How Well Does Your Family Know You?
The Johari Window is a psychology tool that has much to teach families. It is used to help people better understand their relationship with self and others. Often families do not have a lot of ‘current’ information about one another because as we grow into adulthood, many of us move away and have families of our own. There are many comedies out there about what happens when families come together, particularly at holidays. We may have interesting stories of our own. But one thing is for sure, they all have one thing in common, these holiday stories are chock full of opportunities for miscommunication.
The Johari Window is a tool that you can utilize at a Family Meeting. It can be a fun way to get to know one another better – and, as a bonus, you just might get to know yourself a bit better too!
There are two key ideas behind the tool:
- That you can build trust with others by disclosing information about yourself.
- That, with the help of feedback from others, you can learn about yourself and come to terms with personal issues
The Johari Window is shown as a four-quadrant grid:
What is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others – open area, open self, free area, free self, or ‘the arena’.
What is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know – blind area, blind self, or ‘blind spot’. For example, we may not really understand that we make things over-complicated, but other people have accepted this about us. Individuals can often be very sensitive about these kinds of things, so this is NOT an area that will be fruitful in an open forum like a family meeting. Use your own good judgment about what to ask or disclose in this area. For example it might be quite alright to ask for feedback about how you were perceived as a child – friendly or shy – were you considered a good athlete, a good sport? You may not remember these things and if you feel safe, family members are a good place to start to find them out.
What the person knows about him/herself that others do not know – hidden area, hidden self, avoided area, avoided self or ‘facade’. There are always some things we like to be private about, and we have a right to our privacy. However, this is the quadrant that we can probably afford to be more open about. Often this quadrant holds all of our ‘preferences’, from food, to kinds of people we like to be around, to wondering about changing our career, to wondering how our siblings remember certain family holidays.
What is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others – unknown area or unknown self. As you might have guessed, this is our ‘unconscious’. This is also NOT an area that should be explored in an open forum like a family meeting. But this is an area that can over time begin to mature and develop based upon feedback we receive from people in our family.
This is just a tool. Make sure that everyone participating in this exercise understands that what individuals choose to ‘self-disclose’ is voluntary.
Keep it light.
For example, one family member might ask another family member, “I don’t remember very much about you when I was young, of course, I was so much younger.”
Her brother might say, “Oh, I went to boarding school when you were still in elementary school! I would come home for holidays. I remember we used to play Scrabble together a lot.”
His Sister then might say, “Oh yes, now I remember!”
This is an important recollection and a simple beginning for these two siblings who are very different ages.
As you get started you might ask very simple questions like, “do you like sushi?” “Where do you like to vacation – on a beach or in the mountains, or do you like to stay home?” Even simple questions like these begin to enlarge that Open Area.
The progression of the Johari Window can be seen in the diagrams below. Note how the Open Area increases in size relative to the other quadrants as people begin to get to know themselves and one another better!
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