Everybody's crazy: Adjusting expectations for a happy career
Setting realistic expectations about the human condition can keep our own blood pressure in check
Nobody calls 911 to invite you to their kid’s birthday party — unless Johnny didn’t get what he wanted and is now on the roof taking pot shots at the neighbors with Daddy’s deer rifle.
Normal isn’t what we’re about.
Can you imagine a doctor complaining that everybody she sees is whining about being sick or a mechanic that finds it strange that all of his customers seem to be having car trouble? And yet, we often finish the day asking ourselves, “Is everybody out there nuts?”
Behavioral and Mental Health Issues
We enter the profession thinking that people will appreciate us. We train with role-players who respond rationally, know our language, and eventually comply. We get training on how to “de-escalate” and communicate effectively (both of which depend on the ability of highly emotional people to think rationally).
For the most part, we do amazingly well. But the reality is we seldom are dealing with victims or suspects who are at their best. If someone calls the police it likely means they are in crisis.
Our very presence makes people assume something is going wrong.
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers!
Nearly ten percent of the population will have a mood disorder in any given year and major depression affects nearly seven percent in a given year.
Twenty percent of the nation is on psychiatric medication. For college students, incoming freshmen are medicated at a rate of one in four for depression, ADHD, and a variety of other behavioral or mental health issues.
An estimated 30 percent of the population will have drug dependency problems at some point in their lives.
An average of nearly four percent of the population will seriously contemplate suicide in any given year.
One percent of the U.S. population has some level of autism. Sixteen percent of the population has hearing impairment. More than a million persons in the U.S. are legally blind. One in seven has a learning disability. Eighteen percent of Americans are classified as having a disability.
Perhaps one of 25 is diagnosable with psychopathy.
Nine percent of the population has limited English proficiency. With 90 at the lower end of the category of normal intelligence, 25 percent of the population has an IQ under 90 (the average IQ of police officers is 104).
The Winning Lottery Ticket
How frequently do you encounter a suspect, victim, or witness with no cognitive impairment, not under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and in complete control of their emotions and behavior, and who is not physiologically undergoing high stress?
If you find yourself living a day on patrol when everybody you contact is as together as you are, that might be the day to buy a lottery ticket.
It is no wonder that police officers who expect others to behave at a high or even average level are destined for disappointment. Setting realistic expectations about the human condition can keep our own blood pressure in check.
Expect challenges in communication and compliance. Maintain the tools to deal with everyone you meet, at every level of their ability. It is irrational to assume people will always act rationally. Even high-performing individuals have bad days.
Patience, respect, and empathy are important tools for gaining compliance in non-lethal encounters.
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