Acknowledging things about how we behave and discovering unknowns about ourselves are big parts of understanding who we are as people. Understanding ourselves can help us to become the best version of ourselves that we can.

One way of thinking about this is by considering Johari’s window. This model can help us discover things about ourselves and adapt certain behaviours that we have. This model splits knowledge about ourselves into four ‘panes. The first is things we know about ourselves that others also know about ourselves: the ‘open’ part of ourselves. The second pane is things that we know about ourselves that others don’t: the ‘closed’ part of ourselves. The third is things about us that we don’t know, but others do our ‘blind spots’. The fourth is things that we don’t know about ourselves, and that others don’t know either: the ‘hidden potential’.

The aim is to make this fourth ‘windowpane’ as small as possible. To do this, we need to expand the other three ‘panes’. One way in which we can do this is by opening up to others: moving things from the ‘closed’ to the ‘open’. Although this can be a difficult process, it is worth the risk. Therapy is one way in which you can become better at trusting others and opening up to them.

This blog will focus on the third ‘pane’: our blind spots. This can be a difficult area to address as, in some ways, it is out of your control. This is not trusting others enough for you to tell them something, but rather trusting others to tell us about ourselves. There is no point in denying that this can be a very daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be.

In order to learn things about ourselves that others already know, we need to be open and ask our peers for feedback. This may be in a professional environment, or a more informal environment. In a more professional context, we may ask our colleagues and peers for feedback about how we act in certain situations, such as how we respond to others when we are close to a deadline. When considering more informal contexts, feedback could look like observations about how you interact with friends and family when you are feeling particularly stressed at work.

This feedback may take many different forms. Different people observe different things. They may notice patterns in your behaviour or something that you do that you had not realised is unhelpful. It is also important to note that while this feedback may be given directly, it is often given more subtly. It can, therefore, be useful to learn to notice and understand when people give you hints about how certain behaviours of yours affects them. This may be through subtle comments, through things that they don’t say or through body language.

Feedback from others about our behaviour, as well as subtle hints about how our behaviour may impact others, can be easy to just ignore and brush aside. However, while it may be difficult to have these conversations and discover things about yourself that you didn’t know, how we respond to this feedback is so important. We have a choice about how we respond, and we can learn how to make the right choice.  

One way in which we can respond to feedback, that is perhaps not very helpful, is to become defensive. It is often a struggle to hear things about ourselves that we don’t necessarily like, or even just something that we hadn’t noticed about ourselves before. However, if we stay on the defensive, we can overlook ways that we can change our behaviour and grow in ourselves. Getting defensive when we get feedback about our behaviours can stop us from changing anything. We can get stuck in a cycle of repeating unhelpful behaviour; this isn’t good for anyone.

Instead of getting defensive, we can learn how to accept the feedback that we may receive from others and adapt our behaviours to fit this feedback. Learning how we can change and adapt is essential to our personal growth. It is also essential to really understanding who we are. Listening to others and what they have to say is an extremely important life skill. There are some things that we cannot know about ourselves unless we are told about: we are not on the receiving end of our own behaviour and actions. We can learn to ask questions about what people say about our behaviour and use what we learn to grow as people.

One way in which we can learn how to take risks in opening up to people and asking others for feedback is by going to therapy. Therapy can help us to learn how to adapt our behaviours and to grow as people. We can find ways to expand the ‘windowpanes’ so that we can discover more about ourselves by asking others.

Written by Megan Husband