why relationships matter (part 2): the johari window

the other day ross said to me, “funny how you define something I’ve never really thought about myself, but now know.”

when he said that i realized yet another reason why relationships are so important. relationships teach us about ourselves in ways we could never learn without them. i wrote about several reasons yesterday, but the one i want to cover today is the johari window.

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the johari window is a tool used to show groups and individuals how learning about the self and others happens over time. created by joseph luft and harrington ingham, the tool breaks down how we understand ourselves into four quadrants along two axes. the axes are ‘self’ vs ‘others’ and each axis moves from known to unknown. the quadrants of knowledge about ourselves are (clockwise from top left): 

now, there’s a lot to say about this description model including how it helps individuals grow over time, how it can help teams work together more effectively, et cetera. what interests me about is it at the moment is it’s importance to relationships.

in theory, people who are strong leaders and partners actively work to minimize the size of the unknown self quadrant. this sounds like very much like the thinking on self-knowledge that gretchen rubin believes is part of the secrets to happiness. there are several ways to do shrink the size of this quadrant, but two of them involves others.

feedback is when people tell you things about yourself that they know and you don’t. being open to feedback is actually an uncomfortable and difficult thing. however, the more open you are to it (this takes practice and clear communication with others), the more likely it is that people will be willing to give you honest feedback and help uncover your blind spots.

shared discovery is when you and someone(s) else uncover something about you that neither of you knew. i have had this happen many times in work situations, especially when i’ve been on a team for a few months or years.

relationships matter because without them, there are some things about ourselves that we can never know. unsurprisingly, this thinking is consistent with many other parts of my thinking. having really thought through it, though, makes it concrete in ways that some of the quotes below reference more ethereally…

In and through community lies the salvation of the world.” — M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace

“Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.