Johari Window by Benjamin Alexander Chua

The Sun Tze art of war mentions: Know your enemy and know thyself, a thousand battle, a thousand victory. Knowing oneself will allow one to understand their limitations and blind spots and take countermeasures to eliminate them. I have worked with the Johari window for a long time since I was an OBS instructor. Hence I have always appreciated the power of feedback and frequently seek them.

Knowing about the Johari window also helps a team. When someone is seeking feedback, one familiar with this model will also appreciate the importance of feedback and adopt a more favourable perception towards feedback. Having a correct perception allows a feedback session to be taken seriously and positively, contrary to what I commonly see on the ground, where individuals either don’t take it seriously, use it as currency to achieve a political agenda or take it too negatively when encountering critical comments. 

We all have flaws, and we can only improve on them if we know them and decide to work on them. Being mindful is always a start. We start with not knowing; then we know something, thinking that we know it all. When we discover more, we realise that we don’t know many things and start to know what we don’t know. It is when we realise that what we know is very limited that wisdom begins. This awareness is what the Johari Window allows us to do. 

We don’t have to react or respond to all negative comments. Our weaknesses can be what we are willing to tolerate, unwilling to change or doesn’t have the capacity to work towards at the time being. Still, knowing it is a start. On the same note, when we use the Johari Window, we must be aware that although we can provide feedback to others, whether someone chooses to take action on it is their own decision. There should not be any negative feelings if one decides not to, due to the aforementioned reasons. 

Feedback, as always, should be constructive as much as possible. They should preferably include the SBI model, where one mentioned the situation, observed behaviour, and the impact. What is more vital to me is that the giver should not use feedback to manipulate someone to achieve a political agenda. When adopting the Johari Window as a mechanism for feedback, the session must be properly facilitated.

One common observation that I have made during a session on Johari Window is that individuals often prioritise the similar feedback given by many. While this can be intuitive, the most common feedback may be prominent yet not the most crucial. As such, an individual need to ask themselves whether quantity equates to quality. After all, millions of people in the world believe that chocolate milk comes from a brown cow. Having more individuals being convinced of it does not make a fallacy any more authentic.

Although I have spent considerable time on the blind spot quadrant here, it is also essential to be mindful of the others. What others know about us and what I know of myself (arena) may be true. But we are constantly changing as individuals. Hence, whatever that falls in this quadrant will shift over time. Having yourself and others with this perspective also does not make it any truer if it is inherently false. It can be what you think you are and what others see of it, but it does not necessarily be who you are. We need to remember that we can only perceive reality. And the reality we hold is based on what we see or hear, which is limited.

The quadrant where what people do not see about us but known to ourselves (facade) can only be reduced if we have the opportunity and willingness to expose ourselves. And it is not in everyone’s interest and motivation to allow that. There are times when we need to obscure a side of ourselves to perform our duties. Speak to the individuals working in the intelligence unit, and I am sure they will agree. As such, someone that you think is of poor quality, be it in character or abilities, may not be as such. Sometimes, it is our journey that makes us who we are. I remember a story of someone screaming away during fireworks being an absolute nuisance to others. Without the context, I would have felt that way. However, if I were to share that this individual had PTSD being a war veteran, I am sure we would look at this with a different lens. Hence, while it is natural for us to judge, we need to remember that what we see is only part of the picture. Not everyone will share their journey, and we need to look at things with a compassionate lens. As with what Kurt Hahn, the founder of Outward Bound Movement, says: “I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”

The quadrant where what we do not know about ourselves and what others do not know about us (unknown area) can only be reduced if we are willing to explore new things. Yet, many today are unwilling to examine unchartered grounds. We often hear the phrase “A jack of all trade, but a master of none”, but we do not know that what follows that phrase is “still oftentimes better than a master of one”. Since the industrial revolution, the term “specialist” has become more attractive. Yet, before that, having multi-disciplines was something celebrated. As someone who has always advocated this, I am pleased to see that Johari Window seems to also implicitly supports that. Today’s problem requires one to look at it with different lenses and at different levels. The ability to see things at different levels is known as the “helicopter view”, a KPI adopted by some organisations in their performance appraisal.

Hence, as you can see, there is so much to discuss the Johari Window, and one article can only be the start of it. I hope my sharing has sparked some insights.





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