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The "JoHari Window" and Awareness
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Joe, Harry, and the Window of Self-Discovery

Does your window look like this  The Raffetto GroupJoseph Luft and Harry Ingham conceived and used the "JoHari Window" at the Western Training Laboratory in 1955.  Their purpose was to illustrate interpersonal relationships in terms of AWARENESS. The image at the right is how the Window was portrayed in one of their 1960s workshops.  

Used as a therapeutic tool the JoHari Window helped people better understand their relationships with them selves and others in both self-help groups and corporate settings.  In workshop retreats, plotting the shape of one's four window panes was very dynamic and done in real time using questions posed to the individual and to others in the group.


JoHari Window  The Raffetto Group Eventually, the JoHari Window became a more standardized exercise* (as seen at right).  But the popularity of the exercise waned mainly because the task took half a day or more for a small group of participants to complete.  

Nonetheless, there are some significant realities within the JoHari Window that can be used to develop a sense of one's leadership style.  What's important about this 2x2 matrix is that the areas of each pane don't stay equal but rather change size and shape to represent  magnitude or power within one's "self."

Furthermore, the two factors that create the cells are basic to developing leadership effectiveness and style.  They are:

  • your self-awareness; and
  • what others are aware of about you.

Any resemblance between a conventional set of identical window panes and a person's JoHari window is 99% imaginative and 100% unsupported by reality. Psychodynamic Window Panes can and should change in area. For example, effective leaders were assumed to be ones who could develop a large "Arena" (Public Self) containing things they know about themselves and are also known to others.  The mission of leadership development then was to successfully grow the Arena.  

That was a challenge because the main way to grow any one window pane was to shrink one or more of the other three.  You see, the four window areas represent all there is, that is, the whole person.  And here is where the challenges start of appear.

How Big is Your Window


When the sizes and shapes of the four window panes are radically different, it signifies that one's self-awareness is either robust or else somehow impaired.  Through experiential exercises led by trained facilitators (therapists) player-leaders would intensively work on lessening the "Blind Spot, Facade, and Unknown" panes of awareness while adding to the factors in the Arena, traits known to the leader and also known to others.


Perhaps the most commonly recognized "pane" is the Blind Spot. Just about everyone has worked for some "LINO" (leader in name only) who was totally unaware of a usually bad quality that was all-too clear to those he or she led. Like what? Perhaps these are familiar:

  • Incapable of unconditional praise of a peer or subordinate.
  • Turning any commentary into a self-serving plug highlighted many times by the word "I".
  • Unintentionally taking unearned credit for the work of someone else.
  • Vanity, exaggeration or "oneupmanship" to reinforce one's self-importance.

Blind Spots represent those "things your best friend won't tell you," things that easily become the Achilles Heel for your role as an effective leader.


The Fašade area contains things that you know about yourself but hide from other people, hence the name "The Hidden Self".  The main thing about these qualities is that the person intentionally conceals each quality from people.  The harm in this habit is that it undermines trust in your leadership.  Sometimes this private, hidden-self can be reduced by leveling with people (for example, using the "feel, felt, found" exercise), revealing hidden concerns and feelings which can foster a climate of mutual trust.

The last area, the Unknown or Invisible area, contains motives, thoughts and feelings that influence relationships even though no one is consciously aware of them.  It's like the submerged part of an iceberg: know it's there, can't see it and its size is a mystery (until "Titanic-You" hits it).  

The Unknown is probably the most difficult of all the areas to change. But one helpful question is: How does one's Unknown become so large?

Here's my belief.  If you have never explored the brink between what you know and what you don't know, then a great number of your personal qualities, both positives and negatives, will remain unknown mysteries. In fact, you don't even know that you don't know. Now that's unconscious!

Perhaps the best way to manage the Unknown is to un-censor yourself and have others become aware of your qualities that you yourself don't know about.  In 1979 my two psychoanalyst co-authors of "A Taxonomy of Medical Students" sent me a congratulations card that read "It is in men as in soils where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not." (Jonathan Swift 1667-1745) to which they had added, "But it's no secret to his friends."

Never argue with trained Freudian psychoanalysts!


Don't Lose That Thought, 
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Allen M. "Dr. Al" Raffetto, Ph.D.

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