How to See Your Blind Spot

The dilemma:

We never really know how we appear to others, nor do we know if they truly understand what we are trying to say. This is a universal challenge of communication. The writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery summarized it perfectly: “Language is the source of misunderstandings”.

The gap betweenour intentions and how others perceive us is a ‘blind spot”. It is a major obstacle to effective communication. Fortunately, there are ways of shrinking the ‘blind spot’.  Let’s look at one of those methods:

Johari Window:

Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham built the Johari Window (Joe and Harry) in 1955.  The model differentiates between our own perception, and the perception of others. The Johari is built on a four-paned window (see below).

The two columns show the ‘Self”, including things ‘Known to self’ and things ‘Not known to self’. The two rows represent the perception of ‘Others’. This contains things ‘Known to others” and things ‘Not known to others’.  The intersection of the columns and rows creates four quadrants; namely: Shared, Blind, Hidden, and Unknown.  Let’s look at those zones:

The ‘Shared’ zone contains information that I know about myself, which is shared with people in my group.  This zone is increases as people share information about themselves in trusting work places. The more personal information is shared, the bigger the shared zone.

The ‘Blind” zone includes information known by others, but not known by me. Over half human communication is non-verbal, so this zone includes the messages I communicate with my body language, habits, mannerism, voice, tone and style.

My ‘Hidden Area’ holds information known to me but not shared with others.  Included in this quadrant are feelings, opinions, prejudices, and even past history.  Everyone has secrets.  Why?  Because people fear full disclosure will provoke rejection or ridicule.  Others withhold information so that they can manipulate people, in the future. Or, people are simply modest about their accomplishments and talent.

The ‘Unknown’ is the ultimate blind spot.  It includes stuff unknown to me, and unknown to others.  Some of this information is deeply embedded in what Freud called the ‘unconscious’. It is only accessible through hypnosis, or psychoanalytic study.  Nevertheless, some unknown data is discovered when we work with others to make sense of our individual feelings and behavior.

How to use the Johari Window?

The goal of the Johari Window is to expand the shared area, without abandoning information that is strictly personal.  For example, if you are surgeon, no one needs to know that you cannot swim. Who cares?  In contrast, you would want his team to know about your inexperience with a specific medical procedure.  Generally, the more people know about each other, the more productive, cooperative and effective they will be in groups, and organizations. Strong teams are composed of people who really know each other.

Shrinking ‘blind’ zone is a win-win.  The individual gains valuable insight by learning from his colleagues.  Sharing information improves overall team performance and engagement. Indeed, when team members know each other, they build a bond of trust – an environment where everyone readily exchanges ideas, and quickly develop optimal business and social relationships (Lencioni, 2005, p. 14).

Conversely, if is low, teams compensate with political games, wasting everyone’s time, and undermining both morale and performance.  In extreme cases, low trust breeds a desire for revenge – the ultimate destroyer of personal and material value.

It is even possible to shrink the ‘unknown’ by sharing information, and making sense about why we behave in certain ways.  This is a joint-discovery, made easier by having more than one set of eyes, looking at your beliefs and behavior. The Johari Window is an elegant tool for self-realization, working with others to discover your strengths and weaknesses, to see ourselves as others see us.


Lencioni, P. (2005). Overcoming the five dysfunctions of teams: A field guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Luft, J.; Ingham, H. (1955). “The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonalawareness”. Proceedings of the western training laboratory in group development. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles


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