Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew: Emotional Intelligence; What It Is, Why It Is So Essential, And How We Can Increase It

Examine the way you react in different situations. Do you react quickly with judgement? Are others alienated? Is there disconnection? When you experience these feelings, instead of reacting immediately, take a breath. Sit back and think about the goal. Is it worth being right or is it important to reconcile and have peace? As a part […]

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Examine the way you react in different situations. Do you react quickly with judgement? Are others alienated? Is there disconnection? When you experience these feelings, instead of reacting immediately, take a breath. Sit back and think about the goal. Is it worth being right or is it important to reconcile and have peace?

As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew.

Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Ph.D. is a Network Weaver who believes relationships are the key to our personal, professional and organizational growth. She has been quoted in Forbes, Ozy, Bustle, Huffington Post, Modern Luxury and other media outlets, due to an extensive background in leadership, nonprofit management, philanthropy, partnership development, training and education. She is currently Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas responsible for grantmaking, educational programming and community initiatives. Formerly the National Community Engagement Director for World Vision, she served as a catalyst, partnership broker, and builder of the capacity of local partners in multiple locations across the US to improve and sustain the well-being of children and their families. She is also co-founder for HERitage Giving Circle, one of the first Black women Giving Circles in the State of Texas, founder of Power in Action-Dallas and the owner of Soulstice Consultancy providing training and consultations for nonprofits and small businesses.

Dr. Booker-Drew was a part of the documentary, Friendly Captivity, a film that follows a cast of 7 women from Dallas to India. She is the recipient of several honors including 2020 Each Moment Matters Awardee, 2020 Dallas Leadership Foundation’s Leadership Award, WFAA’s While I Have Your Attention (2020), 2020 TEDxSMU speaker, 2019 Dallas Business Journal’s Women in Business honoree, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. Global Big Heart 2014, , 2012 Outstanding African American Alumni Award from the University of Texas at Arlington, 2009 Woman of the Year Award by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and was awarded Diversity Ambassador for the American Red Cross (2012).

Froswa’ graduated with a PhD from Antioch University in Leadership and Change with a focus on social capital, diverse women, change management, and relational leadership. She attended the Jean Baker Miller Institute at Wellesley for training in Relational Cultural Theory and has completed facilitator training on Immunity to Change based on the work of Kegan and Lahey of Harvard. She has also completed training through UNICEF on Equity Based Evaluations. Booker-Drew is currently an adjunct professor at Tulane University in the Master’s of Public Administration Program teaching Governance, Leadership and Sustainability and an affiliate faculty member at the Graduate School of Leadership and Change, Antioch University. She has also been an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at Arlington, and Capital Seminary and Graduate School. She is the host of the podcast, The Tapestry and author of 3 workbooks for women, Fly Away, Ready for a Revolution: 30 Days to Jolt Your Life and Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last. Froswa’ serves on multiple boards including Buckner International, For Oak Cliff, EdCor, Mayor’s Star Council, and Soul Rep Theater Company. She was a workshop presenter at the United Nations in 2013 on the Access to Power. She has been a contributor for several publications globally, including as an advice columnist for professional women in The Business Woman Media, a global platform based in Australia.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was really fortunate to have a family and an extended village that loved and supported me. I grew up surrounded by family members. My parents instilled family, faith, and friends as a part of my foundation. I witnessed amazing relationships and some that were toxic. All of these experiences shaped my story. School and Church were both instrumental in my development. None of these relationships were perfect but they demonstrated for me the power of connection.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My career occurred not because I necessarily planned it, but it is the result of a series of experiences and opportunities. I knew that I wanted to help people, but I wasn’t sure how it would happen. As a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. I thought my path would be medicine and in college, law, but it didn’t happen that way. When I was in school and college, there was not a career path for nonprofit management or philanthropy. I spent several years in social services and education. Most of my career has been in some way involved with nonprofit management and teaching. I would have never thought that I would have the opportunity to be on the other side — instead of asking for funding, I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to providing grants to nonprofit organizations. To have the opportunity to combine my passions of helping others, teaching, and writing has been a gift.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

This is too difficult to narrow down, but I will try! I was inspired by a number of individuals. My parents played a significant role in my development. My parents owned a restaurant for over a decade. I watched them hustle and working with them as a child taught me about entrepreneurship and laid the foundation for a strong work ethic. There were other individuals like former teachers (too many to list) that saw something in me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Others like Michele Bobadilla, Zeb Strong and Dr. Marvin Dulaney were a part of my journey as a young adult. Dr. Dulaney was one of my college professors who pushed me and exposed me to so many opportunities. He is still in my life to this day. Zeb Strong was a dear mentor and sponsor in college who was in my life until his death a few years ago. Zeb was like a surrogate father to me and to this day, I am grateful for his ability to see my potential when I couldn’t. Because of him, I ran for offices on campus, joined organizations, and even spoke at various events because he pushed me to do so along with his best friend and colleague, Walter Price. Michele Bobadilla was my first boss, and she is still in my life to this day. She is a mentor, coach, sponsor, and friend. I’m grateful to Dr. Terry Flowers who was a former boss that taught me so much about community development through an opportunity to work closely with him for a number of years. I’ve been so blessed to have some wonderful individuals along the way who have opened doors, guided, counseled and even challenged me. This list could be massive because of the individuals who deposited so much into my life.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I have made a lot of mistakes but one of the most valuable lessons for me was not paying attention to the culture of an organization. When I was younger, I was so elated to have an opportunity that I often jumped without paying attention to red flags. I didn’t pay attention to toxic leaders and environments that were secretive/exclusive. I also didn’t know how to negotiate well because I didn’t know my worth. Those experiences taught me so much. I learned to interview an organization just as they interviewed me. Saying ‘no’ isn’t a bad thing and it is important to ask a lot of questions because just as you are contributing to an organization, you must make sure that you are benefiting as well.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Take your time. It is so easy to think you must accomplish certain goals by a particular age. You can rush things to happen so quickly that you miss out on the process. The process is rich and critical to your growth, development, and understanding of who you are as well as what you are capable of. Build your network with mentors, coaches, and sponsors — have your own personal board of directors. Treat others well. You never know when you may need someone so do not dismiss others because you do not think they are valuable. My mother would always say ‘you never know when you are entertaining angels’.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One of my favorite authors is Laurie Beth Jones. I love her work, Jesus CEO and The Path. These books were so transformative in my experience. These books helped me think critically about my leadership and developing my own personal mission statement.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I’ll share a piece of the quote from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.” I love this quote because so often, we hide and dim our lights to make others comfortable or to receive approval not realizing that when we don’t show up in our totality, we are denying others the opportunity to show up authentically as well.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m excited about a number of things that are happening both personally and professionally. I have started a podcast called The Tapestry. The Tapestry is about bringing people together to explore the rich, woven textures of our narratives. Our stories are impactful and in listening to the stories of others, we learn more about our own power, claim our purpose and pursue our passion. The fabric of our lives as women is strong, resilient and when we come together, we can make a beautiful piece of work to inspire, support and sustain our personal and professional lives. I am also teaching courses at both Tulane and Antioch University and working on a number of projects outside of work. There are some great things happening on the job involving amazing collaborations that can really impact our local area. I’m staying busy but it is all good!

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence? For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?

In 1983, Howard Gardner came up with a theory called Multiple Intelligence that challenged the idea that there was only one type of intelligence. Dr. Gardner listed 8 intelligence including interpersonal (people smart) and intrapersonal (self-smart). Daniel Goleman in 1995 wrote a book about Emotional Intelligence or EQ stating that just as IQ is important, so is the ability to manage and understand the power of emotions. Dr. Dharius Daniels has written a book entitled, Relational Intelligence which addresses relational skills and the impact on our spiritual, mental, and emotional lives. All of these demonstrate the growing body of knowledge in this area.

My PhD research discusses a complementary theory called Relational Cultural Theory that analyzes the importance of growth fostering relationships. In Relational Cultural Theory, there is a concept entitled, The Five Good Things which happen when we are in mutually growth fostering relationships. These are (1) zest for life, (2) clarity about self and others through the relationship, (3) sense of worth, (4) desire to take action in and outside of the relationship, and (5) a desire for more connection. The ability to manage relationships involves understanding your emotions as well as communicating how you feel to yourself and others. Emotional intelligence has four components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. All of these are a part of building relationships.

How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?

Intelligence is the ability to gain knowledge. One can be highly intelligent and yet, lack the ability to connect well with others. Emotional intelligence is about not only handling your emotions but the ability to empathize with and understand others. People with emotional intelligence possess self-awareness, social skills and the ability to regulate their emotions.

Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Emotional intelligence is critical for success both personally and professionally. Without an ability to understand how you feel, it is easy to read situations incorrectly or project emotions onto others without analyzing the context of a situation. In the book, Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Bolman and Deal, they discuss various contexts that exist within organizations. They discuss these four frames as structural, political, human relations and symbolic Without an understanding of how each of these operate, it is easy to read a situation inappropriately. Without an understanding of emotions and relationships, it is hard to see these frames at work. We can easily misinterpret situations because we lack the skills of self-awareness or relational skills to correctly assess and address. As they state in the book, we can apply the wrong frame to a situation and as a result, we personalize an issue without fully understanding the context and the role emotions play in each.

In my personal experience, I had a boss who had a very different perception of herself than how others saw her. She believed she was highly relational but failed to understand how her lack of emotions impacted her team. It was difficult for her to understand or empathize at times with her team members and this caused a lot of friction that because she was not emotionally aware of, she missed out on a lot of cues. Being on the receiving end was frustrating.

Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.

Emotional intelligence has been instrumental in my life. As much as it has been helpful, it is still an ongoing work. Reflection is critical to understanding your emotions. I think the more that I am aware of my own feelings and thoughts, the better I am at listening and discovering what is going on when dealing with others. I’ve been able to diffuse situations just because of using the skills to help others in some very tense circumstances. Using I-statements has helped me and just because you have these skills, know that the ability to communicate is essential.

Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?

Emotional Intelligence can help you not only read the temperature of a room, but it allows you to pay attention to dynamics between individuals. Having these skills can help you negotiate as well as offer compassion when needed. As a leader or a team member, emotional intelligence can help build comradery, rapport and even respect because you are willing to understand even when you may not agree.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?

Emotional intelligence is not just about the spoken word, but also paying attention to body language and those unspoken elements that happen in relationships are also components. Not only can you read or interpret the moods of others, but you can control and reflect upon your own emotions. Understanding the power of your feelings is essential because our feelings impact the way we think and even how we behave. Emotional intelligence is also knowing that your emotions impact others. You realize that if you are in a bad mood, it also creates the tone for your interactions.

I am a firm believer that stories are critical in building relationships and when we create safe spaces to do this, we can create change. In my dissertation research, I wrote the following: “Authors Stephens, Silbert, and Hasson (2010) have demonstrated that the sharing of stories even has an impact on brain activity for both the speaker and the listener. Since stories involve the act of listening and sharing, they found that “the speaker’s activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener’s activity. This coupling vanishes when participants fail to communicate…the greater the anticipatory speaker–listener coupling, the greater the understanding” (p. 14425). The sharing of stories can impact the way we connect to one another on a neuroscience level, creating another opportunity for transformation in relationships. It is in this space of sharing that we build connections that can create change on an individual level even in our thinking. ‘‘Human connections create neuronal connections’’ (Siegel, 1999, p. 85).” Emotional intelligence impacts our relationships at a psychological and neurological level. I would urge readers to check out Dr. Amy Banks work about brain science and relationships.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?

When we do not control our emotions, it has an impact on both our physical and mental health. If you struggle with communicating your feelings or even addressing them, it makes it difficult to connect to others. So many relationships are impacted because of the lack of or unwillingness to address both emotions. The lack of or inability to communicate is problematic. If we do not build our capacity in this space, we can become isolated and lonely. We were created to be relational and in community. When we do not manage this well, we experience disconnection. It also can create power struggles because when we are unaware of our power, we are then battling with others for power to feel worthy.

Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Examine the way you react in different situations. Do you react quickly with judgement? Are others alienated? Is there disconnection? When you experience these feelings, instead of reacting immediately, take a breath. Sit back and think about the goal. Is it worth being right or is it important to reconcile and have peace?
  2. Recently, I was in a situation that I experienced a lot of anger. Instead of responding to my feelings, I sat in it and asked so what? As I asked myself this question and with each answer I gave, I realized that I wasn’t angry. I was actually afraid. Often, there is something deeper that we are responding to. Recognize your triggers and dig deeper instead of allowing your first feeling to dictate the response.
  3. A friend of mine recently sent me a picture of a t-shirt that says “Am I Perfect? No. But am I trying to be a better person? Also no.” As much as that shirt cracks me up, all of us must recognize that we are not perfect, but we must be willing to work daily to be a better version of our best self. Being our best self requires reflection, paying attention to how we show up and the way we make others feel. I hope that when others walk away from interactions from me, even if we disagree, they feel respected, empowered, and supported.
  4. Think about how you experience the success of others. If you feel less than, angered or bothered, it will be hard for you to uplift and allow others to shine. Emotionally intelligent people are grounded in knowing that there is enough for all of us and that we do not have to belittle others to feel good about ourselves. In your workplace, how are you promoting others, or do you find opportunities to diminish or find fault in others? If so, think about your motivation. Are you seeking external validation versus building and celebrating your internal worth and value?
  5. Own it. Taking responsibility for your actions and feelings is necessary. When I was a kid, I remember hearing others blame the devil for their shortcomings. No matter who influences you, ultimately, you make the decision to do something. Even when you fail to do anything, you are still deciding. Apologize when you are wrong and eliminate making excuses. Do not always feel the need to explain yourself. Seek to understand.

Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?

In Future Learn’s blog, they evaluate the skills for the future. One of the skills listed in emotional intelligence. They state, “Research has frequently shown that high emotional intelligence is one of the most reliable predictors of career success and salary levels.” Schools are responsible for providing skills for success both personally and professionally. Schools should consider adding courses and experiential learning opportunities that provide youth instruction in this content. For young people who are dealing adverse childhood experiences, socio-emotional learning is essential. Many schools are incorporating this into classroom instruction. Groups like Yoga N Da Hood have been utilized to help students deal with their emotions through the use of Yoga and self-regulation.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

My dissertation research was based on creating safe spaces for diverse women to connect through guided facilitation. I think we need more opportunities for connection with people that see the world differently than we do and in my research group, I saw multi-ethnic, different faith traditions, and a range of ages share and bond. I believe this is possible. Years later, these women are still connecting and spending time with one another. It is possible!!! I share some of this in my recent TEDx talk, https://www.ted.com/talks/froswa_booker_drew_proximity_presence_social_capital_and_polarization .

In addition, I love the opportunity I’ve been given to implement relational cultural theory in community development. In my role at the State Fair of Texas, I work with so many nonprofits, institutions, and individuals and building collaborations to create impact has been incredible. To see how our partnerships with community-based organizations have resulted in employment collaboratives, networking gatherings, and cohorts to build capacity of nonprofits as well advocating for our neighbors on issues like transportation is exciting to witness the results.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to meet Oprah Winfrey, I mean who wouldn’t? I would also love to meet Brene Brown (who is also a guru in this space with her work on vulnerability and shame) and as strange as it may sound, Gordon Ramsey. I love his business brilliance.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can visit my website at drfroswa.com and email me at info@drfroswa.com. They can also visit my podcast at https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-tapestry_1. I have written a book entitled, Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last. It is a workbook for women with the goal of helping readers build their personal and professional networks by understanding their stories. So much of the content we’ve discussed is the basis of my book. You can learn more at https://www.amazon.com/Rules-Engagement-Making-Connections-Last/dp/098910270X. I have been amazed at the comments from male readers who said they gained a lot out of the book as well.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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