The Johari Window
As an adolescent and teenager my dad taught me a lot of things. He’s been working in HR since before I was born so he has always been abreast on the cutting edge managerial tactics and workplace relations. I being his son, and also very curious would pick up books like “Who Moved My Cheese?” and “The Minute Manager”. One day when I was like 12 or 13 we talked about this training technique and concept called The Johari Window. And that’s a funny name and all but it really opened my eyes and I never forgot the concept. Now I’m not a manager or trainer in any business capacity, BUT we as individuals do manage our personal and relationship affairs and situations. And a proper technique could be pivotal in that wide scope. The Johari Window, before I explain it, can be a means to drive an open and perceptive train of thought or action. We often have preconceived notions and thoughts before a situation arises. Like if I know I’m about to argue with someone I may already have figuratively put blinders on. In my mind I know what they’re going to say, why they are going to say it, and how I feel about it before the argument occurs. I used to be this way, especially when it was a reoccurring argument. Shit you’d rather stab yourself than go in on the same subject again. But what’s better, to effectively hash shit out or to keep on ignoring issues and have them fester and build. In my eyes I say handle it. In arguments and fights it’s rare that an actual valuable debate transpires. Words fly and phones get hung up, it’s a real shit show and nothing ever gets accomplished. And for me the key is to look at why. I mean often its past experiences or the way people have seen their parents argue. A lot of time that person knows you well and argues in a style that pushes your buttons. You like to talk, so to spite you they won’t. We’ve all been through all of it. But what I’ve come to realize is that people don’t put themselves in your shoes much. And you hear that saying a lot…conversation might go like this…”YOU A TRIFFLIN MAFUCKA TROY, ALL I ASK YOU DO IS BE CONSIDERATE BUT YOUR BLACK ASS CANT EVEN DO THAT! *hard sigh* I SHOULD HAVE JUST STAYED WITH RAHEEM!” and then oh boy might say, “YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT HAPPEN TO ME TODAY, SHIT HOW YOU KNOW IF I WAS CONSIDERING YOU OR NOT, PUT YOURSELF IN MY SHOES! AND RAHEEM BITCHASS LOCKED UP FOR STEALING DEODERANT OUTTA CVS DUMMY!” Now that’s a fanciful and comical situation but the whole “in my shoes” things is very intricate and complicated. And this is where the Johari Window comes in. Those shoes that people want you to step in are the window that I’ve been referring to. Imagine all that you know; your whole life. The things you’ve seen, been through, and read about. Over time you’ve taken those things and formulated a viewpoint about everything in life whether good or bad. To have someone step into your shoes is almost impossible because they would have to have your life and views to do so. And this is what I often try to do in arguments or situations. I don’t try and see things as the other person does BUT I do recognize that that person does have a viewpoint that maybe different then mine. Their life has dictated a stance on things that maybe mines has not. And these stances fuel their actions (by the way INACTION IS ACTION). So I don’t want you to so much as put yourself in my shoes, but I do want you to know that I have my own pair. I want you to see that I have experiences and things I hold to be true that you may not, given the journey your life has taken. Don’t step into my shoes because you can’t, but just remember I have a different pair than yours. Anyways but on a smaller scale I also try and consider other factors about what the person knows. And this can get a little tricky and wordy. But I believe that this technique can help save a few arguments and anger that people have with others because they don’t consider certain things from every angle, shit they often feel their angle is the ONLY angle. And I myself have been guilty of this. It is human nature to want to win and have your viewpoint be dominate, but in a perfect relationship with give and take the goal is to come to a unified viewpoint. Whether that viewpoint is mine, yours, or a compromising combination of both. During your next argument try and think about this for a second before jumping right in and tearing your lovers head off. This is supposed to be heuristic, meaning experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Here goes…
The Johari Window states that there are four areas. And these four areas have knowns and unknowns. And in life this holds true. There’s things we know and things we don’t. The object is to master this concept. We don’t know everything and this is paramount in problem solving in day to day life. Consider the following…
Area 1: In this area we realize that there are things we know and things people know about us. So these things are common knowledge about us. We all know the shit. You may know things about me, John. You know I write, I like the Cowboys, I drive a pick-up truck. Things like that. And in an argument these are generally the things people use. They use what they know of you and the things they believe you know of yourself. Because if we can agree that John is an asshole the battle is halfway won, BUT the issues generally come in to play when you don’t agree about things that we both think we know. I may feel like you’re inconsiderate. That’s my truth about you. But you don’t know yourself to be that so we clash. And it doesn’t have to be that deep. In a situation there can be information that is known. We both know I went to work today. Simple knowns. Area 1 is the easiest.
Area 2: This area is very interesting. This is what people know or know of us that we ourselves don’t see or know. In all actuality John may be an asshole but he doesn’t see it. And this can easily cause an argument. And on a smaller rudimentary level, you may know something that happened throughout the day that I don’t know. You may be privy to things that I haven’t seen. And in the scope of a situation you can’t be mad at me because you have things that you know that I don’t. I may start an argument with you over something and you may get mad at me for starting the argument. But in reality you know something I don’t, and if given that information my outlook may have changed. I tend not to get mad at people for things I know they don’t know or understand because I have the advantage of knowing more of the situation than they do. That’s why it’s vital to have everything on the table. This area is called the blindspot. Because like when driving I can see all areas while facing forward but there’s a spot that I can’t see, that others on the road in different places can. Often people judge because they know things that we may not know, which is unfair. You wouldn’t get mad at a child for something that they just don’t know. This is why is important to take a step back and consider these areas before getting angry or making a decision.
Area 3: The third area is the most mystical place so it doesn’t deem much definition. But this is the subconscious place. These are the things that we don’t know, nor do others. As odd as it may sound, there are things we don’t know about ourselves and neither does anyone. And you know this area is real because you learn things about yourself over time that you previously didn’t know. It’s the path of self-discovery. And on a concrete level there are things that no one knows or understands truly but God, the mysteries of the world.
Area 4: This last area is our private area (retrieve your mind from the gutter). These are the things we hold and keep to ourselves. These are the things that no one knows, the shit that only we know. And we have to be careful in relationships because we will often think that people know things about us or have come into knowledge of our ways, but they actually haven’t. We sometimes can set expectations and standards that people aren’t even aware that we’ve set for them. There was a time when I placed a female on a pedestal and she never knew. And when she fell from that level I treated her worse than I should of. I kept my heightened standards and thoughts of her concealed and when she toppled over she didn’t know it. But adversely there are things we need to keep hidden from people. The ways of the world are tricky, and people will take your most intimate feelings and nuisances and turn them against you. The trick is to be able to differentiate what should stay in Area 4 and what should be moved to Area 1 depending on the level you are with the person.
So with that being said and those areas being defined, the key to me is to be able to think of those things in situations before reacting. Before jumping down your boss’s throat, or your significant other, or even people you see randomly, you have to realize that each person is in a different area of the Johari window. And given the area your response and strategy on how to deal with them should change. You may have to sit back and think well maybe they know something I don’t so I should chill. Or maybe I know something they don’t so I shouldn’t hold them accountable as much because their blind to what may have been going on with me. It’s very important at times to step back from emotion and realize that the angle at which you see something isn’t the only angle. I could be looking at something next to you, or opposite of you, or you could not be looking at all. Noticing and thinking over these viewpoints can make or break a situation. The Johari Window is a tool I use just to step back and manage my thought process before acting in a situation. It can be very helpful, and in the long run could improve the relations between you and others.
The old Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said this to sum it up:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”