How to Uncover Blind-Spots in Your Self-Awareness

by Rick Forbus, Ph.D.

One obstacle that coaching conversations reveal to me in my practice is that overcoming paradigms is nearly impossible alone. The JOHARI Window that is used by psychologists, coaches and some consultants is a good way to speak to how we all have “blind spots” in our self-awareness. These unknown areas many times are what stop us from being able to break into a new paradigm or new area of hope of existence. The JOHARI Window was developed in 1955 by two psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, thus, the name JOHARI, was designed from their first names. This simple and useful tool helps individuals and groups better understand their various feelings, experiences, views, attitudes, skills, intentions and motivations from four perspectives. The four perspectives are:

  1. Known to Self
  2. Known to Others
  3. Not Known to Others
  4. Not Known to Self

The Four Quadrants in the “window” are:

  1. The Open and Free Area – This area depicts a “free area” of activity because a person knows these things about themselves and others know these things about the person. As a person is coached and a small group is group coached, and, if there is a willingness to open up, this area is “expanded” for greater understanding and revelations.
  2. The Hidden Area – This quadrant area of the “window” is where we keep personal information that we do not want others to have access. The reasons for keeping information hidden can range from being personally sensitive, that one would not want to share openly, to information that an employee would like to share, but does not feel there is a safe environment or adequate trust to do so. In either of these situations, exposing information in this quadrant can have negative repercussions. With good coaching individuals and teams can explore these areas with care and open it up to greater results.
  3. The Unknown Area – The Unknown Area is where the greatest potential lies. People are multifaceted and there is much under the surface in the unconscious mind. In the course of living, events can occur where feelings, thoughts, or insights are realized that were never recognized before. These are instances where the Unknown Area reveals clues to an inner life that had previously gone unnoticed. When these inner mysteries emerge, especially through the help of a coach, these will enter into your Known Window and exploration of their potential meanings will begin.
  4. The Blind Area – Others do not know The Blind Area nor is it known to ourselves. The Blind Area often holds the keys to personal and team progress and revelation. When strengths and areas for development are openly shared in this quadrant, the recipient is better able to make decisions on behavior changes and seek support or resources for personal development. The blind spots identified in this area can range from technical competence to attitudinal issues. Individually or as a work group, venturing into this blind area, with the help of a professional, could bring about exciting synergies never possible by staying only in the “known zone.” Regardless of the type of information shared here, it needs to be data that will help the recipient become a better person and a more effective employee. As discussed above, when information is shared from the blind quadrant, it automatically expands the Open/ Free area. A professional coach can unlock this area using several techniques.

This JOHARI window style of coaching conversation can be catalytic for a paradigm break through. To discover a new “space” to work and live in, a process of “preferred futuring” needs to happen. This process of creativity and attempting a preferred future view is not easy. To be honest, this kind of transformational thinking is nearly impossible alone. To just actualize a dream is exhausting and sometimes as difficult as trying to see the other side of a mountain from the opposite valley view. It is virtually impossible to find a new idea for career direction without either some former inclination to a work genre or having this breakthrough supported by an alliance partner, like a coach or consultant. What are things you cannot see about yourself that are hindering a new career path? What are you missing by your perspective? How will you find the new energy and career trajectory without a creative revelation of some sort?

If you found these tips from Rick Forbus, PH.D. of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at


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