What is the Johari Window model?

Written by Esteban Tristan, Corporate Safety Director

The Johari Window was developed by two psychologists to help improve their understanding of both themselves and others. It offers a unique framework for understanding the dynamics of communication, relationships, and personal development. Whether you’re focused on personal growth, developing talent and effective teams, or providing one-on-one coaching sessions, the Johari Window model serves as a valuable cornerstone for effective development planning.

What is the Johari Window model?

When a friend or a co-worker tells you that you act in a certain way, how often do you agree with them? How well do you know your behavior relative to how other people see you? If you are like most people, there are plenty of things people can say about you that you admit are true. When there are characteristics about us that are known both to us and those around us, they are ‘open’ to everyone.

But let’s face it – some of us have better self-awareness than others. I bet that right now, you can easily think of someone you know who has no clue that they act in a certain way (e.g., forgetful, picky, loud) even though everybody around them seems to know it. We often refer to these as ‘blind spots.’ These are the things about ourselves that others can see, but we do not.

Now, let’s take the opposite of a blind spot – the things we know about ourselves, but no one else (or only those closest to us) really knows about us. We all have parts of our lives that we prefer to keep private for various reasons, so these remain ‘hidden’ from others.

Lastly, there are some things we may not know about ourselves at all, and others do not know it either. You may have a hidden talent for writing, auto repair, managing people, or playing bocce – who knows? Unless you have tried it, you might never find out and neither would anyone else. These are basically ‘unknown.’

If you consider these four areas of ourselves – open, blind, hidden, and unknown – they cover all of our potential tendencies and behaviors. It can be a fruitful exercise to examine these parts of ourselves and there is a commonly used psychological tool that is specifically designed to help us with this: the Johari Window.

The Johari Window model is a technique used for various purposes, including self-help groups, team building exercises, and coaching. Created in 1955 by the psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, it was designed to help individuals have a better understanding of themselves, as well as help them develop better relationships with others. The name ‘Johari’ was created by combining the first names of its creators – Joe and Harry.

The four quadrants of Johari Window

The table below illustrates the Johari Window model diagram, which is divided into four key quadrants. Each term used in the diagram corresponds to the specific ‘pane’ of the window it represents.

Known to selfNot known to self
Known to othersOpenBlind spot
Not known to othersHiddenUnknown

How to use the Johari Window model for workplace safety

While the Johari Window model can have many applications, it is not typically used for safety behavior analysis. This is a shame, as it holds significant potential in helping us better understand our own personal safety behaviors. For example, let’s take the basic behavior of risk-taking. Using the simple table I’ve created below, we can look at our risk-taking through each of the four areas, or windows, of the Johari Window model.

Known to selfNot known to self
Known to othersI’m a risk taker and everyone knows it.
People say I take risks, but I don’t think I do.
(Blind spot)
Not known to othersI take risks when people aren’t looking.
I’m not a risk taker, and no one else would say that I am.
  1. Open – In this quadrant, I may be well aware that I am comfortable taking risks, along with others. In this case, I would agree when people tell me I drive too fast or that I am impulsive because I know that about myself.
  2. Blind spot – Here, I would not see myself at all as a risk taker, even though most people think I am. In this case, I honestly don’t believe that I drive that fast or I really see myself as someone who thinks carefully before I act.
  3. Hidden – In the lower left quadrant, I always drive the speed limit when someone else is in the car with me, but I speed big time when I’m by myself. If it’s just me, I make decisions quickly and on the fly, but when others are involved, I try to get their input before I act.
  4. Unknown – Finally, this quadrant is where the hidden potential lies. I may always drive the speed limit until one day when there’s an emergency and I have no choice but to drive over the speed limit. Or I may be the most methodical and cautious decision-maker until I’m faced with few options and little time. This quadrant remains ‘unknown’ both to me and those around me until situations arise that test previous behaviors.

Risk-taking is just one example, but there are so many other traits, abilities, and actions that shape our safety behaviors. It all depends on our personal SafetyDNA®. Research has now shown that there are many traits, abilities, and other characteristics that predict safe behavior, and that we all possess different levels of these characteristics. This makes up our own unique SafetyDNA profile and explains why some people consistently exhibit more risky behaviors versus others, resulting in more injuries over time and across various situations.

The Johari Window is a technique used to help us see our behavior in a more complete way. This insight simultaneously can help us change certain unsafe behaviors that put us at risk. We cannot change what we are not aware of, and it’s also hard to change bad habits when they are hidden from others. In essence, we want to continuously shrink the size of our own ‘blind,’ ‘hidden,’ and ‘unknown’ windows, thereby increasing the size of our ‘open’ window, so our safety behaviors can be more open to ourselves and others.

But what can we do to apply this model to our personal safety behaviors? Here are a few simple ways:

  1. Seek feedback from others. Ask others who are close to you to give you honest feedback on your safety behaviors. Ask them to tell you when they see you doing something unsafe or when they hear you say things that are not in line with how you see yourself when it comes to workplace safety. This will help to shrink your ‘blind spots.’
  2. Take a psychological assessment to find out your SafetyDNA. There are a few well-vetted psychological assessments out there that can tell you how you are mentally hard-wired when it comes to safety. It’s more than just risk-taking. A well-designed online assessment can also reveal things like how you think about rules, how aware or distractible you are, or how well you stay calm under pressure – all key parts of a person’s SafetyDNA profile.
  3. Open up about your behavior. If you know you do things that put you or others at risk, challenge yourself to share that information with someone. Whether it’s texting and driving or taking shortcuts on safety procedures, tell someone you trust and encourage them to ask you how it’s going with that habit. You’d be surprised what transparency and accountability can do in terms of reducing your ‘hidden’ window of behaviors.
  4. Monitor yourself. By increasing your self-awareness and looking out for how you react in different situations, you can find out more about your ‘unknown’ self to shrink the size of that window as well. You may be capable of things you did not know, which could be both good and bad in terms of increasing workplace safety.

While not commonly used in workplace safety efforts, it is a great way to show how the Johari Window model can be used to help anyone analyze and manage their safety behaviors to improve self-awareness for better communication. In this specific example, it will help you shrink the size of your ‘blind,’ ‘hidden,’ and ‘unknown’ windows which, in turn, increases the size of your ‘open’ window to put you on a path towards improving workplace safety.

Fuel growth and development using Johari Window model

The Johari Window model is a powerful tool for self-discovery that provides a foundation for both individual growth and developing your team. Utilizing each quadrant of the Johari Window model, organizations can facilitate meaningful discussions both in one-on-one interactions and team settings to identify opportunities for leadership and talent development. By taking a closer look at development efforts and fostering open conversations, organizations can benefit from a more self-aware and safe workforce.

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