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The New Johari Window #29: Quadrant Three: The Three Schools of Thought

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The second risk concerns the short-term (or perhaps long-term) imbalance in the relationship: you know a lot about me (the discloser), but I don’t know much about you. If I am less powerful than you in the first place, then I am about to become even less powerful. You can more readily predict my behavior, but I still can’t predict your behavior. From a British perspective, power comes in part through withholding of information—and, in particular, information about one’s own thoughts, feelings and potential actions. Those who are experts on the processes of interpersonal negotiation often stress this point and suggest that we should be very careful in a negotiation about what we do and do not disclose, and about when and where we disclose. The British school (and Continental school) is very sensitive to this power dynamic.

A third risk concerns ways in which the disclosed information is accepted, interpreted and used by other people. Given the power of self-fulfilling prophecies (to which I devote much more attention in Chapter Seven), it is not unthinkable that the preliminary disclosures of someone in a relationship or group—disclosures that don’t have a precedence or even much of a context—will be interpreted in a manner that reconfirms stereotypes or specific assumptions about the “personality” or predispositions of the discloser. Let me offer two brief case studies that illustrate this self-fulfilling prophecy, as well as other risks and dynamics associated with the role of “discloser.”

Case Studies of Disclosers

A male of Italian origins, whom I will call “Peter,” is selected as the discloser in a relationship. The dynamics of this disclosure reinforces the stereotype of the “emotional” Italian with regard to anything that he says. Even to say that “I am not particularly emotional at this moment” would be interpreted as a defensive reaction by Peter against and denial of a “deeply emotional response.” A statement by a female first discloser in a relationship or group, whom I will call “Ellen,” indicating that she is concerned about being placed in the traditional female role in the group (as secretary, refreshment coordinator, etc.) would be interpreted as “further evidence” that Ellen (or perhaps all women in the group) are “overly sensitive,” vulnerable,” or “uptight and angry.”

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