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Communication in the Age of Face Masks

COVID-19 is obstructing human communication in more than one way.

COVID-19’s Impact on Communication

The normalization of face masks was undoubtedly one of the most blatant changes that developed through the spread of COVID-19. While this is unquestionably a measure crucial to reducing the spread, there have been downsides in sporting face masks daily. Face masks have significantly altered communication, forcing us often to rely solely on verbal communication.

Why is this so important?

Recent research has found that masks significantly affect human communication. First off, we are far less able to recognize emotion. Second, we are more likely to misinterpret emotions. These findings entirely align with the manner in which humans process others. That is, we generally process faces holistically rather than through individual features. Similarly to communicating electronically, it can be difficult to get a message across when a mask is covering your face. Thus, this unique time presents challenges in social interactions and interpreting others.

Nonverbal Communication

Studies about human communication have found that over 65% of communication is nonverbal. For instance, we often rely on facial expressions to interpret a message, attitude, or emotion. Specifically, the mouth and eyes are most informative in interpretation; subconsciously, we examine the combined movements in order to make sense of someone’s words.

Improving Communication

Simply understanding the effects of face masks can help you be more conscious in engaging with others. Additionally, there are various strategies which you can implement to strengthen your social interactions and conversations.

As our eyes are crucial in interpreting others, it is important to practice maintaining eye contact. To improve conversations, you can also try making more gestures, such as raising your eyebrows, narrowing/widening your eyes, and scrunching your brow. Another way to make up for lost communication is to use more physical gestures. For instance, using waves, head nods, and finger gestures can help to reduce miscommunications.

Other changes you can make are very manageable and require just a little effort. First, always face the other person; this will demonstrate that you are focused. Additionally, be as physically close as possible without breaching health guidelines. Another easy strategy is to articulate, trying not to speak too quickly or quietly. Finally, be conscious of the environment – ensure that you have adequate lighting, which aids eye contact. Finally, try to reduce all external noises and distractions.

Not only will improving communication make for stronger connections, but it can help reduce your personal pandemic stress.

Featured Image from cottonbro on Pexels.

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