IRIS -Intention, Respect, I-statements and Self-Awareness

When we have a difficult conversation self-awareness is central because when we have a greater understanding of ourselves, we can experience ourselves as separate individuals. Thus, enabling us to build on our areas of strength as well as to detect areas where we would like to make developments.

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When was the last time you were in a conversation, and you felt you were getting nowhere? We often find ourselves blaming the other person, or the context, for the absence of the desired result. Rather than looking at the outside, I have found it is more successful to go within and observe yourself. Use the following IRIS model to guide you.

In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow. She rode the rainbow as a multicoloured bridge from heaven to earth, the three petal segments of the iris flower representing faith, wisdom, and courage. Iris was a messenger of the gods. She performed her role with minimal fuss and no drama.

I have used Iris’s philosophy and role to create a communication model when we have to deliver difficult messages. Here IRIS stands for Intention, Respect, I-statement, and Self-awareness.


The intention is your objective, your purpose, your goal. Most transactions break down when our intentions are not evident to the other party or indeed to ourselves. According to Gary Zukav, the intention is at the heart of creating authentic power. The intention is something with a cause and an effect. You must be sure of your intent when you are communicating as this has a direct impact on the result. Once we are clear about our purpose, we are clear about our message, our resolve, and our objective.

“Unaligned intention can create confusion, misunderstandings, and a breakdown in communication.”


Respect is unquestionable and is what most people crave from their managers and colleagues. People learn by example, so exhibit self-respect and respect for others. These two things are not mutually exclusive. This means being professional and direct but respectful. Our world is becoming increasingly relational and less transactional, consequently to have real connection locally, globally and remotely means we have to focus on the whole person, the entire person, the person who shows up, and not whom we believe they are.


Thomas Gordon developed the concept of an I-statement in the 1960s. The I-statement intends to create a protected space for clients to express themselves. Carl Rogers accomplished this by using reflective listening and self-disclosure and by demonstrating empathy and unconditional positive regard for the client. We now know that these methods can be used together in personal and professional fields. Furthermore, when we use I-statements, we can invoke the same emotive resonance in our professional relationships, leading to a more productive connection and bond. Excellent communication is essential for building strong relationships, and without real communication, relationships can turn bitter and lead to scepticism and errors. The I-statements are an operational means of communicating since they conserve a humble attitude towards the receiver while enabling the speaker to say how he or she feels. When used correctly, I-statements can help foster positive communication in relationships and may help to share feelings and thoughts honestly for both parties.


Self-awareness is the institution of personal growth and success. Daniel Goleman calls it the “keystone” of emotional intelligence; indeed, building self-awareness is a lifelong effort.

“Self-awareness is a soft skill that translates into hard results.”

Daniel Goleman reminds us that “self-awareness isn’t just navel-gazing. It’s the presence of mind actually to be flexible in how you respond. Also, it allows you to be centred and know what your body is telling you.” Self-awareness, he adds, is the ability to monitor our inner world—our thoughts and feelings.


• We are neither inferior nor superior.

• Do not see the other as the wounded or the oppressor.

• Our desire to help is directed by the other.

This is an extract from the book How To Get Out Of Your Own Way

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