Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Johari Window: Do You See What I See?

“O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”
– Robert Burns (from
“To a Louse: On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church”)

While writing Tuesday’s blog post (Speaking Honestly, Living Honestly) I was reminded of the Johari Window. The Johari window came as a breakthrough for me years ago when I was taking a graduate course in group process. It is a great tool for understanding something of ourselves in relation to other people. (You can get a quick explanation of it at

Basically, the Johari window, using a four-pane window illustration, explains that there are four different areas of seeing ourselves. One pane represents those aspects of the personality that are known to the self and known to others. A second pane includes those aspects that are known to the self but hidden from others. The third pane represents aspects of the person that are unconscious – hidden from both the individual self and others. A fourth section of the window holds those traits seen and known by others, but of which the individual is unaware.

It is a very simple intuitive tool that represents what most of us probably know, but it comes as an “aha moment” for many (as it did for me some 30 years ago). Putting knowledge into a handy tool is a useful thing. Keeping that window in mind can help us in our own self awareness. It reminds us that there are those things about us that no one else will know unless we chose to make them known. It also illustrates that, as much as we may think we know ourselves, there are some things in our lives that we cannot see clearly which are well known to our friends and loved ones.

To see ourselves as others see us – that is the gift that can come from our spouse, our close friend or significant other. It may be uncomfortable, or it may just as likely be something good and noble. But just as surely as we cannot be fully known unless we make things known to others, we cannot fully know ourselves without input from others. And to keep us all humble, there is that third pane which illustrates those aspects of ourselves that are known to no one – not to ourselves, not to our friends. There is always that frontier of self discovery that lies ahead and will likely never be fully known.


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