) and others (my staff), as more information - particularly personally
information - is shared. It is personally relevant information that each party finds useful.
Manager with a capacity for open relationships
What I see in me
What I do NOT see in me
What you see in me
What you do NOT see in me
The window has two-way glass. There is open exchange of facts, feelings and opinions
between two
people communicating through this pane. If you are in your Open Self but the glass is oneway then
the other person's facts, opinions and feelings are obscured. You become confused about
mutuality of the relationship. Your peer does not present himself/herself openly. We can
thus see a
person/manager with a capacity for open relationships becoming an interviewer who does
not reveal
For one reason or another I keep my information hidden. The fear is risking too much,
with exposure
to influences/demands and uncertainty. One reason for "my facade" could be that I do not
supported at home or in my work situation - perhaps I want to protect myself from being
BUT unless these assumptions are tested and I dip a toe in the water, learning about what
is real is
blocked. My thoughts may be a fantasy. On the other hand, I may keep certain kinds of
secret to support and protect others. My reasons may be
selfish - I wish to control the situation and non-disclosure could be tactically helpful.
however my intentions could be selfless if I believe that tactful non-disclosure private
may be helpful.
Tact, diplomacy or even smouldering resentment may feature with the private self.
Keeping your
views to yourself with no hint of how you feel about the other party can be useful
"Privacy" may protect you and others. The private self is controlled. Uncontrolled leaks
may be
untimely or hurtful. It may be irrelevant to reveal content from the private self even in a
relationship. But if there is leakage (perhaps you actually decide to open-up), relationships
may be
damaged because your partner(s) may question your motives for holding back in the first
place. Life
isn't fair, is it?
The Cool Customer, the Interviewer
If you decide to "come clean" and disclose then you may argue that this move into the
Open arena is
an expression of trust. However you must ask whether the other person is ready and able to
receive such feedback - if not the resultant upset, conflict etc needs to be managed.
Take each man's censure, but reserve they judgement.... Give thy thoughts no
tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Polonious, Hamlet, 1, 3
Leakage through the "blind-self" - may be communicated non-verbally. Your manner,
tone of voice may belie the content of your message. You may blurt it out wrongly,
awkwardly or
recklessly only to then try and retract by saying, "Oh, I didn't mean it, or I don't mean it
that way,
sorry!" Damage limitation is now needed - you are "naked".
As "I" work with others, I communicate all kinds of information of which I am unaware,
but others
pick up. How? By verbal cues, mannerisms, the way I say things or the style in which I
relate to
others. The extent to which I am insensitive to much of my own behaviour and what it may
communicate to others can be surprising and disconcerting e.g. a manager's tendency to
press too
hard in trying to speed up relevant discussion at a meeting to the detriment of others.
Bull in a China Shop
The blind spot is very important in terms of personal development. Many of us know and
realise that
others find things we do/say difficult or puzzling (more or less). These may be our
They can be "bull-in-a-china shop" behaviours which others find it hard to react to and are
hurt or
irritated/agitated by. Precisely what aggravates will depend upon their overall attitude
towards you
and their capacity for accommodating your behaviour (their tolerance and flexibility).
If they feel some affection for you, their threshold of tolerance will be high. If they have
no affection
they distance themselves. Your blind-spot behaviours may be irritants. You rub them up
the wrong
way. In a working relationship low affection/esteem for the other and blind-spot
behaviours are a
recipe for interpersonal conflict.
"Blind spotting" demands considerable self awareness and self-control. When you look in
the mirror
- you see yourself as you "like-to-see-yourself". You may not like certain personal traits
but many in
this situation are just not able to address these areas and change themselves.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who is the fairest of them all
Such personal learning (unravelling) involves the difficulties of building new, consistent
repetoires of
behaviour. AWARENESS is needed in the first place about the blind spot behaviours.
There has to
be a desire and WILLINGNESS to do something about it. You then have to take ACTION
- do it
and keep it up over time without lapsing. The funny thing about people is their fallability this is why
we are so interesting, loveable and unpredictable. Without variations (and often extremes)
character just think what a bland, boring world it would be.
Nevertheless in many life situations - others have to be able to accommodate your/my
behaviour and
if "bulls-in-china-shops" are rampant they can do considerable damage.
What difficulties stand in the way of such personal change? Stages in a personal change
process may be AWARENESS, WILLINGNESS & ACTION but why should it be
so difficult for people to change their blind spot behaviours? What additional factors
might be present to inhibit such change?
What affects me and us may be below the surface of awareness of both parties. Early
experiences may give rise to aversions learned through experience. We may have
resources and traits. Learning opportunities and exchange of feedback in a supportive
settings may
allow for these influences to surface and be opened - but only if we want to!
The Mystery of the Cupboard
These people are a mystery to each other. There may be suspicion merely because of lack
information. "I don't know why I am suspicious of you or why I am attracted to you. I
don't even
realise that I am attracted .... but I am."
Giving Feedback
People wittingly or unwittingly hurt others by giving critical feedback about blind spots.
feedback can be fired as a bullet intended to hurt or it can be leaked. The transmitter may
indeed be
exhibiting their blind self also - using their narrative of your blind spot behaviour to
service their own
needs (revenge, humiliation, misguided intolerance). The pot frequently trades insults with
the kettle.
Feedback comes from the Private Self and is best offered when the circumstances are right
and the
receiver is tuned to accept it. It is likely to come best from someone who is acting in the
Arena. It is more readily received by someone who elicits the feedback for themselves.
Indeed - such feedback is only likely to be useful if both parties - are operating in the open
arena of
relationships. The panes of the window are clear. There is no blurring or distortion. The
window is
open and a steady flow occurs. Both are aware that important feedback processes are
taking place.
This is an important consideration for managers, counsellors, teachers etc.
These types of relationship can be appraised in more detail by using the language and
concepts of
transactional analysis. (2) .
The Johari Window is a useful aid to counsellors, team players, managers and even family
to assess interpersonal positions and analyse encounters. When the conditions for feedback
learning are right the Johari matrix offers an analytic framework enabling us to "see
overselves as
others see us".
Remember - "In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king". (H G Wells)
a.Luft J and Ingham H, "The Johari Window: a graphic model for interpersonal
relations', Univ.
Calif. Western Training Lab. 1955
b.Luft J, 1961, "The Johari Window", Human Relations Training News, 5.1, pp6-7
c.Berne, E, The Games People Play, Grove Press, NY, 1964
d.Goffman I, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Penguin
e.Shannon C and Weaver W, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, Illinois
Univ. Press,
The Johari Window, named after the first names of its inventors, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham,
is one of the most useful
models describing the process of human interaction. A four paned "window," as illustrated
above, divides personal awareness
into four different types, as represented by its four quadrants: open, hidden, blind, and unknown.
The lines dividing the four
panes are like window shades, which can move as an interaction progresses.
In this model, each person is represented by their own window. Let's describe mine:
1. The "open" quadrant represents things that both I know about myself, and that you know about
me. For example, I know
my name, and so do you, and if you have explored some of my website, you know some of my
interests. The knowledge that
the window represents, can include not only factual information, but my feelings, motives,
behaviors, wants, needs and desires...
indeed, any information describing who I am. When I first meet a new person, the size of the
opening of this first quadrant is not
very large, since there has been little time to exchange information. As the process of getting to
know one another continues, the
window shades move down or to the right, placing more information into the open window, as
described below.
2. The "blind" quadrant represents things that you know about me, but that I am unaware of. So,
for example, we could be
eating at a restaurant, and I may have unknowingly gotten some food on my face. This
information is in my blind quadrant
because you can see it, but I cannot. If you now tell me that I have something on my face, then
the window shade moves to the
right, enlarging the open quadrant's area. Now, I may also have blindspots with respect to many
other much more complex
things. For example, perhaps in our ongoing conversation, you may notice that eye contact seems
to be lacking. You may not
say anything, since you may not want to embarrass me, or you may draw your own inferences
that perhaps I am being
insincere. Then the problem is, how can I get this information out in the open, since it may be
affecting the level of trust that is
developing between us? How can I learn more about myself? Unfortunately, there is no readily
available answer. I may notice a
slight hesitation on your part, and perhaps this may lead to a question. But who knows if I will
pick this up, or if your answer
will be on the mark.
3. The "hidden" quadrant represents things that I know about myself, that you do not know. So
for example, I have not told
you, nor mentioned anywhere on my website, what one of my favorite ice cream flavors is. This
information is in my "hidden"
quadrant. As soon as I tell you that I love "Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia" flavored ice cream, I
am effectively pulling the
window shade down, moving the information in my hidden quadrant and enlarging the open
quadrant's area. Again, there are
vast amounts of information, virtually my whole life's story, that has yet to be revealed to you.
As we get to know and trust each
other, I will then feel more comfortable disclosing more intimate details about myself. This
process is called: "Self-disclosure."
4. The "unknown" quadrant represents things that neither I know about myself, nor you know
about me. For example, I may
disclose a dream that I had, and as we both attempt to understand its significance, a new
awareness may emerge, known to
neither of us before the conversation took place. Being placed in new situations often reveal new
information not previously
known to self or others. For example, I learned of the Johari window at a workshop conducted by
a Japanese American
psychiatrist in the early 1980's. During this workshop, he created a safe atmosphere of care and
trust between the various
participants. Usually, I am terrified of speaking in public, but I was surprised to learn that in such
an atmosphere, the task need
not be so daunting. Prior to this event, I had viewed myself and others had also viewed me as
being extremely shy. (The above
now reminds me of a funny joke, which I cannot refrain from telling you. It is said that the
number one fear that people have is
speaking in public. Their number two fear is dying. And the number three fear that people have,
is dying while speaking in
public.) Thus, a novel situation can trigger new awareness and personal growth. The process of
moving previously unknown
information into the open quadrant, thus enlarging its area, has been likened to Maslow's concept
of self-actualization. The
process can also be viewed as a game, where the open quadrant is synonymous with the win-win
Much, much more has been written on the Johari window model of human interaction. The
process of enlarging the open
quadrant is called self-disclosure, a give and take process between me and the people I interact
with. Typically, as I share
something about myself (moving information from my hidden quadrant into the open) and if the
other party is interested in
getting to know me, they will reciprocate, by similarly disclosing information in their hidden
quadrant. Thus, an interaction
between two parties can be modeled dynamically as two active Johari windows. For example,
you may respond to my
disclosure that I like "Cherry Garcia" by letting me know what your favorite ice cream is, or
where a new ice cream shop is
being built, kinds of information in your hidden quadrant. Incidentally, it is fattening, so be
careful on how much you eat!
We believe disclosure to be healthy, at least that's the impression one gets after reading Freud.
However, Anita Kelly recently
wrote that self-disclosure of personal secrets has its dangers. We are often better off not telling
secrets regarding our sexual
behavior, mental health problems or large-scale failures. "If you give people information about
yourself, you give them power
over you," she says. Monica Lewinsky's disclosure to Linda Tripp and the ensuing scandal that
enveloped President Clinton is a
case in point. Be forewarned that most secrets get passed along to at least two more parties.
People also misjudge how others
respond to secrets. Sometimes you get negative feedback. For example, a women who reveals
that she was raped may be
seen in the future as a victim, or by men as damaged goods. Now, if you must tell your secret to
someone, chose that person
very carefully. Chose someone whose response will give you some insight into your problem.
Unfortunately, such a person is
often hard to find. So if you cannot find anyone appropriate, consider this: that keeping secrets is
healthy and tasteful, because it
is a way of managing your identity, and indicates you are secure and have self-control. But it
takes energy, because you have to
be on constant guard not to accidentally reveal something that is potentially damaging.
As ones level of confidence and self esteem develops, one may actively invite others to comment
on one's blind spots. A
teacher may seek feedback from students on the quality of a particular lecture, with the desire of
improving the presentation.
Active listening skills are helpful in this endeavor. On the other hand, we all have defenses,
protecting the parts of ourselves that
we feel vulnerable. Remember, the blind quadrant contains behavior, feelings and motivations
not accessible to the person, but
which others can see. Feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, impotence, unworthiness, rejection,
guilt, dependency,
ambivalence for loved ones, needs to control and manipulate, are all difficult to face, and yet can
be seen by others. To forcibly
reveal what another wishes not to see, is "psychological rape," and can be traumatic. Fortunately,
nature has provided us with a
variety of defense mechanisms to cope with such events, such as denial, ignoring, rationalizing,
The Johari window, essentially being a model for communication, can also reveal difficulties in
this area. In Johari terms, two
people attempt to communicate via the open quadrants. On the simplest level, difficulties may
arise due to a lack of clarity in the
interaction, such as poor grammar or choice of words, unorganized thoughts, faulty logic etc.
This induces the receiver to
criticize you, the sender, by revealing something that was in your blind quadrant. Then, if the
feedback works, you correct it
immediately, or perhaps on a more long term approach take a course in reading and writing. On a
deeper level, you may be in
a group meeting, and while you secretly sympathize with the minority viewpoint, you voted with
the majority. However, blind to
you, you actually may be communicating this information via body language, in conflict with
your verbal message. On an even
deeper level, you in an interaction with others, may always put on a smiling, happy face, hiding
all negative feelings. By
withholding negative feelings, you may be signaling to your friends to withhold also, and keep
their distance. Thus, your
communication style may seem bland or distant.
And let's not forget the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Our society is constructed so
that many of us get very
specialized, knowing only a small academic field very well, while being virtually ignorant of all
others. This specialization is
blinding many of us to what is happening in the world today. According to R. Buckminister
Fuller, this system of education was
done on purpose, to channel the most intelligent people into specialties, enabling them to be
more easily controlled. Noam
Chomsky has made similar comments with regards to the manufacturing enterprise, and how
Adam Smith's writings have been
purposely misrepresented. See my webpage On Education.
In the construction of this website, I am putting more of my knowledge into the open quadrant. I
am consciously using the
Johari model to improve my awareness of the world. If you see one of my blind spots, please feel
free to contact me, and let
me know!
Luft, Joseph (1969). "Of Human Interaction," Palo Alto, CA:National Press, 177 pages.
Kelly, Anita E. and McKillop, Kevin J. (1996), "Consequences of Revealing Personal Secrets."
Psychological Bulletin,
v120(3), pg. 450 .
Roan, Shari (1996). "Our secrets are spilling out all over," Los Angeles Times
When Ingham and Luft first presented "The Johari Window" to illustrate relationship in terms of
awareness, they were surprised to
find so many people, academicians and nonprofessionals alike, using, and tinkering with, the
model. It seems to lend itself as a
heuristic device in speculating about human relations. It is simple to visualize the four quadrants
which represent the Johari Window:
QUADRANT I. The area of free activity or public area, refers to behavior and motivation known
to self ann known to others.
QUADRANT II, The blind area, where others can see things in ourselves of which we are
QUADRANT III. The avoided or hidden areas, represents things we know but do not reveal to
others, (e.g., a hidden agenda, or
matters about which we have sensitive feelings).
QUADRANT IV. Areas of unknown activity. Neither the individual nor others are aware of
certain behaviors or motives. Yet, we can
assume their existence because eventually some of these behaviors and motives were influencing
relationship all along.
In a new group, Quadrant I is very small; there is not much free and spontaneous interaction. As
the group grows and matures,
Quadrant I expands in size, and this usually means we are freer to be more like ourselves and to
perceive others as they really are.
Quadrant III shrinks in area as Quadrant I grows larger. We find it less necessary to hind or deny
things we know or feel. In an
atmosphere of growing mutual trust, there is less need for hiding pertinent thoughts or feelings.
It takes longer for Quadrant II to reduce in size, because usually there are "good" reasons of a
psychological nature to blind
ourselves to the things we feel or do.
Quadrant IV changes somewhat during a learning laboratory, but we can assume that such
changes occur even more slowly than
shifts in Quadrant II. At any rate, Quadrant IV is undoubtedly far larger and more influential in
an individual's relationships than the
hypothetical sketch illustrates.
Quadrant I means behavior and motivation known to the group, and also known to other
Quadrant II signifies an area of behavior to which a group is blind, but other groups are aware
of this behavior, e.g.,
cultism or prejudice.
Quadrant III, the hidden areas, refers to things a group knows about itself, but which is kept
from other groups.
Quadrant IV. the unknown areas, means a group is unaware of some aspects of its own
behavior, and other groups are
also unaware of this behavior. later, as the group learns new things about itself, there is a shift
from Quadrant IV to one
of the other quadrants.
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 ends to decrease awareness; mutual trust tends to increase awareness.
4.Forced awareness (exposure) is undesirable and usually ineffective.
5.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.
6.Working with others is facilitated by a large enough areas of free activity. It means more of
the resources and skills in the
membership can be applied to the task at hand.
7.The smaller the first quadrant, the poorer the communication.
8.There is universal curiosity about the unknown area; but this is held in check by custom,
social training, and by diverse fears.
9.Sensitivity means appreciating the covert aspects of behavior, in Quadrants II. III. IV. and
respecting the desire of others to
keep them so.
10.Learning about group processes, as they are experienced, helps to increase awareness (larger
Quadrant I) for the group as a
whole as well as for individual members.
11.The value system of a group and its membership may be noted in the way unknowns in the
life of the group are confronted.
12.A centipede may be perfectly happy without awareness, but after all, he restricts himself to
crawling under rocks.
Using this model, we may illustrate one of the general objectives of the laboratory, namely, to
increase the area of free activity in
Quadrant I so that more of the relationships in the group are free and open. it follows, therefore,
that the work of the laboratory is to
increase the area of Quadrant I while reducing the area of Quadrants II, III and IV. the largest
reduction in area would be in Quadrant
III, then Quadrant II and the smallest reduction in Quadrant IV.
An enlarged area of free activity among the group members would immediately imply less threat
or fear and greater probability that
the skills and resources of group members could be brought to bear on the work of the group. It
suggests greater openness to
information, opinions and new ideas about oneself as well as about specific group processes,
since the hidden or avoided area,
Quadrant III, is reduced, it implies that less energy is tied up in defending this area. Since more
of one's needs are unbound, there is
greater likelihood of satisfaction with the work, and more involvement with what the group is
The Initial Phase of Group Interaction
Applying the model to a typical meeting of most groups, we can recognize that interaction if
relatively superficial, that anxiety or
threat is fairly large, that interchange is silted and unspontaneous. We also may note that ideas or
suggestions are not followed
through and are usually left undeveloped, that individuals seem to hear and see relatively little of
what is really going on.
Luft, J. (1970, 2nd Ed.) Group processes; an introduction to group dynamics. Palo Alto, CA:
National Press Books.
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