Knowing what co-workers are aiming toward and what interests and goals they have helps us to properly engage with them and protects us from unpleasant surprises. This knowledge is especially important at a place in which people have never dealt with each other before and who work together as a group: in the workplace.
In a well-functioning group, perception plays an important role.
Perception is a tricky thing. Do others actually regard me in the same way I regard myself? I am happy with my work, but is my boss happy as well?
The perception that one has of oneself does not always coincide with the perception outsiders have.
But how exactly does perception work? This is the question American social psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham tackled in 1955. They synthesized a scheme based on their findings, but since it is boring to name innovate systems after last names, they decided to combine their first names to create a resonant title: Johari Window.
The Johari Window as a model of analysis can be applied to individuals and groups, and has been especially effective in corporate training and development, in which feedback is key, as it relates to the distinction between self and outsider perspectives. Generally speaking, the better the two perspectives correspond, the better both perceptions can be aligned.
“Square-shaped, practical, good” - let´s take a closer look at the Johari Window:
Upper Left - Public Viewing
This is the public space of a person. Public is defined as that which is consciously disclosed by an individual to his or her surroundings. How a person sees themselves here, is in turn how others see them- self and outer perspectives coincide. Besides outer features, character attributes are also considered, as long as they are visible from the outside (such as shyness or openness). This area is usually portrayed as only a small part of the whole, for it is principally the concealed aspects of a person that determine the nature of his or her relationships.
Lower Left - Skeletons in the Closet
A person's secrets are kept in this corner. It is consciously concealed and is therefore an aspect of an individual's private sphere. This is where we have our feelings, fears, and wishes; that which we find difficult to reveal. The more one trusts others, the smaller this area becomes.
Upper Right – the Blind Spot
This is the area that is especially interesting to us: This aspect describes an individual’s characteristics that, while picked up by others in their surroundings, remain unknown to the person him- or herself. These may simply be quirks, but can also include preferences and aversions. This area is mostly conveyed nonverbally, such as through gestures, clothing, tone and pitch of voice, etc. It encompasses the overall impression of a person. An example of this would be the tone of voice and the mimic used by supervisors when speaking to their employees.
A large “blind spot” can also be obstructive to efficient negotiation.
However, besides critique and conflict potential, many positives can also be buried within the blind spot. Conversations with colleagues or superiors can bring social and professional qualities to light; attributes which are valued by others, but may not have been perceived by the individuals themselves. In this way, strengths can be systematically developed and worked on for the company’s benefit.
The smaller the blind spot, the better the communication and development, that is the rule of thumb. But how do you diminish the annoying stain?
Regular exchange and feedback diminish prejudices, misunderstandings and weaknesses, and help in identifying strengths and discovering potential. Others can give use constructive advice regarding ourselves. The blind spot suddenly becomes accessible and disappears successively over time.
Lower Right- the Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow
This section can be full of wonderful things, yet be completely unknown to ourselves and our environment. A pity really, but don´t worry, there is good news: in this section as well, feedback can have a profound influence.
The Bottom Line:
The aim of the Johari Window is to make the public (upper left) aspects bigger through feedback and thereby support the respective person or group with their development. In the process, the particular person´s self-image will come to match his or her external image more and more.
Often we overlook our strengths and weaknesses; however, these are evident for others. Both should be shared and discussed, as long as the feedback is communicated in a constructive manner and is accepted equally constructively. The optimal end result is a better work atmosphere and the personal development of each individual.
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