Well Known?

Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” John C. Maxwell said, “You have to know yourself to grow yourself.” Self-knowledge or self-awareness is essential to healthy relationships on the personal level and at work. The question is, “How well do we know ourselves?” the “Johari Window” is one tool that can help us consider an answer to that question. This tool was developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham (Jo-Hari, get it?) in 1955. The Window into our relationships with ourselves and others has four panes.

The Arena

This is what everyone knows about us. “Everyone knows Jane is a free spirit.” “Everyone knows John is analytical and reserved.” It’s our public self, we are very aware of it and others can easily see it. It’s how we present ourselves in public both automatically and intentionally. By automatic I mean our habits of interaction with others. By intentional I mean what we make a concerted effort to be sure people see about us. The Arena is not the whole story.

The Facade (Mask)

This is the “us” no one else knows about, the hidden us. It sounds ominous and almost sinister, but that’s only true of those who are hiding evil or criminal thoughts and intentions. For most of us, we keep fears and dreams here. Ironically, we keep dreams here because of fear of ridicule for having such dreams.

We can have different masks at work or at home. We may behave differently in those arenas. In that case the mask at work may simply be that our personal interests are none of anyone else’s business, but our family knows all about them. So, masks are not necessarily bad, they are just part of how we control the arena. This is like when someone at work discovers on social media that Bill plays in a band and says, “I had no idea he was a musician.”

The Blind Spot

This is the opposite of the Mask. It’s what everyone else knows about us and usually wishes we knew. Obviously, there is no self-awareness in this pane of the window. Here is where we have the greatest opportunity to grow.

A few years ago my wife started taking a medication. One evening a couple weeks after taking it, she was re-reading the documentation and asked, “Have I been aggressive lately?” The entire family answered in unison, “YES!” It was a side effect of the medication but she hadn’t been aware of it. When she asked and learned the answer, that knowledge moved from the Blind Spot pane to the Arena and she was able to manage that side effect very well.

The Unknown

This is the adventure of self-awareness. When my wife and I first began to date, almost everything was in this pane of the window. The excitement and fun of the last decades together has been discovering things about ourselves and each other.

The same can be true for other personal and work relationships. Making the unknown known is the adventure of the journey.

Practical Steps

Looking through the Johari Window is a step toward self-awareness and growth. The exercise of thinking about things in different ways expands our thinking and provides growth.

There are other practical tools that can help as well. One is the DISC Model personality test. I’m a certified trainer in the DISC Model and would be happy to help you and your organization work through the assessment. It will help you gain a clearer understanding of your personal patterns and how they effect your communication and interaction within your work environment and/or family.

There is a small fee for this service. Please feel free to contact me at jim@engagerdynamics.com.

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