The Hidden Secret to Excelling at Professional Relationships Part II: A Model for Discovering your Unknown Unknowns

Last week we established that it is not enough to simply learn new skills when you want to excel at interpersonal communication. The reason is quite simple – you have blind spots that you are absolutely unaware exist. You don’t even know the questions to ask to get to the information you need to know. If you are interested in the details click here.

This week we are going to introduce a model that will help you understand the two different types of blind spots you have.

Johari’s Window is a model for understanding interpersonal communication. It was developed out of the tremendous scientific focus on experiential and experimental engagement with interpersonal dynamics that happened on university campuses in the 60’s and 70’s.

The fundamental premise is that there are aspects of ourselves that are outside our awareness.

These aspects of ourselves that we are not aware of, often cause the very interpersonal problems we seek to remedy. But because they are outside of our awareness we do not have the very data we need to solve the problem. Take a look at the diagram below.


In this model there are parts of ourselves that are known to us (Arena & Façade) , parts of ourselves that are known to others (Arena & Blind Spot) and parts of ourselves that are unknown to ourselves or others (Mystery). Some of these areas overlap. For example, there is part of ourselves that we are aware of and that others are aware of (Arena). But there is also

The Hidden Secret to Excelling at Professional Relationships Part I


Most of us are pretty good at relationships – otherwise, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Pretty much anything in the professional world requires that we interact with others. The question then becomes: How do we go from good to great?

From Good to Great

There are innumerous books written about this subject, giving advice about how to do this. You have probably read several of them. The top books on this topic have titles such as, “Crucial Conversations” or the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. What all of these books and other books have in common is a focus on the external techniques, tactics, and processes that allow us to be effective in interacting with others in particular contexts. You can make a lot of headway reading these books – most of you probably significantly upped your game in one way or another (assuming you had a process for implementing the learning). I am going to argue that while these skills are important they will only take you so far. If you really want to master interpersonal communications, you have to address your blind spots.

The Things You Don’t Know You Don’t Know

Take a moment and think about something you know you don’t know? No. I actually want you to do this exercise. Name 2 things you know you don’t know. Most people say something like: I know I don’t know how to speak Russian, or I know I don’t know the product demand for …