You may have noticed it. You are pushing your shopping cart wearing your mask at the grocery store and you see another person doing the same, but you hardly bother to look in their direction or attempt to make eye contact. Before COVID, I was good about smiling and making eye contact with others. Now, not so much --unless I need their attention. Do you find it easier to retreat to your own world rather than decipher what’s going on with those around you?
Now imagine you are at work and everyone is masked. It’s easier to withdraw, but at work, we can’t. We have to make that extra effort to communicate with those around us.
So how can we connect better while wearing face masks?
Here are a few helpful pointers I came across:
Steer clear of clear masks –It seems like a good idea at first, but they tend to fog up, are not very breathable for the wearer, and some people find them unsettling.
Cultivate a “Mask Voice”
Because we can’t rely on our normal facial and micro-expressions to convey our mood and emotions we must rely on our voice to do the heavy lifting. This means we should pay attention to how we modulate our voice and do so deliberately. Try these:
- Pauses – Because we lack the visual cues that let us know when someone pauses in the course of conversation, it’s good for us to take longer pauses in order to give others a chance to respond or chime in.
- Louder and Slower – Since masks give a muffling effect to our speech, we should speak somewhat louder –but don’t yell- and more slowly. I'm a fast talker, and I find myself slowing down now and enunciating as never before. I think my accent has improved.
- Emote – Whether it’s excitement, surprise or sadness, let your words and voice express your emotions. Remember, people can’t see what’s behind the mask.
Use gestures and body language.
- Practice active listening - While the other person is speaking, align your torso toward them, lean-in slightly if appropriate, nod your head. Let the speaker know you’re paying attention. Try saying “Mm-hmm”, “I'm listening”, “I see”.
- Greeting gesture. Since we can no longer shake hands, it’s important to develop a hand greeting. You can wave, raise your hand, tilt your head. Try a gesture that’s comfortable for you, so you look natural and not awkward.
Try these at work and see if you notice a difference. Now more than ever it’s important to strengthen the ties that bind us. We don’t have to let masks interfere with how we hear others and how we are heard.
Originally posted on the HR Box blog.