I’m pretty sure you will have heard or said something similar about yourself or one of your friends. Those four phrases encapsulate the ‘panes’ in the Johari Window (Luft & Ingham, 1955). It’s a very clever piece of psychological theory, named after its developers, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. It’s a diagnostic model which is used to explore how you work in a group, or what your strengths and weaknesses are, or to explore growth potential. The four panes can increase and decrease in size, but they don’t disappear. Let’s take a closer look at them.
1. Shared ~ You know me so well
Windowpane one is the arena, the ‘public’ domain of your personality. These are the parts of yourself that you share with the world – you and those who know you would agree on these aspects of your personality. So, for example, your friends would say you’re a witty person, and so would you. These are the character traits that keep you social – people gravitate toward or are repelled by them; your reputation and character are built on them. They are part of your ‘brand’. They are also shaped and curated by social conventions, public mores and opinions. You may like or dislike these things – but they are what you openly project into the world.
2. Hidden ~ There are things about me you don’t know
Windowpane two is the secret garden. These are elements of your personality that you are aware of, but you keep hidden or simply do not reveal to others. We all have a secret part of ourselves that we preserve; even intimate partners don’t know these things. You know them, but you choose not to share them. For instance, a friend might believe that you are very calm, whereas you know that deep inside you have a tension trigger that you suppress, and the calmness is a show put on for others. On the other hand, there may be no countersign – your friends may never be aware, for example, that you are a hopeless romantic. This is the completely personal part of you.
3. Blind ~ Why can’t you see that about yourself?
Windowpane three is the blind spot. Logically, these are the aspects of your personality that you can’t see, but others can. These are the things your friends and peers know or would say about you that don’t match up with your view of yourself. We are comforted or challenged depending on whether they are positive or negative attributes, but they can be hard to accept, and some people refuse to see them at all (Pronin, Lin & Ross, 2002; Vazire & Mehl, 2008). It can take a long time to work out how these attributes are transmitted, but with self-awareness comes growth and understanding.
4. Unknown ~ I think I surprised myself as well as everyone else!
Windowpane four is… unknown. This is stuff that you don’t know about yourself, maybe because you are young or inexperienced, or the opportunity to manifest it has never arisen. It could be an under-estimated ability, or a fear you don’t know you have (you don’t know you’re a claustrophobe until you get caught in a small space) or a repressed feeling. Self-exploration, diverse experiences, and therapeutic counselling can uncover these elements of self and contribute to a more whole understanding of what makes you tick. But nobody knows themselves fully – the Unknown pane can shrink in size, but it will always be there.
A therapeutic goal might be the expansion of the Shared square, shrinking both the Hidden square and the Blind Spot square and resulting in greater knowledge of oneself. Furthermore, the voluntary disclosure of the Hidden square may result in greater interpersonal intimacy and friendship (Perry, 2010).
So there you have it, the Johari Window – a frame of reference and another way of seeing your place in the world. It is interesting to ponder how large or clear each pane is for you, and how you feel about that. Please get in touch If this has roused your interest or you would like to explore these concepts further with a qualified therapist.