In my last post I wrote about my experience of completing a Johari Window. However my biggest criticism of this method of self-reflection, was that it gave a positive bias. The word choices available were all good things and if the aim is to become truly self-aware, I believe it is important to be honest about our own short comings, as well as our strengths. This is where the Nohari Window comes in.
The Nohari Window uses the structure and process of the Johari Window, where you and then others choose words from a pre-defined list that they believe most represent you. The words then create a four category window like this:
|Known to You||Not Known to You|
|Known to Others||Arena (out in the open) – Adjectives that both the subject and peers select go in this cell (or quadrant) of the grid. These are traits that subject and peers perceive||Blind Spot – Adjectives not selected by subjects, but only by their peers go here. These represent what others perceive but the subject does not.|
|Not Known to Other||Façade – Adjectives selected by the subject, but not by any of their peers, go in this quadrant. These are things the peers are either unaware of, or that are untrue but for the subject’s claim.||Unknown – Adjectives that neither subject nor peers selected go here. They represent subject’s behaviours or motives that no one participating recognizes—either because they do not apply or because of collective ignorance of these traits.|
When you gather this information and analyse it it can show you:
- The negative aspects of yourself that most others recognise
- How honest you are willing to be about your own shortcomings
- The vulnerable parts of yourself that you try to keep hidden from view
- Potential areas for development
The prospect of saying to a load of people “please tell me the worst things you think about me”, is not something we are often encouraged to do. Usually, when giving feedback its on our work or our ideas. We don’t usually touch on personality based feedback for fear of “getting too personal”. It’s like what we produce is fair game for criticism but as soon as you talk about the person themselves, that’s mean and taboo.
I am not advocating for meanness. Feedback should never be brutal but constructive and honest. It should not come from a place of bitterness or spite or with the desire to hurt someone’s feelings but a willingness to be help broaden the other person’s point of view. It should be offered as a suggestion with the ultimate decision of whether to act upon it still in the control of the receiver of the feedback.
With this in mind, these are the words I chose which I believed were most accurate descriptors for me:
- Chaotic – My bedroom is often a mess, I have a scatter gun approach to tasks and I find maintaining routine really difficult
- Cynical – I can be hyper critical often not being able to take information given to me at face value. I question everything until I make up my own mind about it
- Distant – I find it difficult to talk about my own feelings and don’t like people seeing me as vulnerable which means I can keep people at a distance. I’m like an onion. I’ve got layers
- Impatient – I’m useless at delayed gratification. If I’ve decided I want something – I want it then. If I’ve decided something is urgent everything else gets thrown out of the window
- Insecure – I’m never satisfied with myself. Not in a crushingly low self-esteem way. I know I have strengths. I am just never content with my efforts. I’m my own worst critic and have huge “impostor syndrome”
Did this ring true for other people though?
Here’s how my window turned out:
intolerant (2), inflexible (2), timid (6), cowardly (1), aloof (3), simple (1), irresponsible (1), withdrawn (5), hostile (1), unhappy (3), unhelpful (1), brash (2), irrational (1), boastful (1), blasé (4), imperceptive (1), embarrassed (5), loud (2), insensitive (1), self-satisfied (2), passive (6), rash (1), dispassionate (2), overdramatic (1), predictable (9), inattentive (1), unreliable (1)
incompetent, violent, glum, stupid, vulgar, lethargic, selfish, needy, unimaginative, inane, cruel, ignorant,
childish, weak, vacuous, panicky, unethical, smug, dull, callous, cold, foolish, humourless
*the numbers next to each word represent the number of times that word was selected
I did this exercise a little while ago now, so I’ve had a fair while to reflect on the results. The majority of my observations are now more a commentary on the shortcomings of this method but I have also tried to keep an open mind to not disregard the results entirely.
My thoughts and observations now include:
- I got far less results than on my Johari Window. I thought it was interesting that some people told me that they either didn’t want to do it or couldn’t find enough words they thought were suitable in the list so didn’t want to skew my results.
- I got A LOT of feedback from the people I asked to contribute, not saying that they weren’t comfortable with providing me with honest feedback but that the word options did not properly capture what they would have wanted to say. For example some people explained that what they meant they had chosen a word in relation to a particular type of scenario e.g. I am quite passive in that I will shy away from confrontation, even if I am in the right. Rather than passive all the time.
- Similarly, some said that they honest feedback didn’t appear in the list so I actually got a few helpful things by email. E.g. “be more forceful when trying to get my ideas heard over the others, particularly senior male colleagues. Have more confidence in your ideas.”
- The results came back with a positive bias. Some people explained that the words they chose they actually meant in a positive way. For example, lots of people said that when they chose the word predictable (the most popular choice), what they meant was actually closer to reliable in that I am steady and dependable. Which, whilst lovely to hear, did not contribute to highlighting my shortcomings and therefore missed the point of the exercise.
- The third objection that I heard was that, whilst they could identify one or two things of relevance, they picked random choices to make up to the number so they could submit their entry. Therefore, I’ve been quite inclined to disregard the choices that were only made once, particularly as many of these appear to contradict each other e.g. cowardly and brash.
- Finally, a similar observation I made on my Johari window, is that everything I said about myself was picked up by at least two other people. Re-enforcing to me that I present a pretty authentic version of myself to other people, which I think in itself is positive.
So overall I’m not sure that the feedback itself holds a huge amount of merit for me. Nothing came out of it that would completely alter the way I work or give me huge cause for concern.
And I do think there are some benefits to this method:
- It creates a safe space for honest, personal feedback. Voluntarily asking people to provide you with feedback gives them permission to do so when they may not have given you this insight in any other way.
- It puts the feedback at an objective distance. Doing this exercise online in this way means that it takes the fear of confrontation out of it. You’re not sitting listening to people tell you to your face whats wrong with you. It gives you a broader picture that you can analyse privately which sparks internally reflection rather than immediate defensive reaction.
However, overall, I think this method is simply too restrictive.
It takes away any context to the feedback you receive which is why so many people provided me with this outside of completing the exercise.
Context is important when providing constructive criticism it gives you the opportunity to say “in these types of scenarios you can sometimes come across as…” or “I think you do this bit well but you could improve by…” or even “sometimes I feel you’re too X because of Y”.
So, in trying out both the Johari Window and the Nohari Window, my biggest lessons are:
- to keep asking for feedback and ensuring that when I receive it, to accept it graciously and take the time to digest it properly
- to become more comfortable with providing objective, constructive criticism that is helpful and actionable
So, if you ever do want to get in touch with some feedback for me, please do! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org