Blind spot
@ChangeChallenge, @ModelThinking

What’s your blind spot?

To most people the idea of having a blind spot feels unpleasant.
It is about something you don’t know, can’t see, and where it’s hard to defend yourself against.

Yet a blind spot offers you the best chance to bring about a real change in yourself.
Discussing a blind spot is also a great way to build a deeper bond with someone else.

Let’s start with a reassurance: everyone has blind spots. From the little man to the great rulers on earth: everyone has areas that they themselves don’t know of, for example behaviors that have its origin from the upbringing, or norms and values ‚Äč‚Äčthat never were questioned. And the best thing about it is: a blind spot is most likely hidden in the full view of everyone. Well, it may be annoying that you do not see something, but it’s nice to know that there are many people who can make you aware of it. This becomes clear from the Johari window (Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, 1955). The picture shown is a somewhat free interpretation of it, in which the “I” person plays the main role, and does or does not know something about himself, and another person (the “you” person in a supporting role) may or may not notice that. For example: you know you can count well. Does another person see that too? Or: someone else thinks you always interrupt people. Do you recognize that with yourself or not?

The diagram is set up as a kind of worksheet for two people. The “I” person plays the main role. In turn, you name something you know or see, and check how the other responds. The easiest things are those that you both perceive. You can exchange a lot about that. This is the area where most cooperation takes place. Here are the least opportunities for real change. You can, however, improve results, and probably alternatives can be defined, but it is and remains familiar territory.

There will also be things that are familiar to you, but not to someone else. You kept that a secret pretty well, but by lifting the tips of the veil you have the opportunity to deepen a relationship or to broaden a collaboration. It may be of course that a subject simply never was mentioned; you have not deliberately kept it hidden. That does not matter for the other person. This may be a trigger to find out why something seems less important to you than to someone else.

It becomes interesting when the other person recognizes something with you, while you are not aware of it at all. That is your blind spot. Very often these are automatisms, things that you take for granted. Although this feels emotionally the most dangerous, it is actually not something to worry about. Only in a few cases it’s about a 100% bad feature. Usually it is something that can become even more effective if you are more aware of it. For example: ask people to write down 10 good and 10 bad things about themselves. The weaknesses quickly fill the list, while most people have trouble to honestly (without bragging) complete the list of their strengths. That’s why I think employers often hire people on the basis of qualities that belong to their blind spots, and not so much because of their testimonials and grade lists. It’s therefore useful to pay attention to this with a confidential advisor. In relationships, such a process can also prevent many problems and make the bond between partners much stronger.

And then there is the area that both have no knowledge about: the jungle. Together you can of course avoid this area. But you can also become more entrepreneurial, and go on a discovery trip together. This will enrich your life, and you will encounter many more opportunities for change. If you do that as a joint exercise, it is also less threatening.

Completed, the entire Johari window looks like this:

Additional considerations. (click to expand text)


Very often you see that the protagonist (the “I” person) usually talks about safe areas, while the other person (who has the supporting role) prefers to speak about the hidden stuff. You see that dynamic in your communication with others. Do you feel irritation about comments from others to your address? Chances are that secrets or blind spots were touched. It shows courage and adulthood if you dare to elaborate this without prejudice. Does it always seem to be about simple and known things? Then you probably move around in your comfort zone. That is not bad in itself, but beware of pitfalls. Getting out of your comfort zone is something your brain does not like: it takes a lot of energy and feels risky.

Another interesting view is that what the other person perceives usually is linked to your behavior and your actions. On the other hand, thinking (norms, values, convictions) and your motivation (motives, personality, character traits) remain hidden for the other. Of course there’s always an interaction between thinking and doing, but it is a well-known saying:

What people think, what they say and what they ultimately do, are often very different from each other!

If you recognize a blind spot, it often results in a learning process. After you make yourself aware of what you want to learn, you follow a scheme that is very similar to the Johari window. The following short video explains that.

Your personal development thus is a learning process that always goes through the same phases. As you build on your history, gradually you also become more mature and wiser.

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