Meet the Flipsters

Conversations on the Bridge

An Extended Conversation with Ayman Sawaf
(The complete Flip interview, with only minor edits, not found in the book)

Ayman Sawaf ( is the founding chairman of the Foundation for Education in Emotional Literacy, a nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of emotional intelligence in business, education, families, and society. He is co-author of the best-selling book Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Business.

We first asked Ayman to define “emotional literacy.” “We teach all kinds of literacy in our society, like reading literacy and computer literacy but emotional literacy is absent,” observes Ayman. “This is unfortunate because emotional literacy is the ABC of our feelings, the language of all relationships. It’s about reading and writing – interpreting and expressing – our own emotions and the emotions of others. E-motion – energy in motion – is what moves us, what moves inside of us. It’s our soul energy. Emotional literacy transforms that energy into power and uses it to create success, joy, and happiness for ourselves and others. Emotional literacy is the antidote to a range of social ills – such as violence, disease, and depression – and the key to healthy and vital relationships.

“When we are emotionally illiterate, emotions get stuck within our bodies and our minds and basically short-circuit our biophysical systems. This can trigger all kinds of diseases; mental, emotional, even physical. There’s a certain group of ailments like divorce, dysfunctional family relationships, abuse and so on that are associated with emotional illiteracy.”

Since literacy is usually an educational issue, how does emotional literacy affect our children’s development? “We teach what each emotion means,” Ayman explains. “To feel it, express it, recognize it, to understand why they are having a particular feeling and what’s the information that’s behind it. An emotionally literate kid has the ability to be responsible for how she deals with whatever situations she finds herself in, instead of having to react to the environment with anxiety and attempts to control.

“Another way to say it is that an emotionally literate kid will be an empathic kid. An empathic kid cannot hurt somebody else because they know how it feels. Most of the violence in kids, bullying and abuse, comes from shame. A shame-based kid always ends up abusing other kids with no remorse. Emotional literacy will reduce shame, and that reduction of shame will reduce the abuse and violence that is so prevalent.

“Emotional literacy is the precursor to spiritual literacy. It is the foundation upon which one can develop a real sense of character, integrity, resilience, and trust. Conversely, lack of emotional literacy can give one a wobbly character; you may not lie, per se, but you lie emotionally.”

On the positive side, what feelings will emotional literacy promote? “People are emotionally literate if they can express their emotions honestly without fear of retribution or suffering or losing their love. Then have more resilient character. They are more capable of trust, because they have a handle on both the emotional and the logical, analytical components of trust.”

Ayman adds that a major feature of emotional literacy is effective expression of love. “Love is the highest emotion and most of us grow up not knowing what love is. We’re supposed to know what it is, but we don’t ask, ‘What is love?’ So we supposedly learn what love is from our friends in high school, and confuse it with sex. We confuse it with this and that, and literally nobody ever teaches us about love and intimacy. Vulnerability is a major component of intimacy. When people are flowing and they’re really comfortable with their emotions and know how to respond to them, the fear of intimacy, the fear of vulnerability disappears. The core of love is intimacy. People want to love so much but they’re scared of intimacy.”

Does Ayman see the world evolving into a more loving place? “After the Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution, I’d say we’re entering the Emotional Revolution. In a recent USA Today poll, when asked what changes in our school system they would like to see, the majority said they would like to have more school counselors. Thirty-two percent said, ‘We want emotional diagnosis for our children before schooling.’ Eighteen percent said, ‘We want to teach our kids not to hate.’ To me, it is obvious what those three things indicate, that parents and educators are saying, ‘We want emotional literacy,’ but they have no name for it.

“Emotional intelligence allows us to rise above negative, unrefined emotions to higher, finer quality emotions. Our lives and our society benefit from this higher octane fuel. Everything runs smoother and more powerfully, as it was intended. We have the ability to create a world far more elegant and far more beautiful, with far less energy. We achieve a higher resonance of success, joy, and happiness, of beauty, wonder, and magic.”

That’s a flip worth pursuing! “My own understanding and wonder continue to grow. A definite progression has emerged. Our model starts with emotion literacy, then proceeds to emotional fitness, then emotional depth, and then emotional alchemy, ending ultimately in a transcendent, psychic state of being that you might call ‘spiritual alchemy’ – a sense of beauty and wonder. Beauty is when you feel joy and peace together, as when viewing a beautiful sunset. The experience is simultaneously passive and active, masculine and feminine. With emotional alchemy, you have the language of soul-level relationships. Spiritual alchemy adds an appreciation of the divine, a god pulse.”

Ayman is known, among other things, for his ability to apply emotional intelligence in a business setting. We asked if this progression from intelligence to alchemy applies to commerce, as well. “One clue comes from the word ‘commerce’ itself; it shares the same root with ‘communion’ and ‘communication.’ Commerce is about the exchange of products and services, but it can be elevated by applying skills and wisdom. I use the term ‘conscious commerce’ to describe the combination of products with services that address consciousness, awareness about the product and so on. ‘Sacred commerce’ is the practice of conscious commerce as a tool for self-realization and enlightenment. Our model here is the merchant priesthood of Egyptian culture. The purpose of the merchant priests is, over the course of their lives, to see beauty in everybody and everything, to create beauty in everything they do, and to become beautiful themselves through the practice of sacred commerce.”

Take THAT, Enron!


The Flip, by Jared Rosen and David Rippe, illuminates a clear path to a vibrant enlightened world where millions of people already live and thrive. It describes in vivid detail and real examples evidence of an upside down world in decay and a Right Side Up world of authentic beings bright with possibility.
The Flip is an owner’s manual for the twenty-first century full of insights, conversations with recognized experts, thought leaders, and visionaries, and actionable exercises and tips you can use to begin your own personal flip.

To read more about The Flip and additional interviews from other luminaries, experts and bestselling authors, please visit

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