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The process of giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important concepts in training. Through the feedback process, we see ourselves as others see us. Through feedback, other people also learn how we see them. Feedback gives information to a person or group either by verbal or nonverbal communication. The information you give tells others how their behavior affects you, how you feel, and what you perceive (feedback and self-disclosure). Feedback is also a reaction by others, usually in terms of their feelings and perceptions, telling you how your behavior affects them (receiving feedback).

A model known as the Johari Window illustrates the process of giving and receiving feedback. Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed the window for their group process program. Look at the model above as a communication window through which you give and receive information about yourself and others. Look at the four panes in terms of columns and rows. The two columns represent the self; the two rows represent the group. Column one contains "things that I know about myself;" column two contains "things that I do not know about myself." The information in these rows and columns moves from one pane to another as the level of mutual trust and the exchange of feedback varies in the group. As a consequence of this movement, the size and shape of the panes within the window will vary.

The first pane, the "Arena," contains things that I know about myself and about which the group knows. Characterized by free and open exchanges of information between myself and others, this behavior is public and available to everyone. The Arena increases in size as the level of trust increases between individuals or between an individual and the group. Individuals share more information, particularly personally relevant information.

The second pane, the "Blind Spot," contains information that I do not know about myself but of which the group may know. As I begin to participate in the group, I am not aware of the information I communicate to the group. The people in the group learn this information from my verbal cues, mannerisms, the way I say things, or the style in which I relate to others. For instance, I may not know that I always look away from a person when I talk... or that I always clear my throat just before I say something. The group learns this from me.

Pane three, the "Facade" or "Hidden Area," contains information that I know about myself but the group does not know. I keep these things hidden from them. I may fear that if the group knew my feelings, perceptions, and opinions about the group or the individuals in the group, they might reject, attack, or hurt me. As a consequence, I withhold this information. Before taking the risk of telling the group something, I must know there are supportive elements in our group. I want group members to judge me positively when I reveal my feelings, thoughts, and reactions. I must reveal something of myself to find out how members will react. On the other hand, I may keep certain information to myself so that I can manipulate or control others.

The fourth and last pane, the "Unknown," contains things that neither I nor the group knows about me. I may never become aware of material buried far below the surface in my unconscious area. The group and I may learn other material, though, through a feedback exchange among us. This unknown area represents intrapersonal dynamics, early childhood memories, latent potentialities, and unrecognized resources. The internal boundaries of this pane change depending on the amount of feedback sought and received. Knowing all about myself is extremely unlikely, and the unknown extension in the model represents the part of me that will always remain unknown (the unconscious in Freudian terms).

Individual Goals Within a Group

In a small group, each member can work toward an individual goal as well as the group's goal. For example, let's say that your goal is to decrease the size of your Blind Spot (window-pane two). In other words, you want to move the vertical line to the right in the window. The size of the Arena and Facade panes will increase as the size of the Blind Spot and Unknown panes decreases. The Blind Spot contains information the group knows about you, but you do not know. The only way you can learn this information is to seek feedback from the group. If you solicit feedback consistently and remain receptive to that feedback, the size of your Blind Spot will decrease.

Suppose you decide to reduce the Facade pane, i.e., move the horizontal line down. This window contains information you have hidden from the group. You can reduce the size of this window by telling the group or group members about your perceptions, feelings, and opinions about things in others and yourself. This feedback tells the group exactly where you stand; they no longer need to guess about the meaning of your actions. As you disclose more information about yourself, you decrease the size of your Facade pane.

The Johari window panes are interdependent. Changing the size to one pane forces the size of corresponding panes to change also. In the previous examples, when you reduced the size of the Blind Spot or Facade panes through giving and soliciting feedback, you increased the size of the Arena pane.

In the process of giving and asking for feedback, you may tend to do much more of one than the other. This creates an imbalance between giving and asking for feedback. This imbalance may affect your effectiveness in the group and the group members' reactions to you. The amount of feedback shared and the ratio of giving versus soliciting feedback affect the size and shape of the Arena.

Study the four windows below. Each characterizes extreme ratios of soliciting and giving feedback. Think how a person described in each window might appear to you in a small group.

The Ideal Window

The Ideal Window in the first example reflects a high degree of trust in the group or in any relationship significant to the person. If you are in this window, the size of your Arena increases because of your increased trust level in the group. The norms developed by your group for giving and receiving feedback facilitate this kind of exchange. The large Arena suggests that much of your behavior is open to your group members. Because of your openness, other group members do not need to interpret (or misinterpret) or project more personal meanings into your behavior. They understand your actions and words, and they know you are open to soliciting and giving feedback.

You do not need a large Arena with everyone. Your casual acquaintances may see this kind of openness as threatening or inappropriate because of the relationship you have with them. The more open you are in dealing with others, the fewer games you play in relationships.

The Large Facade Window - The Interviewer

Window number two suggests a person who characteristically participates by asking questions but not giving information or feedback. If you are in this window, the size of your Facade relates to the amount of information you provide to others. You may respond to the group norm to maintain a reasonable level of participation by asking for information. You intervene by asking questions such as: "What do you think about this?" "How would you have acted if you were in my shoes?" "How do you feel about what I just said?" "What is your opinion of the group?" You want to know where other people stand before you commit yourself. You do not commit yourself to the group, making it difficult for them to know where you stand on issues. At some point in your group's history, other members may have confronted you with a statement similar to this one: "Hey, you are always asking me how I feel about what's going on, but you never tell me how you feel." This style, characterized as the Interviewer, may eventually evoke reactions of irritation, distrust, and withholding.

The Blind Spot Window - Bull-in-the-China Shop

Window number three suggests a person who characteristically participates primarily by giving feedback but soliciting very little. If you are in this window, you tell the group what you think of them, how you feel about what is going on in the group, and where you stand on group issues. You may lash out at group members or criticize the group as a whole and view your actions as being open and above board. For some reason, you either appear to be insensitive to the feedback you get or do not hear what group members tell you. Either you may be a poor listener or you may respond to feedback in such a way that group members are reluctant to continue to give you feedback. Members get angry, cry, threaten to leave. As a consequence, you do not know how you are coming across to other people or what impact you have on others. Because you do not correct your actions when you receive group feedback, you appear out of touch, evasive, or distorted. You continue to behave ineffectively because of your one-way communication (from you to others). Since you are insensitive to the group’s steering function, you do not know what behaviors to change.

The Unknown Window - The Turtle

The fourth window suggests a person who characteristically participates by observing. If you are in this window, you do not know much about yourself, nor does the group know much about you. You may be the silent member in the group who neither gives nor asks for feedback. The "soliciting" and "giving feedback" arrows are very short. Group members find it difficult to know where you stand in the group or where they stand with you. You are the mystery person. You appear to have a shell around you, insulating you from other group members. If group members confront you about your lack of participation, you may respond with, "I learn more by listening." While you may find it painful to participate actively, you will learn considerably more than you would if you choose to participate passively. Your shell keeps people from getting in and you from getting out. You will expend a considerable amount of energy maintaining a closed system because of the pressure which group norms exert on your behavior.

The goal of soliciting feedback and self-disclosure or giving feedback is to move information from the Blind Spot and the Facade into the Arena, where everyone accesses it. The process of giving and receiving feedback moves new information from the Unknown into the Arena. You have an "Aha" experience when you suddenly perceive a relationship between a here-and-now transaction in the group and a previous event. You gain insight and inspiration from these experiences.

It takes practice to give nonthreatening feedback. You must develop sensitivity to other people's needs and be able to put yourself in another person's shoes. Be accepting of yourself and of others to make your feedback more valuable to others.


The MBTI is a nonjudgmental, self-report instrument that identifies a person's preferred information gathering and decision-making style. It helps people understand their own behavior and why others behave differently. It also identifies orientations that influence their energy and life style.

The authors: Katherine C. Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed the MBTI as a means of helping people understand themselves, make informed career choices, and survive in organizational settings. Since the early 1940's there has been a constant and systematic research and development process to improve the MBTI; expand the scope and validity of applications; and promote the constructive use of type differences.

Psychological Types: Carl Jung hypothesizes that much apparently random behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, based on the way people prefer to use their perception and judgment. Perception involves the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, and ideas. Judgment involves the ways of making decisions about what has been perceived. The means of perception are sensing and intuition. The means of judgement are thinking and feeling. Further, our attitudes toward the world and others are based on a preference for extroversion or introversion. Our life styles are associated with our preference for judgment or perception. As people differ in these preferences, they correspondingly differ in their interests, motivations, perceptions, interactions, and value judgments. Likewise, they differ in the way they learn, communicate, solve problems, contribute to a team, and select a leadership style.

Based on psychological type studies, the MBTI provides a constructive and objective way to examine behavior differences in groups and organizations. For example, the MBTI is used to help leaders understand subordinate behavior and apply appropriate leadership styles. It is used to select project teams with sufficient diversity to solve problems creatively and use their type differences constructively. It is used to improve communications and build teams by helping individuals understand their strengths and weaknesses. In training settings, it helps instructors understand and meet the needs of individuals with different learning styles.


The Learning-Style Inventory (LSI) identifies the way people deal with experiences in their lives. Experiences are processed differently by each individual generating varied learning results. How we process information, from identification of problems to how to resolve these problems, and what to do with the results, is largely based on our perception and application of the information.

Without planning, information may be presented via one media, i.e., print, or speech. However, with an understanding of how people process information - what media enhances their learning, and what motivates them to do something with the information presented - may change how the information is presented.

Although a learning-style inventory provides insight into how one learns, there is no single mode that describes ones learning style. How you learn is a combination of modes and requires personal insight into the stages of the learning cycle. The Self-Scoring Inventory and Interpretation Booklet (McBer and Company), provides information on the stages of the learning cycle below.

Concrete Experience (CE)

This stage of the learning cycle emphasizes personal involvement with people in everyday situations. In this stage, you would tend to rely more on your feelings than on a systematic approach to problems and situations. In a learning situation, you would rely on your ability to be open-minded and adaptable to change.

Reflective Observation (RO)

In this stage of the learning cycle, people understand ideas and situations from different points of view. In a learning situation you would rely on patience, objectivity, and careful judgement but would not necessarily take any action. You would rely on your own thoughts and feelings in forming opinions.

Abstract Conceptualization (AC)

In this stage, learning involves using logic and ideas, rather than feelings, to understand problems or situations. Typically, you would rely on systematic planning and develop theories and ideas to solve problems.

Active Experimentation (AE)

Learning in this stage takes an active form-experimenting with influencing or changing situations. You would take a practical approach and be concerned with what really works, as opposed to simply watching a situation. You value getting things done and seeing the results of your influence and ingenuity.14

The self-scoring inventory and interpretation booklet also provides the following information on the four learning-style types.


Combines learning steps of AC and AE. People with this learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. If this is your preferred learning style, you have the ability to solve problems and make decisions based on finding solutions to questions or problems. You would rather deal with technical tasks and problems than with social and interpersonal issues. These learning skills are important for effectiveness in specialist and technology careers.


Combines learning steps of CE and RO. People with this learning style are best at viewing concrete situations from many different points of view. Their approach to situations is to observe rather than take action. If this is your style, you may enjoy situations that call for generating a wide range of ideas, as in brainstorming sessions. You probably have broad cultural interests and like to gather information. This imaginative ability and sensitivity to feelings is needed for effectiveness in arts, entertainment, and service careers.


Combines learning steps of AC and RO. People with this learning style are best at understanding a wide range of information and putting it into concise, logical form. If this is your learning style, you probably are less focused on people and more interested in abstract ideas and concepts. Generally, people with this learning style find it more important that a theory have logical soundness than practical value. This learning style is important for effectiveness in information and science careers.


Combines learning steps of CE and AE. People with this learning style have the ability to learn primarily from "Ahands-on" experience. If this is your style, you probably enjoy carrying out plans and involving yourself in new and challenging experiences. Your tendency may be to act on "gut" feelings rather than on logical analysis. In solving problems, you may rely more heavily on people for information than on your own technical analysis. This learning style is important for effectiveness in action-oriented careers such as marketing or sales.15


David Keirsey states, A... people are different from each other, and that no amount of getting after them is going to change them. Nor is there any reason to change them, because the differences are probably good, not bad.16

Keirsey relates behavior to temperaments. Based on the theory of Psychological Types of Carl Jung17, consistent behavior, identifiable early in life, gives credence to the ability to predict or measure traits, categorized as temperaments. Motivation, ambition, structure, behavioral latitudes, learning capabilities and attitudes will follow patterns. The importance of these patterns is not that they are observable, but that they are different among individuals and valued precisely for that difference.

The usefulness of Keirsey's temperaments is that by understanding the differences among individuals, and accepting this as being a behavioral fundamental, we can present information configured to meet the varied individual requirements. Conceptual frameworks compared to concrete specifics; visual stimuli compared to stark black and white print, free time self-study compared to mandated classroom exercises may be examples of information presented dynamically through a variety of media to meet learners' requirements.


13 Chapter 5 is adapted from Group Process: An Introduction to Group Dynamics by Joseph Luft, Mayfield Publishing Co., 1984.

® MBTI and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks of Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.

14 Learning-Style Inventory, Self-Scoring Inventory and Interpretation Booklet, McBer & Company, Training Resources Group, 116 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116.

15 Same as 14.

16 Please Understand Me, David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, Del Mar, CA.

17 Psychological Types, Carl Jung, Harcourt Brace, New York.

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