The New Johari Window #2: Two Models of Interpersonal Awareness

The New Johari Window #2: Two Models of Interpersonal Awareness

Three Forms of Trust

Some linguists (notably Benjamin Whorf, 1973) believe that you can tell quite a bit about a culture by noting areas in which there is very elaborate and detailed labeling and areas in which labeling is sparse. The many names for snow among the Innuit (Eskimos) and the many words for love among the Greeks are often offered as evidence of this so-called Whorfian hypothesis. Innuit seem to be very interested in snow, hence have many different names to describe different kinds of snow (much as avid snow skiers have multiple labels, such as “corn snow” and “powder snow”). The Greeks similarly seem to be very interested in love and its many different forms (ranging from “eros” to “agape”).

I would like to contribute yet another example. This concerns the word “trust.” For some reason, there is only one word in English for the many different forms that “trust” takes in our society. Does this suggest that “trust” isn’t really valued in our society? At the very least, it means that the concept of “trust” can be very confusing to us. I believe that trust is a critical component in any dynamic model of human interaction; hence, I take the distinctions between different forms of trust quite seriously. Trust is the engine of interpersonal relationships. It provides both direction and energy for sustained human interaction. It provides direction by setting the goals for virtually any relationship. It provides energy by providing each member of the relationship with motivation to continue engaging in the relationship.

Most of us hope that our interactions with other people will increase levels of trust—even when we are trying to manipulate another person or are at war with this other person. If nothing else, we want them to be clear about our intentions—even if this means that we intend to do them harm. We rarely want other people to leave us with less clarity regarding our relationship or with less interest in engaging us in future relationships.

When trust is considered in relationship to the Johari Window, its direction and energy become even more important and apparent. We will see throughout this series of essays that the dynamics of both disclosure and feedback are profoundly influenced by levels of individual and reciprocal trust. It is important, therefore, that we be clear about what the term “trust” means to us. In doing so, I will propose that this term actually has three different (though related) meanings and that “trust” has a distinctive impact on interpersonal relationships depending on which of these meanings is being engaged.


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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