A recent study found that one in eight soldiers returning from a combat deployment to either Iraq or Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD. Soldiers suffering from this mental illness often find it hard to carry on conversations with regular citizens, including family members, when returning home. Listen to these pointers.
1. Avoid Crowded/Noisy Environments
When talking to a soldier, no matter how you are affiliated, try to avoid crowded areas. You may notice a soldier looking around the room constantly, finding it difficult to focus and seeming unusually anxious. Wait to carry on the conversation until after the room has calmed or simply suggest going outside for privacy.
Side Note: This situation resembles that of being in crowded cities or markets. The learned instinct in combat zones is to always be aware and never be trusting of your environment. This is frustrating for a soldier in many ways because loud noises from children, people brushing up against him/her can trigger a high level of anxiousness which will lead to frustration.
2. Don’t Suggest Seating in the Middle of a Restaurant
Like in the first topic a soldier can often times find themselves feeling uncomfortable in a crowded or noisy environment. If you will take notice, without saying anything, the soldier will often times choose a seat near a wall with easy access to look out a window. It will also be in a lighted area that seems dimmer than the rest. Allow the soldier to choose where to sit, even if it isn’t where you would prefer. You will be able to have a better conversation and meal with him/her if they are comfortable.
Side Note: This is again because a soldier deployed is always aware. That soldier was used to having a weapon of some sort on his/her person at all times. Now they don’t. They were use to eating in a controlled environment around nothing but other soldiers. Now they aren’t.
3. Avoid Talks about Politics
Soldiers have very strong views and feelings pertaining to politics. Your views, while still important, will not seem that way to the soldier. He/she has been down range. They have fought and sacrificed for their country. You haven’t. By default they will often feel that your opinions do not matter as much and will even feel some distain for your lack of knowledge in areas where they are knowledgeable.
Side Note: If it comes up in a conversation allow the soldier to express their opinions. Standing your ground here will do nothing positive. A soldier will not back down from their stance and will become angry if your stance differs from theirs. They will want you to take their side, see it from their point of view. Just humble them and listen. Give input to someone else.