Reframing the Johari Window

Ann Drysdale

A simple tool for illustrating and improving self-awareness and mutual understanding between individuals within a group, the Johari Window model was devised while researching group dynamics at the University of California Los Angeles by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955. Given modern emphasis on ‘soft’ skills – behaviour, empathy, cooperation, inter-group and interpersonal development – the Johari Window model is today enjoying renewed relevance. For an example of how the Johari Window model works click here; in the meantime here is poet Ann Drysdale’s take on it.

An exercise in perception

If you love me, don’t draw me diagrams;
Seeing is not the same as understanding.
Draw me the four-cell matrix if you must
But don’t expect me to extract a meaning
Until I have told myself in my own words
Exactly what I think I’m looking at,
Written it down and read it out aloud.

Presenting your axes as glazing-bars
Only confuses things. You can’t convince me
You can look through a window and not see
What’s on the other side. At it, perhaps,
Or even through it, darkly… never mind.
Leave me alone with it a little while.

Ah! Joe and Harry had a bungalow
With four square rooms. One kitchen/living room.
Two bed-sits with ensuite facilities.
The other room had never been unlocked
For the duration of their tenancy.

Now, since both Joe and Harry worked from home
They each respected one another’s space
And neither went into the other’s room:
They met at mealtimes, taking turns to cook
Or treat each other to a takeaway.

And, in that common room, can we assume
That they shared all experience in common
Or saw it from a common point of view?
This is to discount the joeness of Joe
And undervalue Harry’s harritude.
This would perpetuate the sorry myth
Of roses being roses being roses
And both men meaning the same thing by “anchovy”.

So you and I, together or apart,
Are still ourselves. And the old search goes on
For the supposed half-soul. Let’s make a pact
Never to go into the other room
Because the only truly safe terrain
Is that that we both know that we don’t know.


Ann Drysdale now lives in South Wales, UK and has been a hill farmer, water-gypsy, newspaper columnist and single parent – not necessarily in that order. Her fifth volume of poetry, Quaintness and Other Offences, has recently joined a mixed list of published writing, including memoir, essays and a gonzo guidebook to the City of Newport.


Image: harkers island #9 by Stephen Jesse Taylor


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