Masks might hide our facial expressions and subtle communication cues we give off when conversing with someone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be effective communicators with a mask on. Sure, wearing a mask makes communication more difficult, but there are ways to get around the challenges and make communication with others just as effective both verbally and non-verbally.
Use Your Mask Voice
A mask is not only a barrier to germs but sounds too. Speak louder and at a slower pace than normal, allowing emotion to shine through with your cadence and flection. Don’t miss the message on volume though, this doesn’t mean to shout. When someone yells, their voice can become distorted, similar to what happens when you blow up a picture and experience pixelation. When you’re speaking to someone, call them by name. People love hearing their name, so the best way to get someone’s attention is by saying their name. This tactic shows your engagement in the conversation.
Smile with your eyes. This might seem uncomfortable and over-the-top, but remember, more than half of your face is covered, so over-smiling is the only way to go. No one can see your actual mouth smile, so channel your inner Tyra Banks and be intentional about making sure you’re wrinkling the outer edges of your eyes. There’s a delicate balance to this, though, because you still want your eyes open and locked on your partner in communication. You lose all effectiveness to the art of smizing if your eyes are closed.
Work That Body
Point and nod when appropriate or gesture when you otherwise would have used your face to communicate something subtle. One example of this is looking someone eye-to-eye. When previously you might have scanned around the room with your eyes, stay locked eye-to-eye with the person you’re communicating with or who’s communicating with you. Be aware of using your hands, eyes, shoulders, eyebrows, and even head to convey specific information when it makes sense to. Make sure you keep in mind that body language will differ depending on the type of conversation you’re having. A professional exchanging of words with a colleague will go differently than one you’re having with your best friend. Use body language appropriately to keep communication effective.
As you are talking with someone, ask check-in questions from time-to-time to ensure what you are sharing isn’t getting lost in mask translation. This can be as simple as asking the person you are speaking with if they understood something you just said or are understanding the general context of the conversation. If not, you can write something down. On the other side of the conversation, respond with an “I get it” or “mm-hmm” so that the person you’re communicating with knows that you’re following the discussion. When you incorporate check-in questions, keep it in line with the flow of conversation.
Place Yourself Wisely
When you’re speaking with someone, face them directly, and make sure nothing is blocking your view or theirs. Maintain a socially-distant space between yourself and your partner in conversation. When possible, choose a quiet place to converse or move to a quiet spot in your location if the place is louder than would be desired. When there’s background noise, lip-reading usually helps, but this isn’t an option when wearing a mask, so be aware of choosing your surroundings.
What strategies have worked best for you when it comes to communicating effectively while wearing a mask? Join the conversation on LinkedIn and check out Keeping a Sense of Urgency – Without the Stress.