Personal Growth

Get to Know Yourself Better With the Johari Window

Self-awareness isn't just nice to have. Research suggests that knowing yourself can make you more confident and creative and helps you make better decisions, maintain stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. Self-awareness can even make you more ethical. So how do you get to know yourself? Try the Johari window.

You're a House of Four Rooms

Developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955, the Johari window (named after its creators, Joseph and Harrington) is a group exercise that claims to reveal previously hidden aspects of your character. The procedure is relatively simple. Everyone in your group gets a list of 56 adjectives, such as accepting, bold, nervous, silly, and wise (you can see a complete list here), and you're asked to pick the ones that you feel describe your own personality. Then others in the group are asked to pick the ones they think describe you.

Once you have two long lists of words, what then? The next step is to slot them into boxes arranged in a 2x2 grid, like a window with four panes. The upper left is for the words that landed in both lists, which are qualities we see in ourselves and let others see. Sometimes labeled "arena," this is for the parts of our character we proudly display to the world.

None of us is entirely an open book, however. The words that you chose but others didn't are those qualities that you know you possess but hide from others, and they go in the lower left-hand box, often labeled hidden or "façade." Next, the words that others chose but you didn't are characteristics others see in you but that you don't see in yourself, aka your "blind spots." Those go in the upper righthand box.

Finally, stick the adjectives from the original list that no one picked in the bottom right corner of the grid, labeled "unknown." These can be characteristics that are hidden from both you and others or traits that don't apply to you now but may in some other time or context. This section represents the mysteries of your character and its potential for growth.

Rooms of Different Sizes

Just working through this activity is likely to push you to confront aspects of your yourself you rarely think about and nudge you to contemplate exactly what image you portray to the world. But looking at the resulting boxes in sum, and how many words end up in each quadrant, reveals further truths.

If your "open" box is crammed full of adjectives, then you are likely, as the name suggests, an open book: someone who both knows yourself and lets other see most of the real you. That's a relaxed and powerful position to be in. If it's mostly empty, enlarging this "arena" section of your personality through feedback, self-disclosure, and self-discovery is likely to put you on a firmer psychological footing and on the path to the benefits of self-awareness.

If other boxes loom large, your situation is more complicated. Those with an outsized "blind spots" box may be naive about their own character. They may not see their own aggression or neediness, for example, as clearly as others see it. Those with a large "façade" box may come across as secretive and closed. They spend a good deal of energy hiding parts of themselves from others.

Finally, those with a large unknown box might be mysteries to themselves and others, perhaps because of a lack of insight or a tendency for impulsiveness that makes it hard to pin descriptors on them.

But no worries if a peek through the Johari window shows you have work to do on the self-awareness front. Simply going through this exercise with a work team or other trusted group might help clear up blind spots and help you get to know yourself better. Give it a try!

See the Johari Window in Action

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For more new ways of seeing the world, check out "The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking" by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler. The audiobook is free with an Audible trial. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Jessica Stillman September 4, 2019

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