What Is The 'Johari Window' And Why It's Bomb When It Comes To Increasing Self-Awareness

What Is The 'Johari Window' And Why It's Bomb When It Comes To Increasing Self-Awareness

Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to share what I think is an extremely overlooked reason why a lot of relationships are either unhealthy or don’t end up seeing the distance. Without even a bit of hesitation, I said that far too many people lack even a “kiddie pool level” of self-awareness — and it’s costing them…dearly.

Almost four years ago, I penned an article for xoNecole, "These Are The Things Self-Aware People Do Daily." There’s a quote inside that talks about self-awareness consisting of holding oneself accountable, and lawd, that’s an entire book and podcast series right there! However, when it comes to what we’re going to get into today, it’s another quote that comes to mind. Two psychologists by the names of Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund say that self-awareness is “…the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don't align with your internal standards” — and this is where the Johari Window fits in perfectly.

I must admit that it actually wasn’t until I saw an episode ofBeing Mary Jane back in the day that I even discovered what the Johari Window is. As far as the show goes, long story short, Mary Jane needed to deal with some internal stuff that was causing her to stay in a loop in a lot of her relationships, and the window helped her out.

Since personally studying it, though, it’s something that I’ve done and also recommended to my clients in order for them to receive some of their own “ah ha moments” in their own neck of the woods. So, if you’re ready to get to know your own self a bit better, in hopes of flourishing more in your own interactions with other individuals, let’s do some unpacking of what the Johari Window is and how it can totally help you out.

What Exactly Is the Johari Window?

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It’s kind of a long story, yet probably the best way to simplify everything. Back in the mid-1950s, two psychologists by the name of Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram came up with a concept that, in their minds, would help people to better communicate with others, especially when they are interacting in a group setting. It’s called the Johari Window, and Johari is actually the merging of their two first names.

Anyway, the ultimate goal of the Johari Window is to prove that awareness for yourself and trust from others can be better established once you are able to share how you perceive yourself while also being open to hearing feedback from others. In order for this to successfully transpire, there is a window that you must “look into,” and it’s broken down into four parts.

Now before we get into each windowpane, let me just say that it requires a lot of HUMILITY (and yes, I am yelling it) for this to be effective, especially when it comes to hearing what others have to say. This needs to go on record because if you truly want to tap into new levels of yourself, it’s not your job to go on the defensive, to become offended, or to shut down if/when you hear something that isn’t exactly easy or pleasant. Instead, remain open to how you may be perceived so that you can get to understand yourself and your relationships on a whole ‘nother level.

Are you ready to peek through each of the four panes now?

Johari Windowpane #1: Open Area


The open area is just how it sounds. It consists of the things that you and those around you already know. On a surface level, this could be the details that are provided about you when someone reads your bio before you make a presentation. On a deeper one, it could be the common things that co-workers, church members, and acquaintances are clued in about, including certain personality traits, various personal skills, and your views and opinions about certain things.

So, let’s start here. Pull out a piece of paper, the notepad on your smartphone, or your journal, and, for 5-10 minutes, jot down all of the things that you think fit into this particular windowpane. For instance, when it comes to me, most people know that I am pretty black and white (in the sense of how I see things), that I have a quick wit and I’m very direct in communication, that I am a marriage life coach, doula and writer (especially in the realm of relationships) and that I have strong convictions when it comes to the covenant, being pro-Black, supporting Black men and folks taking great measures to self-heal. Whether I’m public speaking, writing an article, or in a conversation with someone for more than 15 minutes on a plane, these things are going to come up in some form or fashion.

The open arena is pretty easy to share because they don’t really put you in vulnerable positions as far as mental and emotional intimacy goes.

Johari Windowpane #2: Blind Spot


Yeah, this is the one where people tend to get pretty testy. A blind spot is something that others may see about you that you don’t exactly perceive yourself. For instance, a few years back, when I decided that I wanted to get on the path of evolving in my femininity, I asked some of my male friends what they thought I needed to do to make that happen. One said that I needed to become a better listener. Another said that I needed to heal from some of the toxic female relatives in my life because whenever certain topics would come up, I was hard to communicate with — sometimes even combative. Another said that it would be cool to see me in some heels every once in a while (listen, put me in some Pumas, and I’m a happy girl!). Some others said some things that I would keep to myself.

Was it easy to take everything in? Nope. Blind spots rarely are because, just like a car can come into your blind spot while you’re trying to change lanes and almost cause you to get into an accident, oftentimes, when people tell you certain things about yourself, you won’t see them coming. However, they’re good for you to know because when you can get — AND RECEIVE — some intel into how you are seen by others, that can help you to either self-correct or come to a greater understanding of why 1) your relationships are the way that they are; 2) you keep finding yourself in the same patterns and outcomes that you get and/or 3) you aren’t going deeper in your dynamics with other people.

Yep. Opening your eyes to blind spots is where the big kids play.

Johari Windowpane #3: Façade


There’s a guy I know who is a straight-up chameleon. He’s an entertainer here in Nashville, and it’s wild how much he is perceived to be a good guy on the surface, and yet — if he were to get 30 women who he’s “dated” (which is basically code for sexually involving himself with), they would have some pretty dark tales to share. On the surface, it comes off that he’s a player or womanizer; however, the few of us who know him beyond that image get that he’s got quite a bit of baggage and damage that causes him to act that way.

This is kinda-sorta where the next windowpane comes in. It’s called the façade, and it consists of the things that you know that others probably don’t — your past, your secrets, your fears, your deep-rooted feelings…your shady side. The interesting thing about this windowpane is even if you withhold it from others, eventually, something about it will creep out in how you act or react because it’s still a part of your core being.

For me, as I’m dealing with couples, the façade can be A LOT because it’s wild to realize how much a lot of partners tend to withhold from one another, whether it’s due to fear of how their spouse will respond or because they set up a “front” of who they were during the dating process and now they don’t know how to stop…acting.

Either way, you can’t develop genuine intimacy with other people if you’re not willing to release your façade (or façades). That said, think of some of the folks who you consider to be your tribe, and then write down some things that you have been hesitant to share with them. Then ask yourself why. Whatever answer comes to your mind will be quite revelatory about what you should do about those relational dynamics next. Trust me.

Johari Windowpane #4: Unknown


I’m currently working on getting certified and then credentialed in some other areas of coaching, one of which is trauma-related. The reason why I’m bringing this up here is that the final windowpane of not knowing is sometimes tied to trauma that has caused you to block some feelings or important information about yourself out.So, how in the world do you tap into what you — and others — do not know about you? Therapy can help. Life coaching too. Or you can spend some intentional time with someone you trust, talking about certain areas of your life until you receive some revelations about yourself.

For instance, you could set up a wine date with a girlfriend at your house, where the two of you make a plan to talk about your childhood and your childhood dreams. As you’re sharing with each other, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if some things are revealed that one or both of you had totally forgotten about — whether it’s due to trauma, family pressure to suppress certain dreams or wants, or…life simply getting in the way.To me, the unknown is a lot like having dormant spots in your life. By acknowledging them, they can come “back to life” and quite possibly, with a little bit of focus and effort on your part, open up entirely new worlds for you.

5 Benefits of Doing the Johari Window Exercise


The interesting thing about the Johari Window is, in many ways, like the beginning stages of life coaching, it was initially designed to help people interact better in group/corporate settings. However, when I watched how Mary Jane freaked it, that’s how I advised people to use it.

If you want to tweak it to apply to a work retreat or business meeting…by all means. First, though, try using it on a more personal note. Aside from all of the things that we already touched on via each windowpane, here are some other reasons why it could be one of the best self-help exercises that you’ve done in a while.

You will be a better communicator. You can’t have successful personal or professional relationships if you don’t communicate effectively, and the better you know yourself, the better you’ll be at expressing yourself. The Johari Window can help to make that happen.

You will be better at emotionally self-regulating. When it comes to blind spots and the unknown, both of those could explain (for example) why you get easily triggered, you are super-sensitive when it comes to correction, or you can’t seem to get a handle on your moods. Unfortunately, a lot of people chalk this kind of stuff up to “well, that’s just the way that I am” when the reality is part of what comes with emotional intelligence, and holistic maturity is knowing that you can absolutely control how you choose to respond and react to things. Getting to know your blind spots and unknown areas plays a big role in that.

You will feel more genuine when interacting with others. Some people define intimacy as knowing and being known. That said, it’s pretty difficult to be truly intimate with someone if you’re hiding parts of yourself or you’re putting up a façade. When you’re willing to give healthy and trustworthy individuals more authentic access to you, that is what makes your relationships more secure and reliable.

You will be able to make better decisions (faster). A part of the reason why some people struggle with the decision-making process is that they are always second-guessing themselves. Oftentimes, that’s because they care too much about what other people think, or they’re not clear enough about what their own standards, boundaries, or needs are. Oh, but believe you me, the better you know yourself, the easier it is to decide which people, places, things, and ideas will complement you and your life. I think that you can see that this is just one more way that the Johari Window can be of service.

Your self-esteem will skyrocket. Imagine how much more confident you will become once you can take honest feedback and apply it. I’m telling you, being able to hear about yourself may not always be easy but when you do it, it reveals that you’re willing to grow at the expense of simply feeding your ego all of the time — and that can make you unstoppable in so many ways and on so many levels.


You know, I can’t think of one person who has walked this through and has not received some real insights on themselves — ones that have made them a better person and a better person to interact with.

So, over the next couple of weeks, treat yourself to the Johari Window exercise. Be open to what you learn — and, at the expense of punning, let the light of the window shine right on through, sis.

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