The Non-Verbal
Communication of Organizational Leadership: Is It Communication If There Is No
Listening Or Feedback?

By

Leonard Zwelling

         After yet another in a series of stays in Memorial-Hermann
Hospital, receiving first-rate doctoring facilitated by texting (Rx-Ting-http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Zwelling-Texting-doctor-puts-health-care-in-6049527.php),
I thought, what better thing for a 30 year New York Jewish Texan with a liberal
upbringing to do than get licensed to carry a handgun.

         Background.

         For the past three weeks or so, I have been learning to
shoot a semi-automatic handgun. To date my favorite is a Glock 19. The reasons
I decided to do this are several.

         First, I am always trying to learn something new and I figured
after 30 years in Texas and over 60 being a critic of those who advocate for allowing
citizens to carry loaded, concealed firearms, perhaps it was time to acquire
some first-hand knowledge. I have learned to respect the gun’s power, its
mechanical eccentricities, and its proper use. I believe, for the first time in
my life, these weapons in the hands of ordinary citizens could save a life in
certain, RARE untoward situations. Thus, better I should learn correctly and
not just belittle the fact that many thousands of people in Houston avail
themselves of this right through an elaborate licensing process.

Second,
if I liked target shooting and Genie did, too, it was something new we could do
together, especially since she will have a bit more time on her hands than she
has had for the past 14 years. (It turns out in her first attempt at shooting a
pistol, she is way better at it than I am.)

Third,
some things we tried like this have worked out, like golf. Some have not, like
scuba diving. The latter was just so equipment heavy, so technically-driven, so
full of rules and essentially a spectator sport, that it just didn’t click with
either of us.

Golf,
by contrast, has become our passion. It is far more dependent on concentration of
the mind and requires hand-eye coordination and athletic skill. Genie did not
grow up playing golf so it has been a real struggle for her to learn, but she
has succeeded even carding a hole-in-one.

My
hope was that handgun use would be more like golf. And it was. Instead of
filling holes with accurately struck projectiles, we were making holes in
silhouetted paper targets with them.

Finally,
I have received threats and warnings in the past months that I was starting to
take seriously. My friends were advising me to do so. So, why the heck not
learn to handle a firearm?

To
carry a concealed weapon in Texas requires the acquisition of a license and
this course, the day after my hospital discharge, was the most important part
of acquiring the license. 

At
8 AM, Saturday February 21, I arrived at Top Gun shooting range on Beverly Hill
off Chimney Rock just north of 59 for my class.

Concealed
Handgun Licensing (CHL) is a very strictly regulated process by the Texas Department
of Public Safety. It includes the requisite passage of both a shooting proficiency
test and a written exam and 5 hours of classroom instruction for an individual
to gain certification. What was so interesting was while the instructor was
carefully preparing us for life carrying a handgun, he was also teaching us as
many ways as possible never to have to draw a weapon ever. One of the biggest
was the teaching of conflict resolution through interpersonal communication.

He
taught us that 80% of communication between humans is non-verbal. Information
may be exchanged between people with hand gestures, facial expressions, body
language and word tone as well as by the words themselves. True communication
requires listening and feedback between at least two people. How one handles
oneself and one’s communication with others in an adversarial situation can
preclude ever having to use deadly force. The use of a firearm against another
human ought to be a last resort.

I
was struck with the wisdom conveyed in the course as well as the fact that so
much of this course content, which the government dictates, makes so much
sense, especially the part about communication.

One
of the commonest topics of discussion that I have with faculty members at MD
Anderson also involves communication, particularly messages from above. The
institutional leadership is quite adept at dispensing huge amounts of
information and mistaking it for communication. The mistake is thinking that
any one is listening, primarily because those doing the initial communication
are seeking no real feedback to find out if their message is getting through.
And when it comes to the non-verbal kind of institutional communication, the
obvious contempt by the leadership for clinical medicine, the isolation from
faculty input, the absence of faculty shared governance, the unexplained
dismissal of faculty leaders and the general tenor established of entitlement
and corruption by the leadership send a powerful message that is definitely
heard and about which the leadership tolerates no feedback. Whenever one
speaks, one is communicating. WHAT is being communicated is not always that
which is intended to be.

The
non-verbal communication of the MD Anderson leadership is devastating in its ineffectiveness
and powerful in its ability to intimidate. I certainly will not employ these
tactics once I am licensed to carry a handgun as my goal is to use that weapon
on the firing range of Top Gun only.

Leonard Zwelling