6 Tips for Expressing Yourself Behind a Mask
Mar 1, 2021
Has your most glowing smile become an awkward squint? We always knew that mouths were important to communication. But a year ago, many of us never considered just how much of a barrier not seeing them is.
They say 70-93% of communication is nonverbal, and facial cues make up a significant portion of this. With the bottom half of our faces hidden, we’re in the midst of some serious communication failure.
From business to personal interactions, expressing yourself is at the core of good communication. To get the most out of your interactions, you need to learn how to get past the mask barrier. To help, we’re taking a look at some mask-wearing tips to better express yourself.
People often say that the eyes are the window to the soul. But with most people, seeing the eyes alone isn’t enough to know what they’re feeling. If you want to be an effective communicator, don’t make people guess.
In writing, they often advise you to, “show, don’t tell.” That’s good advice most of the time. But when your ability to show emotion is compromised, your best bet is to tell.
If you want someone to understand the emotional context of what you’re saying or feeling, say it. Narrating emotions is saying how you are feeling with statements like:
- This makes me feel ____.
- I am feeling ___.
- I feel ___ about ___.
This allows you to express yourself in a manner that you know will be understood. As well as providing a clear way to communicate your emotions. This can lead to stronger results and relationships in your personal and professional lives.
Narrating emotions reminds us that what you say is important for expressing yourself effectively. Inflection and tone focus more on how you say something.
Take extra care with the way you inflect and your tone. You may have to add extra emphasis, as masks can muffle what we say. Pair this with the loss of facial cues and you’re set up for confusion. This isn’t the time for subtlety. If your inflection is minor, people may not pick up on it.
Exaggerate your tone in conversation to make sure it lands. Think of yourself as a performer on stage who needs people all the way in the nosebleeds to understand what they’re saying, feeling, and doing. Rather than normal mask-less conversation, where you perform more like a screen actor whose subtleties and smirks can be picked up by a camera.
We may not be shaking hands or bumping fists anymore, but that doesn’t mean you have to take your hands out of the conversation.
Adding in expressive hand gestures is a great way to express yourself and increase communications. While some of the ruder gestures should be avoided, even a simple thumbs-up is an easy way to communicate understanding or approval.
How you carry yourself is almost as important as what you say. With so much expression coming from your face, it can often overcome even more aggressive body language. When wearing a mask, however, you become much harder to read. A smile can look like a scowl and vice versa.
As such, it’s important to pay more attention to your body language. For instance, people often cross their arms out of habit. With a friendly smile or an, I’m listening, look you can still seem attentive and interested. Hidden behind a mask, crossing your arms can look standoffish or make you appear uninterested.
Take care to tailor your body language to what you want to express and try to convey respect and attentiveness.
Don’t Give Up On Your Face
Covering your mouth is a big loss for facial communication. But don’t give up on the face altogether. Your eyes and eyebrows are still important tools for facial expressions. While you may have to rely on body language, tone, and narrating emotions to communicate, people still mostly focus on your face. Give them as much to work with as you can.
Make Your Mask Less Muffling
One of the biggest hurdles of a mask, especially for already quiet speakers, is that it muffles your voice. The fabric directly in front of your mouth absorbs sound, distorts it, and prevents you from being heard properly.
A mask insert can help to alleviate this issue. The insert changes the way the mask sits, providing more breathing room and comfort. As a bonus, this also makes your voice carry better so you are clearer and easier to understand.