While face masks are vital for minimizing your risk of Covid-19, they can be a real hindrance to everyday communication. You might notice that your voice gets muffled when you try to greet the neighbor, or that you can’t understand the cashier clerk when they speak to you. Since face masks are here to stay, we thought it would be useful to share a few tips for communicating effectively while wearing a mask, which comes from Cheryl Chambers, head coach for Mississippi State University’s Speech and Debate Team. You can find them below.
Use your eyes: Although it’s more difficult to recognize or display facial expressions that exhibit emotions such as happiness or disgust, it’s still possible. After all, there’s a very expressive part of your face that isn’t covered by the mask: your eyes. If you want to increase understanding with a masked individual, you should look them in the eyes, which may be easier said than done as eye contact can trigger self-consciousness. With that said, eye contact can also make you appear more intelligent and trustworthy.
Body language matters: Often enough, the body conveys more information than the words being said. Being aware of your own body language can help you be more effective when communicating with a mask on. When engaged in a conversation, you can appear more attentive by turning your body toward the individual, leaning in, or nodding. To let another person know you want to start speaking, straighten your posture, hold up your index finger or nod more frequently.
Pay attention to your voice: Along with the actual words, you also use volume, tone, pauses, and fillers to convey your message. For instance, a lower-pitched whisper may denote sadness or insecurity, whereas a higher-pitched shout could show anger or intensity. To effectively communicate your message, make sure the volume and tone correspond with the emotion you’re trying to convey. Of course, face masks can muffle or dampen your voice, so if you need to speak louder, try to be aware that raising your voice can alter the message you are trying to send. Perhaps instead of changing the tone of your voice, you can try to improve your enunciation.
Even though we know you’d rather not be wearing that face mask, you’re doing everyone a favor by keeping it on in public spaces. And we hope that the next time you wear it, you’ll remember these tips so that you can communicate better with those around you.