In 1955, psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham were researching group dynamics at the University of California. By studying how people in groups interacted with one another, the psychologists discovered that there was a disparity between how people thought others perceived them and how other people actually perceived them. They realized that the disparity was due to the fact that people do not know themselves well and find it difficult to accurately assess what components of their personality are known to others.
As a result, Luft and Ingham devised a self-awareness feedback loop tool so that group interactions could become more efficient. They named this tool the Johari Window, combining the first part of both of their first names (Joseph & Harry = Johari).3
The Johari Window is a four-square grid.3 The sections that comprise the window are
- Open Area: Known to Others & Known to Self
- Blind Spot: Know to Others & Not Known to Self
- Hidden Area: Not Known to Others & Known to Self
- Unknown: Not Known to Others & Not Know to Self
To use the Johari window, one would look at a list of characteristics (55 characteristics were used in the original model) and determine which five or six characteristics best represent their personality. Then, their peers would be given the same list of characteristics and asked which five or six they believed best represented their friend. All of the adjectives selected would then be compared.4
The characteristics or adjectives that are identified by both oneself and their peers would go into the ‘open area’. This category demonstrates what actions, behaviors, and characteristics are ‘public knowledge’.5
The characteristics that are identified by one’s peers, but not by themselves, would go into the ‘blind spot’ quadrant. This quadrant is especially useful for increasing one’s self- awareness, as it gives them insight into what others think about them that they do not themselves recognize. It most accurately describes the dissonance in perceptions and informs people what they need to work on.
The adjectives that are identified by oneself but not by any peers go into the ‘hidden area’ section. Sometimes, someone might actually want to keep these characteristics to themselves, if they are personal, but knowing what parts are hidden is still useful, as these might be characteristics you wish to divulge to someone you trust.5
The rest of the characteristics that no one selects go in the ‘unknown’ quadrant. If there are positive characteristics in this quadrant that you wish you embodied, it is useful to know that they are areas you need to work on.
When combined, the four quadrants give someone a comprehensive understanding of themselves and how people perceive them. Luft and Ingham believed that the more characteristics were in the ‘open area’ quadrant, the better group dynamics would be. To increase the size of that space, good communication and cooperation is required which enables more efficient inter-group development.6
While initially, the Johari Window focused on positive characteristics, later, another extensive list of negative traits was developed. It used the antonyms of the original list of 55 characteristics to give people insight into their personality flaws.4
In the 1950s, when Luft and Ingham first proposed this window, self-awareness had not really been a point of concern. Employers cared more about tangible, hard skills. However, as we’ve transitioned into a society that places greater emphasis on ‘soft skills’, like behavior, empathy and cooperation, the Johari window has become a very relevant and useful tool.6