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You can be more than a LinkedIn connection

December 6, 2021

We’ve got all kinds of connections—from people we’ve known for years to people we’ve just met virtually. It’s a broad array. But most of us only have a few deep and meaningful relationships. So how can we add to that number of meaningful relationships?

Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram sough to answer this question in 1955 when they created the Johari Window. Their tool is meant to help people better understand themselves and others.

If you’re not familiar, there are four panes to the Johari Window. First is the ARENA pane: there are things you know about yourself that the other person also knows, or mutually held information. In the FAÇADE pane are the things you know about yourself that the other person doesn’t know. There’s a certain amount of protection you feel here because you still have private information. The BLINDSPOT pane holds the habits you’re unaware of that someone else observes in you. And finally, there are the things you don’t know about yourself, and the other person also doesn’t know. This pane is called the UNKNOWN. This pane offers the greatest opportunities to deepen relationships because you can discover things about yourself with the help of others that cause you to learn and grow.

When you first meet someone, you know little or nothing about them. As you talk and spend time together you naturally learn more about each other and expand your Arena pane. This is where you need to be to build deep, meaningful relationships—which means being vulnerable and open to sharing more about yourself.

I continually push myself to get to this pane. Just last week I arranged a short meet and greet on Zoom with a new LinkedIn connection. I knew very little about her and she knew very little about me. Our Arenas were small. Within 30 minutes of conversation, we’d greatly expanded both of our Arenas and discovered we have many shared experiences. Our Arenas became much larger. Our relationship that was, at best, superficial at the beginning of the conversation deepened significantly in just a short time.

Sharing information about yourself to another person provides a window into your life. They can better appreciate your life experiences and gain insight into why you are the way you are. And over time, as you mutually share information, you’ll likely be willing to share more and more about yourself. This is the path to deeper relationships.

A few words of caution—don’t feel pressured to divulge more than you’re comfortable with in trying to deepen a relationship. Some things will and should remain private and stay in the Façade pane. As your relationships deepen, you’ll be privy to more and more information that previously lived in another person’s Façade pane. There’s an implied trust in your relationships that you’ll respect the privacy of the other person and they’ve shared with you. If you violate that trust, your relationship will suffer or even disappear. Once trust is lost it’s incredibly difficult to rebuild.

Over time, as you continue developing your relationship, the Blindspot, Façade, and Unknown panes will shrink as the Arena grows. If you want to build better and deeper relationships remember the Johari Window and the Arena pane.

What tools and methods have you used successfully to build and deepen relationships?

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Jeff Custer is a long-time leader at both private and Fortune 500 companies where he has developed and led both high performance individuals and teams. He is passionate about developing leaders and building high impact teams. Jeff resides in the United States.

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