Ugh Terry, there’s spinach in your teeth!

”I’m gonna make a change… For once in my life It’s gonna feel real good… Gonna make a         difference…Gonna make it right…”      – “Man in the Mirror,” Michael Jackson

Look, I’m a windows and mirrors kind of guy. In fact, we all are. 

On one hand, we see (and hear) others in the external world through our personal windows. On the other we see our real selves in our mirrors when nobody’s looking. Our mirrors ensure us that we’re presentable to the world; that our hair (or hairpiece) is in place, that our makeup and lipstick is touched up and that there’s no, eh, “foreign matter” dangling out of our nose. Now have you ever wondered why you look better in some mirrors than others. Just asking.

Which takes me to a restaurant I had dinner at in lower Manhattan years ago after speaking on the topic, “When Sexual Orientation Meets Tradition Religion” during a large conference in New York City. There was a dozen in our entourage crammed into the corner of the restaurant reflecting on the day and enjoying some great Italian food and wine. 

When nature called, I excused myself for a trip to the restroom. After “relieving” myself, I walked to the sink to wash my hands and, as I always do, I glanced at the handsome fellow in the mirror (c’mon, why else are they called “vanity mirrors?”)

At that moment I was horrified to see a small green thing stuck in my front teeth….a piece of spinach. Now what was more disturbing was the realization that those at the dinner table had to see that spinach lodged in my teeth and said nothing. I repeat that ….they said nothing

Now let’s fast forward to the world we live in today and the windows through which we see and often interpret the behaviors of others. I’ll employ the Johari Window, a technique that helps people better understand their relationship with others. It was created by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955. They named their model “Johari” using a combination of their first names. 

The JohariWindow is based on two ideas- trust can be acquired by revealing information about you to others and learning yourselves from their feedback. Each person is represented by the Johari model through four quadrants or windowpanes. 

Known Self – Things we know about ourselves and others know about us. For example, our dress, our occupation – essentially something about ourselves that we’ve shared or others have observed.

Hidden Self – Things we know about ourselves that others don’t know. For example, our true feelings about certain people, realities, etc.

Blind Self – Things others know about us that we don’t know about us. For example, our annoying habits (“spinach in our teeth!)”, body odors, communication style, etc.

Unknown Self – Things that neither we nor others know about us. For example, an unrealized skill or talent.  

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Now although all four quadrants are worth attention, let’s focus this on the Blind Self in the Johari Window. Arguably, this the make or break area of human relations. When we’re in this quadrant, we do not always know the condition of ourselves, unless someone tells us that’s what they observe. Now the problem with folks not telling us about the “spinach” in our teeth are several. 

First, others may form inaccurate impressions about us and pass those impressions along to others. Second, we miss out on opportunities to correct, to change. And third, when we do find out about that spinach (after looking in the mirror) we may distrust those who saw our spinach but said nothing.

Okay, let me drive the point home with some concrete examples of some behaviors (“spinach”) I’ve observed in others. Compare and contrast them with what you’ve observed through your windows. Feel free to add a few others from your experience. Those who….

  • have a habit of not returning phone calls, email, in a reasonable period of time
  • text and/or tailgate while driving
  • break promises
  • don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom
  • are rude or downright nasty to others
  • are habitual whiners, complainers and blamers 
  • fail to reciprocate for acts of kindness given

Turn now to the person in the nearest mirror and ask her/him if you know or suspect that he/she may do any of these things(or additions to your list.)

Last, think about people you’ve encountered during the past few weeks. What might they be thinking about you regarding things you’ve done, behaviors you may be unconscious of in your blind quadrant? 

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”                                 – “Man in the Mirror,” Michael Jackson                    

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Shenandoah Valley Hit, BlackMarket.com, The Echo World, the Appreciate You Magazine, The Valley Trail and co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com

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