Understanding the Johari Window model

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A Johari window is a psychological tool created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955. It’s a simple and useful tool for understanding and training:

  • self-awareness
  • personal development
  • improving communications
  • interpersonal relationships
  • group dynamics
  • team development; and
  • inter group relationships

It is one of the few tools out there that has an emphasis on “soft skills” such as behaviour, empathy, co-operation, inter group development and interpersonal development.  It’s a great model to use because of its simplicity and also because it can be applied in a variety of situations and environments.

Johari Window diagram

In this example, we will discuss how the Johari window works with an individual within a team. In this instance, there are two factors at work within the Johari window. The first factor is what you know about yourself. The second factor relates to what other people know about you.

The model works using four area quadrants. Anything you know about yourself and are willing to share is part of your open area.  Individuals can build trust between themselves by disclosing information and learning about others from the information they disclose about themselves.

Any aspect you do not know about yourself but others within the group have become aware of is in your blind area. With the help of feedback from others, you can become aware of some of your positive and negative traits as perceived by others and overcome some of the personal issues that may be inhibiting your personal or group dynamics within the team.

There are also aspects about yourself that you are aware of but might not want others to know; this quadrant is your hidden area. This leaves just one area and is the area that is unknown to you or anyone else – the unknown area.

The balance between the four quadrants can change. You might want to tell someone an aspect of your life that you had previously kept hidden. For example, maybe you are not comfortable contributing ideas in large groups. This would increase your open area and decrease your hidden area.

It is also possible to increase your open area by asking for feedback from people. When feedback is given honestly to you, it can reduce the size of your blind area. Maybe you interrupt people before they have finished making their point which can cause frustration. Alternatively, people may always want to talk to you because you are a good listener. Sometimes you don’t realise these aspects of your character until it is pointed out.

By working with others, you can discover aspects of your lives that neither of you may ever have appreciated before.

Some examples of unknown factors can be as follows:

  • an ability that is under-estimated or un-tried through lack of opportunity, encouragement, confidence or training
  • a natural ability or aptitude that a person doesn't realise they possess
  • a fear or aversion that a person does not know they have
  • an unknown illness
  • repressed or subconscious feeling
  • conditioned behaviour or attitudes from childhood

For example, in an educational setting, a student’s contact with a tutor may help them understand how their experiences in and outside of school can impact their learning. This discovery about themself would reduce the size of their unknown area.

From a practical point of view, in implementing the Johari Window, you need to look at two steps.

Step one:

The place to start in the Johari window is in the open area. Make some notes about yourself.  Complete the Self Awareness Diagnostic. What are your strengths and your weaknesses? What are you comfortable with and willing to share with others? Try and be honest and clear about what you know about yourself already.

Step two:

Involve other people and ask for feedback about yourself. Be prepared to seriously consider it. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything suggested, but you should at least listen and think about it. Then give the person who provided the feedback with some acknowledgement or thanks for making the effort.  Depending on your confidence, you might prefer to do this as a group exercise or on a one-to-one basis. Remember that giving effective feedback is a skill; some people may be better at it than others. When receiving feedback, be respectful, listen and reflect on what has been said. It may be on receiving feedback you may want to explore it further that can lead to a discovery about yourself.

The Johari window as a tool does have its drawbacks:

  • Some things are perhaps better not communicated with others.
  • People may pass on the information they received further than you desire or use it negatively.
  • Some people or cultures have a very open and accepting approach to feedback; some do not. People can take personal feedback offensively, so it’s important when facilitating to exercise caution and start gradually.

There are many ways to use the Johari model in learning and development. It depends on what you want to achieve in your training or development activities. What are your intended outputs, and how will you measure that they have been achieved? How can the Johari Window theory and principles be used to assist this?

"Johari is a very elegant and potent model, and as with other powerful ideas, simply helping people to understand is the most effective way to optimise the value to people.  When people understand it in their terms, it empowers them to use the thinking in their own way, and to incorporate the underlying principles into their future thinking and behaviour."

(Source: ELN The e-Learning Network.)

The Self Awareness Diagnostic is a great accompaniment to the Johari window model. It helps people to explore the qualities that make them who they are. The simple online questionnaire provides instant feedback to the participant that they can positively use in understanding their personal strengths and weaknesses and what belongs in their open space. It can also objectively help the participant to start to process some of those attributes that reside in their blind spot and can encourage discussion amongst the group without being confrontational or causing contention.

What is unique about the Self Awareness Diagnostic is it explores not only an individual’s ‘soft skills' and working style preferences but also how participants like to learn; their learning styles.  In an education or business environment, this can be a great enabler for a teacher or trainer to ensure all the group members are motivated and able to achieve their full potential.

References and Resources:

The e-learning net: The Johari Window


Luft, J., Ingham, H. (1955). “The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness”

Luft, J. (1969). Of Human Interaction. Palo Alto, California: National Press. p. 177

Gaw, B. (1976). The Johari window and a partnership: An approach to teaching interpersonal communication skills: Communication Education: Vol 25, No 3. [online]

Shapiro, D., Heil, J. and Lager, F. (1983). Validation of the Johari Window Test as a Measure of Self-Disclosure: The Journal of Social Psychology: Vol 120, No 2. [online]