From the dawn of time, through every advancement we’ve made, and within any culture you can think of, the ability to influence others is a critical skill that can make the difference between success and failure in both personal and professional life. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to convince your boss to give you a day off, persuade your friends to help out with your latest project, or motivate your team to achieve their goals, your ability to influence others is directly linked to your effectiveness as someone credible or engaging. Both of these are tied in directly with your overall success.
Despite how important this is though, it’s poorly understood by the general public. Even with our best intentions, we often fail to influence others as effectively as we could or should. Sometimes we overcook it and come across as pushy or aggressive, we struggle to get our message across in the manner intended, or simply fail to connect with others on a deep level. Since we’ve been doing this since the dawn of time, you have to ask ‘why does this happen’? One of the key answers lies in our blind spots.
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What Are Blind Spots and Why Do They Matter?
Blind spots are those aspects of our personality, behaviour, or perception that we’re simply unaware of. It pretty much says what’s in the can. What isn’t readily known is how they have a massive impact on our lives and relationships. The blind spots themselves present and manifest in many different ways, from our communication style and body language to our beliefs and values. Because they can feature across our personality, behaviours or perceptions, they can relate to our self-image, our emotional intelligence, our biases, or even our assumptions about others.
Blind spots matter because they can undermine our ability to connect with others, build trust, and influence them. These are crucial when you think of relationships and how we need them. When we’re unaware of our blind spots, given they’re blind, we can unintentionally send messages that conflict with who we are or what we mean. This can contribute to a miscommunication in our intentions, trigger negative reactions, or create misunderstandings that fester and create more problems. For example, if you have a blind spot related to your body language, you might think you come across as assertive, but instead you come across as cold or distant, maybe arrogant, even if you’re trying to add friendly and approachable to your list of characteristics.
The Johari Window: A Framework for Understanding Your Blind Spots
This is a tool I’ve used since the very minute I came across it and it’s one that has deeply influenced my clients. Undoubtedly, one of the most useful frameworks for understanding blind spots is the Johari Window, a model developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham way back in the 1950s.
Like any good tool from the ‘50s it needed some fine tuning so I’ve taken the liberty of turning it into something that is really, really useful for you. Think of a graph or you can even check out my amazing artwork for how the Johari Window looks like now. The vertical line, or Y axis, is what you know about yourself. The horizontal line, or X axis, is what others know about you. The concept of the JoHari window is that it divides our personality into four quadrants. With my version, you’ll soon see how it’s not just your personality you can understand here, but absolutely ANY facet of your behaviours you want more insight on.
- The open quadrant is where you know something about yourself and others know it too. It’s typically the views or behaviours that are presented in certain situations. An example could be that you’re great under pressure and people around you know it too. When there’s a pressure situation you stay calm and collected and your colleagues associate this with who you are. It also represents any aspect of ourselves we know of and we’re comfortable sharing with others. This includes our skills, knowledge, and experiences.
- The hidden quadrant represents the aspects of ourselves that we’re aware of, but others don’t know. This can be our passions, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. It can also be behaviours that we’re capable of that others don’t know, because they haven’t seen us exhibit them. An example of this could be during a public speaking competition. You might have been on the Debate team at school, but no one at work is aware of this or has had a chance to see you speak in public.
- The unknown quadrant represents the aspects of ourselves we’re not aware of, and others aren’t aware of it either. This is where our potential, our undiscovered talents, and our unconscious biases can live. An example of this is when you have never been in a certain situation so you simply don’t know how you would behave.
- The blind quadrant represents the aspects of ourselves that others are aware of but we aren’t. An example of this is where we’ve demonstrated a behaviour and we’ve been unaware that this has happened. Or that our perception isn’t the same as how other people would perceive it. This is our blind spot.
A key point to note on my modified version is that those 4 quadrants are NOT EQUAL and all of them can be changed. In fact, it’s a key aspect of your development that you will be able to reduce some and grow others.
The Johari Window, or at least my adaptation of it, is incredibly powerful in helping identify our Hidden, Open and Blind spots by bringing an awareness of each. You’ll be amazed at how many people won’t realise you’re passionate about something or really good at something until you show them. This is where your ‘Hidden’ quadrant can transition to ‘Open’. Or how talents you have assumed everyone knew about (Open) were actually ‘Hidden’.
By understanding each of these quadrants you can make a strategic approach to revealing more about yourself or not. Make sure you read through to the end of this blog to know my approach, and why it’s critical to your happiness. Pretty bold statement aye!!
When expanding our open quadrant and reducing our blind quadrant, we can increase our self-awareness and improve our ability to influence others.
How Blind Spots Impact Your Ability to Influence Others
Blind spots are slowing down your development and progress, while undermining your ability to influence others. Here are a few examples:
- Miscommunication: When you have blind spot that is related to your communication style or body language, you can unintentionally send messages that are misinterpreted by others. Please don’t hate me for this as I’m simply the messenger, but the phrase ‘Resting B!tch Face’ has its origins in a person being unaware their expression is read as a negative one. This can be completely at odds with how they’re feeling, but nonetheless, it’s misread and leads to misunderstandings, conflicts, and a potential breakdown in communication.
- Lack of empathy: If we find ourselves with blind spots related to our emotional intelligence or our ability to understand others’ perspectives, we may fail to empathize with others and connect with them on an emotional level. This can make it difficult to influence them or to build strong relationships with them.
- Inconsistency: When we have blind spots related to our values, beliefs, or biases, we may send mixed messages that are inconsistent with our intentions or our actions. This can erode trust and credibility and make it difficult to influence others in a positive way.
- Stumbling in the dark: This is when our blind spot lets us behave in ways we perceive are the right ones, but everyone else around us knows is wrong. This is a credibility killer, especially if you’re leading a team or trying to influence people. If you’re acting in a way that isn’t aligned with other’s perceptions, you need to either change your behaviour or help change their perception. One of these is going to take a lot less effort than the other.
Strategies for Overcoming Your Blind Spots and Enhancing Your Influence
Like any good insight, there are several strategies that you can use to overcome your blind spots and enhance your ability to influence others:
- Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from others about your strengths and weaknesses, and be open to constructive criticism. This can help you identify your blind spots and work on them.
- Practice self-reflection: Take time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and identify any patterns or biases that may be holding you back. This can help you develop greater self-awareness and improve your ability to influence others.
- Embrace diversity: Engage with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives, and seek to understand their point of view. If you only surround yourself with opinions you agree with, then you’ll come to believe these are the only opinions out there. Engaging with different opinions, even if uncomfortable, can help you broaden your horizons and reduce your blind spots.
- Learn new skills: Invest in your personal and professional development by learning new skills, such as communication, relationship management, or conflict resolution. This can help you overcome your blind spots and enhance your influence especially as you increase your comfort zone with these new skills.
“I wear my insecurities like armour….”
“I wear my insecurities like armour, the more transparent I am the stronger I become” – Eddie Rakanui
Remember how I said to stick around for my bold statement to happiness? Well here it goes.
It is in your very best interests to grow the Open quadrant at the expense of all the others. When you are more open about your passions, strengths and vulnerabilities you move from a place of secrecy to strength. When people know what you represent, you’ll find more people wanting to join you and support your cause. Forget about the ‘haters’ out there trying to slow you down, that will happen irrespective of what you say or do. Because when you’re more willing to show the characteristics of who you are, the more real and more engaging you become.
Another benefit is that in time, you’ll find that things like jokes at your expense, or triggers you used to have, have less weight to them. As your familiarity with them grows they move from being triggers, to just noise, and eventually you stop hearing the noise. You soon start to realise that noise is based on someone else’s insecurities and not your own. You stop being insecure about it because you’ve managed it out in the open rather than let it fester under the surface.
It’s a difficult path to walk at the start, but the impact on your happiness is invaluable and one I’ve walked. It has changed my life immeasurably and is a key principle I coach by.
The wrap up
To wrap this all up, my adapted version of the JoHari window will reduce your blind spots that are undermining your ability to influence others and limiting your effectiveness as an influencer. If you want to know what others are seeing, and what you can share with the world, then use this tool to expand your self-awareness and building stronger relationships with people. With this as part of your mindset and in your skills toolbox it’s much easier to achieve greater success in your personal and professional life.
Go out there, reduce those blind spots and love life more.