The Johari window is a technique created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram in 1955 to help people better understand themselves. People were asked to describe their personality, selecting adjectives from a range provided. Then their peers were give the same list and asked to describe them, and all of the answers were mapped onto a grid.
As shown in the diagram above Luft and Ingram identified 4 quadrants of a window, based on the parts about ourselves that we know, [the 2 quadrants on the left hand side of the window] the parts of ourselves that others see [the top right hand side quadrant] and the unknown.
Charles Handy talked about the four quadrants as a Johari House with four rooms.
Room 1 holds the part of ourselves that we see and others see. Room 2 holds the aspects that others see but we are not aware, our blind areas. Room 3 is our private space, which we know but keep from others – our hidden area which we keep behind our mask or facade. Room 4 is the most mysterious room in that the unconscious or subconscious part of us is seen by neither ourselves nor others.
Think about yourself and what information you place in the open area, the parts of yourself you choose to let others see, and those parts that you hold in the “hidden area”, these may be our dreams, our hopes and fears.
Have a look at my blog whats-your-personal-brand/ and think about the information about yourself you put into the open area.
From experience in my coaching practice, many apparently successful people maintain a façade to cover up their worries and fears. This can be very stressful and exhausting. Imagine the duck gliding across the pond – appearing to be calm and serene – with their feet paddling feverishly under the water.
And then there are the areas entirely unknown to us and others, these may be values and beliefs we have gained from an early age and that we use unconsciously to judge ourselves and others. Here lie our “red buttons” or triggers, that can provoke strong emotional reactions such as anger, or disdain if pressed. If we are self aware, we might spot them when they emerge and find ways of dealing with them, but the emotional reaction can be so intense that it takes us, and those around us, by surprise.
So what can you do about our blind areas – the things that others see about us that we can’t?
They may be dangers or opportunities we don’t recognise. They may be liabilities, but they can be a source of tremendous potential strength if we can understand and cultivate them.
Let’s do some “blind spot” spotting in characters we may see around us – and just think, others may see some of these characteristics in how we behave?
- won’t consider alternatives – the colleagues who behave predictably, they know how to do things in a certain way, and that’s what they stick to. It never occurs to them that there may be another way of doing things. They may always leave things to the last minute, even though they say “remind me never to do that again”. They repeat their behavioural patterns again and again, which is unhelpful when they don’t learn from mistakes. In contrast though, their strength is their ability to drive through successful ways of working, if it isn’t broken – why change? A combination of an obsessive need to replicate a process with determination and drive becomes an unstoppable business force in the right circumstances.
- never admits defeat – the colleagues who espouse Robert Bruce’s spider story, and “try, try and try again” – where giving up on a task simply isn’t an option. They fight and fight until they reach a resolution, and on the rare occasion when they have to admit defeat they decide “Oh well I never really wanted that anyway” and believe it! The upside of this characteristic is the strength of mind to keep trying against adversity and challenge, through their personal drive and persistence.
- can’t see the wood for the trees – these are the colleagues who get so close to the task in hand that they plunge into detail at every opportunity, and may be seen as “nit-pickers”. By focussing on the minutiae they might completely miss the overall goal of an activity until the last minute. They know every detail of day to day activities, but may have no idea of the company mission, or the driving strategic objectives, and may be in danger of going off in the wrong direction entirely. However, this absence of overall long term thinking can mean these colleagues are great at delivering someone’s else agenda, and their plans to the letter. They can be replied upon to stick to the task, even though they won’t spot if it begins to drift.
- Pollyanna thinkers who don’t see meanness/disloyalty – blinded by their unstoppable positive thinking, they think the best of everyone, and believe that everyone means well, and has good intentions, because they do themselves. They trust that others will put the greater good over personal interest and don’t see the possibility or risks of dissention. They are great to have on your team, and they generate tremendous loyalty. They get a lot done and people want to work with them, if they aren’t treading all over them.
- can’t see their own flaws – they are never wrong, they can always be guaranteed to spot the flaws and weaknesses in others, they are perfect, and expert in everything. It’s all about them. When people display anger or disappointment with them, they aren’t bothered, it’s not their problem. They are excessively self confident with total belief in themselves and their work. They are strong and powerful – self doubt is not in their DNA.
- Chameleons who blend with whoever they are with – you could call them “yes” men, because they are wholly supportive or whatever they are currently doing and who they are working with, it’s all good. They want you to be happy, until the next person comes along, and then they want them to be happy and you are history. Loyalty isn’t in their make-up. They are great fun to be with and are always in the middle of the action, but dependability – no.
Do you recognise any of these characters, or character traits? And if you do what should you do?
None of us are perfect, and it’s likely that we will display some of these characteristics from time to time. Try to become more sensitive to the body language of the people around you. You may find that there are signals that you should be mindful of about your own behaviour, are you un-wittingly closing people down? How open are you to receiving feedback, and are there opportunities to give or receive feedback safely?
Reflect on different behaviours you can develop that may be more helpful and productive.
- so full of your own ideas that you “but in” on other people before they have finished speaking? Try pausing before you speak, to check that the other person has finished.
- able to see the big picture – but others are too task focussed and don’t “get” what you are saying? Gently draw out the context for them, and show how their tasks can be developed step by step along a path that leads in the right direction.
- making too many promises or commitments and then letting people down? Try to make yourself more accountable by setting yourself a consequence if you don’t deliver.
- so obsessively a perfectionist that you are creating friction and resentment? Try not criticising unless you can also put forward an alternative solution, offering any advice as an ally not an adversary.
- so competitive that you are excluding other people, or switching them off? Try avoiding unnecessary conflict with them, by challenging yourself – aim for your personal best instead of concentrating on winning. If you fall short of your own expectations take the brunt of your own disappointment.
Interested in more of my reflections?
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