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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


It's sad, but it's true--we don't know what we don't know. How could we? Out there in the world, we know everything we need to know for all of us to be as happy and successful as we want to be. Why, then, isn't everyone as happy and successful as they want to be?

Blind spots. We all have them. How in the world could we see and know everything? The figure below is the Johari Window (pronounced "Joe Harry"). It was created by Joe Luft and Harry Ingham. I wonder how they decided on the name?

As you can see, the two axes are what is known to you and what is known to others. The top left quadrant represents the things you know about yourself and that you choose to share with others. The bottom left quadrant represents the things that you know about yourself but choose to keep hidden from others (e.g., something you think might be damaging to your relationship).

The bottom right quadrant represents the things that you don't know about yourself and that others don't know about you either (e.g., the things stored in your unconscious mind). What we're most interested in, though, is the top right quadrant--the things that others know about you that you don't know about yourself. These are your blind spots.

Remember the Fundamental Attribution Error from Social Psychology. When we are looking at the behavior of others, we tend to over attribute it to their personalities (which we assume they can control) rather than to the situation they are in (which often they can't control). For example, an employee who isn't performing well might look like he's "lazy" but in fact, it's more likely that he isn't feeling challenged or motivated by his work situation.

Here's where it gets interesting. When it comes to our own behavior, we tend to over attribute it to the situation. "What, me being over controlling? That can't be true! I'm probably not getting the financial results I want because of the lack of available good employees, not because I won't delegate!" Sound familiar?

Talk about your double standard! If we aren't happy with the results we're getting, we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that we may be in a tough situation that's causing it. If we aren't happy with the results someone else is getting, we tend to hold them accountable for everything they do even when they're in a really bad situation.

While we all have blind spots, this is one of those situations in which less truly is more. The fewer blind spots you have, the happier and more successful you will be. Your blind spots literally are costing you millions. 

Here's what you can do to decrease your blind spots and increase your success:

Technique #1: Ask for feedback from those you can trust to be honest with you. Avoid "boot polishers" and "professional critics"--their skewed perspectives will result in distorted information. 

Technique #2: Never change anything you're doing unless there is a clear advantage in it. Just because someone gives you feedback doesn't mean you have to act on it; it could be their challenge/opportunity rather than yours 

Technique #3: Examine the things that you're hiding from others to see if it's really worth the effort. In particular, guilt and shame are most often just a pure waste of your time and energy.

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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