If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you know I am a huge advocate of the power of words. Today I will look at the words ‘will’ and ‘may’ and their potential impact in training.
When teaching officers about the effects of stress on the human body are you telling them they will experience things such as auditory exclusion, visual narrowing, time distortion, a sense of detachment, and intrusive distracting thoughts? Or are you education them about what they may experience during a tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving event?
When it comes to PTSD are you teaching officers they will suffer from it if they are involved in a critical incident? Or are you educating officers about the signs and symptoms so they know what to look for in themselves and their fellow officers, and they know what to do if they are experiencing PTSD in some form?
Will and May – two simple words with profoundly different meanings and implications. If you are telling officers what they will experience you are potentially setting them up for problems.
The word may however, educate officers about possible responses without telling them what they will experience. Every officer’s experience will be different. There are no guarantees about what they will experience. The word ‘may’ allows them to experience the event in whatever way is natural for them and allows them to accept what they are feeling is natural for them.
It is critical to talk about the signs and symptoms of PTSD so officers know what to look for without setting them up to believe they will have problems. It unacceptable to turn a blind eye to the issue or continue with the old adage that ‘big boys don’t cry’ and neither do cops. It is not a sign of strength to suck it up. It is a sign of strength to ask for help if you need help.
It is also critical to set officers up for the most desirable outcomes rather than program them to believe they will have problems.