Johari Window – Developing Self Awareness

One of the aims of coaching is always the development of greater self-awareness, improved self-management skills and increased self-efficacy in the client, so that they develop their own goals and solutions.  The Johari window is a useful tool for generating “aha” moments and for encouraging clients to push their boundaries.

There is always an element that is known to the client at the outset, this may be what they want, or what they don’t want.  They may be aware of what is stopping them achieving their goal, or unaware of the steps needed to get to their destination.

Coaching could therefore be described as a process of exploration – clarifying what you already know and making known some of the unknowns so that action can be taken.

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.  Donald Rumsfeld

The Johari Window is a simple way to think about the areas of ourselves that are conscious, and those parts we are not conscious of.  The Johari Window was developed in 1955 by two men called Joe and Harry (Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham).

The Johari Window gives us four basic forms of the Self (the Public, Private, Blind, and Unknown Self).


Johari Window

The Public Self is what you and others see in you. You typically do not mind discussing with others this part of you. Most of the time you agree with this view you have and others have of you.  You might refer to it as your comfort zone – there are no surprises here.

The Private or Hidden Self is what you see in yourself but you don’t want others to see. There are often parts of ourselves that are too private to share with others. We hide these away and refuse to discuss them.  This may be due to feelings of embarrassment or shame.  There may be fear attached to disclosing these parts – if we were to do so we would be vulnerable in some way.  There may also be skills and talents hidden here that we don’t want to advertise to the world due to modesty, or fear of attack.

The Blind Self is what you do not see in yourself but others see in you.  You might think you are an open minded person, but people around you may consider you to be impatient and intolerant. On the other hand, you might see yourself as a failure, while others might see you as a success. Sometimes those around you might not tell you what they see because they are scared of your reaction, fear offending you, or might consider it a waste of time.

The Undiscovered or Unknown Self is the self that you cannot see nor others around you. These are the real unknowns.  Your future hopes and aspirations will be in this area.

Using the Johari Window

The Johari Window is helpful as a tool for self-reflection and as a coaching tool to develop greater self awareness.

For example, in the “public self”, you could list things that are generally known about you. This can be simple information, or can involve deep issues (for example, feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, unworthiness, rejection) which are difficult for you to face directly, and yet can be seen by others.

In the “blind self” area, you could identify the feedback you would like to receive about your behaviour, mannerisms and so on. This feedback will help you to begin to see yourself as other see you.  An NLP coach might encourage you to adopt alternative perceptual positions in order to further develop this area.

The “private self” area could include aspects of yourself that you have not told anyone about before for fear of negative judgment or attack.  Addressing the underlying fears will allow greater trust and openness.

The “unknown self” is the area for exploring the future.  Reducing the “blind” and “hidden” areas will already have brought more conscious awareness to this area, maybe some previously unknown or hidden skills or talents – notice how the Open/public self is now encroaching into this area.  How does this new knowledge or awareness change things?

Johari Window 2


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