Adjust Your Johari Window
Excerpt from Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, courtesy of 800-CEO-READ:
The Johari Window is a model, invented by two American psychologists, that provides insight into how much people reveal of themselves. Some people are introverted, revealing little; they keep their window relatively closed. Other people are extroverted, revealing a great deal and keeping their windows open. These tendencies also fluctuate in different environments. In new and strange situations, with people we are unfamiliar with, our window remains small; we reveal little and expect others to do the same. If, on the other hand, the climate is safe and trusting with others that are similar to us, we share more of ourselves. Our windows open wider.
Successful communication depends, according to the model, on the degree to which we can align ourselves and our windows to match those we interact with.
Greg Seal, one of my earliest mentors who recruited me to Deloitte, brought this idea to my attention, and I’m forever grateful. As a brash, outspoken young guy, my window was wide open. Whether I was trying to sell consulting services to a shy CEO of an engineering company or working with that company’s rowdy sales staff, my brash, outspoken style remained constant. Back then it wasn’t clear to me why, for instance, the sales staff came out of meeting with me jazzed and the CEO couldn’t wait for me to leave his office. When Greg introduced the idea of the Johari Window, and the need to adjust how open or closed that window was depending on with whom you were speaking, it made perfect sense. Greg remained true to himself no matter whom he spoke with, but he delivered his message in a tone and style that fit that person best.
Every person’s Johari Window can be more or less open depending on the circumstances. And different professions— from those that demand a lot of interpersonal skills, like sales, to those that, like engineering, are essentially solitary—attract people whose windows share similar tendencies. A computer programmer’s window, for example, generally never opens wide unless he or she is around peers.A strong marketing person’s window, on the other hand, tends to be open regardless of the environment.
The key is knowing that in conducting small talk, we should be aware of the different styles at play and adapt to the person we’re talking with. I know I can be gregarious and fun and outspoken when meeting with the FerrazziGreenlight Training & Development staff. In a meeting with my loyalty-management strategy consultants, who are much more analytical, I ratchet down the excitement and focus on being more deliberate and precise. If we address someone with the wrong style, the window may close shut with nothing revealed. No connection is made.
Throughout my day, I come into contact with hundreds of different people, each with their own distinct communication style. The concept of the Johari Window has helped me become conscious of my need to adapt my conversational approach to each person I want to connect with.
One helpful technique I use is to try and envision myself as a mirror to the person with whom I’m speaking. What’s the cadence of their speech? How loudly do they talk? What’s their body language? By adjusting your behavior to mirror the person you are talking to, he’ll automatically feel more comfortable. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should be disingenuous. Rather, it shows that you’re particularly sensitive to other people’s emotional temperaments. You’re just tweaking your style to ensure that the windows remain wide open.