When we engage clients in a coaching relationship, one of our goals is to help them better understand how they relate to the world around them. Whether we are talking about work, home, or any other arena of their life, there are always things an individual believes to be true about themselves and things others believe to be true about them. In our conversations with clients, we describe this as being “sighted but also blind” because no one has the perfect rendering of what is true about themselves.
Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham have created a tool to better illustrate this concept: The Johari Window. As you can see in the image below, there are two axes (self-knowledge and other’s knowledge) and four quadrants (open, hidden, blind spot, and unknown). When using this tool, a facilitator would typically have a list of positive adjectives that could describe an individual and ask the individual to identify which adjectives describe them and which adjectives don’t. Likewise, a group of peers would be given the same list of adjectives and be asked to identify which adjectives they would and would not use to describe the individual. Once this is done, each adjective would then be placed in a quadrant of the Johari window accordingly.
As you might imagine, most people are surprised at the discrepancy between what they believe about themselves and what others believe about them. Oftentimes, others will afford qualities to a person that they never would attribute to themselves. Equally, they will be surprised that something they believed was so obvious about themselves is completely hidden to others.
While this exercise is not perfect, it does offer a starting place for a conversation about what someone believes is true about themselves and what they most want to be true about themselves. Whether you are seeking to encourage self-development among team members or are looking for a tool that will help your team’s performance, the Johari window is a great tool that encourages dialogue and highlights the strengths and growth opportunities for your team.