Use Non-Verbal Cues to Express Your Point of View While Wearing a Face Mask

Even though we’ve been wearing masks in public for several months now , some aspects remain a problem. Apart from the fact that they feel uncomfortable and cause political division, face masks have also made communication much more difficult.

Sometimes we talk to a person who does not understand us, and many people instinctively take off their mask to repeat their opinion. Does this convey your point of view? Sure, but that also goes against the purpose of wearing a face mask, so please don’t. Instead, we need to improve masked communication.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Dustin Yorke , assistant professor and director of student and alumni communications at the University of Maryville , explains why forms of non-verbal communication are especially important when we wear a face mask.

“In situations where there is a discrepancy between what is said verbally and what is displayed non-verbally, people instinctively attach more importance to the latter, ” he writes. “Unfortunately, if your expression is masked, this can happen more often.”

To help us deal with these issues, Yorke gave us the following tips on how to become more effective non-verbal communicators in face mask situations. Here’s what to do and what to avoid to get your point across without risking anyone’s safety.

Avoid transparent masks

When face masks with clear plastic panels began to appear a few months ago, it seemed like a great solution to our communication problems. But as York points out, they fog up easily, so they’re not perfect. According to him, the exception is when you communicate with a person or a group of people who may not be able to hear well.

Use your “masking voice”

Even if you usually don’t pay attention to the way you speak, it is necessary when you are wearing a face mask. This is what Lifehacker Senior Parenting Editor Megan Moravchik Walbert wrote about earlier this month as it relates to communication with children. It turns out that avoiding disguises and speaking like a kindergarten teacher are good strategies at any age.

Be an active listener

It’s a good idea whether you’re wearing a face mask, but the practice of active listening – including nodding while talking or getting the right “mmm-hmm” right – can also make a difference. Yorke suggests rephrasing what someone just told you (using phrases such as “So what do you mean …” or “I hear what you say …”) to validate your feelings and help develop better rapport …

Use more gestures and body language

In particular, York recommends increasing the gesture rate by about 10%. Just don’t overdo it and don’t veer into mime territory. You can also mirror the other person by mimicking their body language (in a respectful, non-obvious way) as another way to show that you are actively listening and building rapport, says York.

Keep your toes and torso in line

According to Yorke, the direction our feet point in when we speak can signal our interest. For example, in a situation where you are talking to someone, but your toes are pointing towards the nearest door, you are letting that person know that you would rather be elsewhere. To avoid this, make sure your toes and torso are aligned and facing the other person.

Smile with your eyes

Who would have thought Tyra Banks’ advice on reality modeling would be so relevant today? According to Yorke, regardless of whether you use her “smile” terminology, using your eyes to show someone that you are smiling can help convey your friendliness.

Increase if needed

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


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