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How to use non-verbal communication while wearing a face mask

Illustration for an article titled Use nonverbal cues to emphasize when wearing a face mask

Photo: Mongkolhon Akesin (Shutterstock)

Although we already are after several months of publicly wearing face masks, some aspects remain a challenge. Beyond the facts that they are the UNcomfortable and politically divisive, face masks also make communication difficult.

Sometimes we talk to someone who doesn’t understand us clearly, and many people instinctively pull off their masks to repeat themselves. Do you understand your point of view? Of course, but it also beats the goal of wearing a face mask – so please don’t do that. Instead, we need to improve in communicating with our masks on.

IN article in Harvard Business Review,, Dustin York, Associate Professor and Director of Communications for Students and Postgraduates in University of Maryville, explains why forms of nonverbal communication are especially important when wearing a face mask.

“In situations where there is a mismatch between what is spoken orally and what is shown non-verbally, people instinctively take greater weight of the latter, “he writes.” Unfortunately, if your expressions are hidden by a mask, this can happen more often. “

To help us navigate these challenges, York provided us with the following tips for becoming more effective nonverbal communicators in situations involving wearing a face mask. Here what to do and what to avoid to make sure you understand your position without risking anyone’s safety.

Avoid clear masks

When face masks with a clear plastic panel started popping up a few months ago, it seemed like a great solution to our communication problems. But, as York points out, they tend to blur easily, so they are not perfect. The exception, he says, is if you communicate with a person or group who may be hearing impaired.

Use your “masked voice”

Even if you don’t usually pay attention to the way you speak, this is a must when wearing a face mask. This is something for a senior parenting editor at Lifehacker Megan Moravchik Walbert wrote about this earlier this monthas it relates to communication with children. It turns out that avoiding “mask jamming” and talking like a kindergarten teacher are good strategies for any age.

Be an active listener

It’s a good idea, whether you wear a face mask, but practicing active listening“Including a nod to the conversation or a well-placed ‘mmm-hmm’ – can also make a difference. York suggests paraphrasing what someone has just told you (using phrases like “So what you mean is …” or “What I hear you say is …”) as a way to assert your feelings and help develop a better attitude.

Use more gestures and body language

In particular, York recommends increasing your gesture level by about 10%. Just don’t overdo it and head for the mime territory. You can also look at the other person, ie.imitating their body language (in a respectful, unobvious way) ais another way to show that you are actively listening and building relationships, says York.

Keep your toes and torso aligned

According to York, the direction our feet point during a conversation may signal our interest. For example, in a situation where you are talking to someone but your toes are pointing at the nearest door, you are letting them know that you prefer to be somewhere else. To avoid this, make sure your toes and torso are aligned and facing your partner in the conversation.

Smile with your eyes

Who knew years-old bakshish by Tyra Banks in a reality show TV show would it be so relevant today? Whether it’s you use its terminology on “Crushing, Using your eyes to show a person that you are smiling can help convey that you are friendly, York says.

Increase if necessary

While York says that communicating with someone in person is usually preferable, there are times when an open call to Zoom is the most effective option.

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