Dr. Sam Alibrando on the KMET Morning Show



Listen to the Interview or Read the Transcript:


AS: Welcome back, it’s The Morning Show here on KMET, we’re so happy you’re joining us today on the day after Christmas, sometimes the hardest day to get back up and running, but to help you do that, and to help all of us, really, deal with the emotions of others and of course ourselves, we’re talking to expert, Dr. Sam Alibrando.

Welcome to the show, Doctor.

SA: Nice to be here.

AS: You have a very interesting thing, it’s called The 3 Dimensions of Emotions, that you have put together, it’s a three-dimensional model. Help us out, what exactly is the 3 dimensions of emotion and how is it important in relationships?

SA: Well just like there are 3 dimensions of the physical world, obviously—height, width, depth—through some work I’ve been doing over the past 3 decades, I realized there’s several psychoanalytic theorists all independent of one another came to the same conclusions and then there’s even empirical support for it—there’s 3 dimensions, as I like to describe them, of the relationship world. One is the power dimension—that would be like height—it has to do with our agency, and how we impact our world and other people, how we affect them. The second dimension is like width—it’s the heart dimension, or love dimension, and that has to do with how we relate and need others, and how we take care of others and our concern for others and then the last, which is the more interesting one—and a very big thing these days—is the mindfulness or the knowing dimension, which has to do with how we can objectively look—it has to do with self-control, observing and managing ourselves that way.

Each one of the dimensions can either be positive or negative. For example, a healthy power dimension is that we take control of things, or we set boundaries. A negative dimension of power is being a bully, or being a racist. The trick is to stay, as I like to call it, above the line, where you’re firing on all three positive dimensions.

I imagine many of us were tested yesterday when we were having meals with family members we don’t always see.

AS: I was commenting on that earlier in the show because I was looking at my Facebook feeds and you see some that are crying now, some people that are upset—some people are saying “This is the worst Christmas ever,” and you’re like, “What happened at your dinner, or day?” Did some news come out? A lot of people get broken up during this time, other people get into relationships, or even some get married at this time. So people’s emotions are all over the place. How do you manage that? Now, I just want to tell our listeners that you help organizations, you’ve done this for the last 35 years, you’ve helped thousands of people, you help organizations, you help leaders do this—and I think in order to be an amazing leader you need to know how to connect with each different person and bring out the best in that person. What are some of your tips on that, that we can start practicing?

SA: In fact, if your listeners are interested, I have a free assessment on my website. And they can take it, and what I help people do—as my saying is, it’s not what we’re doing that’s wrong or bad, it’s what we’re not doing that’s good.

And most of us, when we get tilted or out of balance, it’s usually because one or two of the dimensions, we’re not as good in. And if we focus on doing good things out of those dimensions, it puts us back in balance.

So let’s say as a leader, for example, you’re very confident, you’re really good in the power dimension—let me tell you about Miguel, I write about him in the book. He was a really powerful guy and very engaging, but he was really bad in the knowing (mindfulness) dimension. Which I call yellow. I color-code all three dimensions. And because he didn’t have a good knowing, he would get out of control a lot. He would lose his temper, he would scream at employees—so when I coached him, I coached him in the mindfulness dimension. How to take a breath, sleep on it that night—don’t react right away. And when he did that, he got back in the balance.

And that would be the case for any of us. Just figure out where we go out of balance and then practice the part of the dimensions that we’re not doing well enough. And that brings us back in the balance. So whether it’s with our children or employees—if we do that we will go into what we call these days emotional intelligence.

AS: Okay, and I’m glad you’re bringing this up because emotional IQ, oddly enough, and I’ve said this quite a few times, in some people—thy just have not been taught it. Some don’t have it. There are those that are just emotionally on, they have worked through that for whatever reason, they are in tune with others, they know how to bring out the best in others and then there are those, that because of their own emotions, that person is used to reacting. They are a reactor. That’s the person, probably going to block you on Facebook when you get in a fight, and then be like, “Oh shoot, what did I do?” Right? And I know because this used to be me. I used to be a very big reactor—I still have to work on it. I have to work on the mindfulness part to be very frank and blunt. And so when this came through, I said, “Okay, I know I’m going to learn a lot about this,” because there are people in your life that challenge that, right?

I want to go back to something you said, that’s very important, and it’s really important in relationships and I’ve helped people understand that and maybe you have a better way of helping people understand that: Drawing lines in the sand, so to speak, what’s the best way to do that and why is it so important for people to do that in any relationship?

SA: And that would be in the power, or the red dimension, and if by drawing a line in the sand you mean keeping a boundary, right, so you’re going to talk to your mother on the phone, but only ten minutes—she’d keep you on there or two hours, but you say, “Mom, I’ve got to go,” that’s keeping the boundaries. Or saying no to a client or a friend, or whatever.

AS: But a lot of people have a hard time saying no, I have a friend that I’ve recently talked to and I’m like, “Oh, this person says yes to everything,” he doesn’t know how to have a boundary.

SA: Exactly. Blues, or the moving-toward, or the Heart dimension says yes to everything, They’re agreeable, that’s part of being in that dimension.

The Red dimension is the part of us that says, “Is this going to work for me or not, how do I protect myself?” So for some people, that’s the harder challenge. I have a phrase, “conscious and intentional.” So you have to be conscious and intentional. I worked with a woman who was a real powerhouse and every time I would relate to her I’d end up becoming super-agreeable and I’d lose my own perspective. So when I practiced being conscious and intentional, I went into the next meeting with her with my talking point, and then I had to keep going back to my talking point, it’s the broken record technique, you may have heard of that. And when I finally held my ground intentionally, the whole dynamic changed, and then we had a very constructive conversation.

And so, for people, going into the dimension you’re weakest in at any given moment, because we’re different with different people. We need to go in conscious and intentional to do the healthy aspect of that dimension.

Again, on my website I have what I call a relationship circle, where people can see examples of the positive and negative in each of the dimensions.

AS: My listeners are already asking online . . . what’s the link, we need the link.

SA: The link is the subtitle of the book: http://www.power-heart-mindfulness.com

AS: I’m sorry, I’m typing it in right now, I want to see what’s on there. Evidently you have a good mailing list there, so what else do you send out on your mailing list?

SA: For the mailing list, people will get notices of any blogs I’m putting up, and then the free giveaways, the free interpersonal triangle test, and the relationship circle.

AS: I can’t wait to check this out, our listeners are very happy that you’ve joined us. I want to just point this one out as well. As parents, because there are some kids out there who can challenge their parents: What’s a tip you could give a parent that might have a child who’s a little testy on their nerves. They’re teenagers, how do they bring a balance back to that?

SA: And take note, teenagers can fall into any one of the three dimensions. The one you’re talking about is what I would call the defiant, there’s then the compliant teenager, who’s a goody two-shoes, and that’s not always healthy either. And then there’s the avoidant, or the detached—this is the kid who stays up in his room, or her room, and has hardly any friends and won’t talk to you, right? So we can be reactive in any of the three dimensions, but the one you’re referring to is the toughest. At least, up front it’s the hardest, and that’s the defiant.

I have a rule: positive their negative. So, if they’re defiant, you have to use your own power dimension and set good boundaries—not in a hostile way—not in a way that is hurtful or attacking, but in a good boundary way where you’re calm. You said the secret: How do you move from reactivity to what I call in the book, response-ability? Where we’re able to respond rather than react.

So we have to be calm. That’s the number one thing in working with any type of teenager, is for us to be calm.

I have my three top principles for managing a difficult person—and a defiant adolescent would be a difficult person—and my first three rules of managing a difficult person, the first one is manage yourself first. The second rule is manage yourself first, and the third rule is manage yourself first.

AS: Okay, that’s so true, because a lot of parents let go, they’re reactionary . . . the kids go “Why?” and they’re like, “Because I said so, that’s why!” They’re just, like, done with it!

SA: And the parent is going to react in one of the dimensions, they’re either going to comply and give the kid whatever they want, or they’re going to avoid the child, and/or they’re going to have an all-out-and-out war, in a reactive way as opposed to a calm, strong, clear, deliberate way.

AS: Ah, very interesting. Well, we’re out of time but for people who want to get your book, they can go to Amazon, they can go to Barnes and Noble—where else can they visit, can you give out your link one more time?

SA: Sure, it’s www.power-heart-mindfulness.com.

AS: Awesome, well, I want to say a very big thank-you for joining us here on the show, I can’t wait for people to check this out—I’m going to go do that test and sign up for all of your newsletters—and thank you so much for joining us here on The Morning Show.