Johari Window: For better communication

In our private and professional lives, people communicate around the clock, both verbally and non-verbally. When communication between individuals or a group works well, cooperation also works well. However, if people do not communicate openly, or if non-verbal communication is done in a way that sends a negative message to the recipient, this can lead to tension. As a result, this can have a significant impact on the success of a project. However, as people are different and you cannot simply avoid your team, a way has to be found for those who normally want nothing to do with each other to work together effectively. In general, people tend to look for faults in others rather than in themselves, but this can also be a misjudgement. The Johari Window can help to resolve this misperception and the resulting conflict because it shows how others see us and how we appear to them.
Several windows with balcony.


What is the Johari Window?

Our thoughts, feelings and actions towards ourselves and others are not only consciously controlled by us, but also by our subconscious. The Johari Window makes use of these conscious and unconscious personality and behavioural characteristics of a person. This is particularly important in the world of work because it shows the differences between self-perception and the perception of others. 
Self-perception describes the image that someone has of themselves. These perceptions create our self-image, which we constantly work on because we want to have the most positive image of ourselves possible.
External perception or image is the perception, feeling or evaluation that a third party has of someone and can be positive or negative. 
The external image can be consistent with the self-image, leading to a boost in self-confidence. However, it can also be very different from one's self-image and lead to self-doubt. This can lead to an attempt to get as close as possible to the ideal image, so that the external image matches the ideal image.
The Johari Window is based on the idea that interpersonal communication works better when the self-image and the image of others match. When the self-image and the image of others match, the team can function better because communication and efficiency are not disrupted. But this is not the only thing that promotes cohesion; the reactions of team members can also be better assessed, because if you are aware of how you appear to others, your behaviour can be better understood. 
The model is a dynamic process, which means that as team members get to know each other better, perceptions change.

The structure of the Johari Window

During the implementation, participants are given a list of 56 adjectives from which they are asked to choose 5-6 to describe themselves. These adjectives include, for example: accepting, capable, loving and wise. The team members are also given this list and have to choose the same number of adjectives. These are then moved to the sections of the Johari Window. 
There are four different areas: The public area, the secret area, the blind spot and the unknown area. Each person behaves differently and has different knowledge of their own personality, so the size of each area can vary. However, it can usually be said that the unknown area takes up a very large part of this diagram because many of the characteristics of our personality are present there unconsciously.
The Johari window is pictured.
The public area is the part of the personality that is visible and perceived by others. This also means that these are the parts of us that we reveal or are even aware of. This includes our appearance, manners, personal characteristics, but also our attitudes towards various things such as politics, the environment, etc. 
In the secret area are the qualities that the person is aware of, i.e. they know them but do not make them available to others. These may not be shared with others because it is believed that they will not be well received.
The blind spot describes the things that the person unconsciously sends out and that are perceived by the receiver. As a result, others see traits that the person is not even aware of. By sharing this information with others, the person in question becomes aware of this characteristic, which can bring it out of the blind spot and into the public area. This is an example of how the size of the areas can change.
The unknown area is unknown to everyone, including the person concerned. It is practically at odds with all the other areas because there is no access to it. 

The question now is how this theory can help the team work together.

In practice

The insights from the exercise itself are very enlightening for everyone. It shows you how you are perceived by other people and how much this perception differs from your own. 
When working in a team and making communication as positive as possible, public areas should be expanded. Communication should always be open, honest and authentic to avoid misunderstandings. Self-reflection is the key here, which means that it is important to constantly question how you see yourself.
To do this, it may be necessary to reveal parts of the secret area. Only as much as necessary, of course. Disclosure not only improves teamwork, it also relaxes the person. They no longer have to hide, which is also a big effort. It also takes the person out of their comfort zone by exposing them to things they don't normally come into contact with. In this way, the person becomes aware of their qualities, strengths, weaknesses or interests and can reduce the secret area. Trust is particularly important. But trust also has to be learnt, and one way of doing this is through open communication during the exercise. This raises the question of why people do not trust their own team. Perhaps it is assumed that secrets are not well received by colleagues, or that colleagues condemn secrets. If this question can be answered, a solution can be worked out. It would also help to build self-confidence, as a lack of self-confidence often prevents us from communicating openly.
But the exercise can also help you gain insight into your blind spots. Sometimes you are not even aware of the qualities you present to the outside world, and when you are made aware of them, you can work on getting closer to your own ideal image. External perception is important because it provides you with feedback. So you should always actively ask for it and try to keep this part as small as possible. But it is precisely with feedback that it is difficult to accept the opinions of others. That's why it's important to keep an open mind and to see feedback as constructive rather than destructive criticism. 
This is another example of the interplay between the different areas. As a property moves from the blind spot into the public area, the size of each window changes.


The Johari Window is an ideal tool for improving communication and teamwork in project management. New insights are gained about oneself and others, helping one to know the image others have of one and how it affects the outside world, as well as understanding why others act the way they do. It encourages self-improvement and trust in others. However, it is important that the team is open and honest with each other, is always constructive, expresses enough positive things as well as negative ones, and addresses possible steps towards a solution.
However, it is important to remember that you cannot be on good terms with everyone, and that if you have a generally negative attitude towards someone, your image of that person will also be negative. You should therefore make sure that your view of the other person is well-founded. Especially in a team, it is important to check whether the remarks are made by several colleagues or just one. Certain characteristics will always cause displeasure, but if the majority are not affected, the question arises as to whether the problem is interpersonal or general. Therefore, some comments should be taken with a pinch of salt, or it should be made clear from the outset that constructive feedback will be given in order to make the best use of the Johari Window.

Johari Window - The IAPM logo.
Author: IAPM internal
Keywords: Project management, Tips, Johari window

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