Human connection in spite of the mask
This mask business is no fun.
I feel claustrophobic, a little dizzy, a little silly. The feeling of hot breath and condensation on my nose and cheeks after just a few minutes makes my whole face feel weird. And there’s sore ears, headaches, acne, foggy glasses…
But mostly, I just feel disconnected from people.
Quarantined or not, masks just add a different layer to society. A physical barrier between humans.
As an etiquette instructor, I truly enjoy interacting and being around people. Chit chat and small talk is my jam! I thrive on all things social. I rarely feel awkward or uncomfortable in public and can get along with most any person I meet.
But in Maskland, I flounder.
I have trouble understanding what other people are saying. I have a hard time reading the social cues we’re so used to picking up without even trying. I misunderstand tone of voice… was she joking, sarcastic, or truly upset? I miss smiling at people and seeing smiles. I sense more tension and unease, even in the most mundane of places.
It’s obvious, humans are not meant to wear masks. They seem to go directly against both our anatomical design and our social nature.
But you know what else is in our nature as humans?
Yes, masks mean more work. But as humans, we can do hard things. And we can learn new things. And we can adjust our eyes, words, and actions to bridge the social gaps that masks create.
Your eyes are really your only identifiable facial feature under a mask. Utilize them to the fullest. Make intentional eye contact when speaking to others and seek out someone’s gaze when they’re speaking to you. I’ve heard before, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Use that to your advantage when wearing a mask.
The biggest benefit your eyes give your masked face is how they physically transfer your smile to the top part of your face. It’s easy to spot the crinkle around someone’s eyes when they’re smiling behind a mask.
Try to be intentional by smiling with your eyes. You’ve heard of smizing, right?!
In addition to your eyes, your words matter 10x more when you’re wearing a mask. What you previously could get across with a facial expression now has to be verbalized.
Use your words to speak up. Rather than your usual smile and nod, try saying aloud your “good morning” or “thank you.” And try not to get frustrated if you’re asked to repeat yourself.
And lastly, you can adjust your actions and body language to make your masked communication more effective.
It makes me laugh, but honestly, wearing a mask makes me think of the Power Rangers. Whenever one of the Power Rangers was talking, they always used overly dramatic head bobs and hand movements so the viewer could tell which one of them was talking behind their full-face helmets.
I’m not saying you need to karate chop folks with your hand gestures but it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more expressive with your body language when your face is covered. Try to be more intentional with your nods, waves, and holding of doors.
Of all the things you do when you put on that mask, please don’t give up on human connection. I know there’s a lot of thoughts that go through your head when wearing a mask, but don’t skip out on etiquette, manners, and kindness.
And whether you prefer to wear your mask as much as possible or you take it off the second you step out of the grocery store, let’s attempt to show grace on grace on grace to our fellow humans as we all navigate this period of our lives.
If you’re looking for a little more lightheartedness and a little more human connection, check out the Truth or Dare Family Game Night Guide I created. It includes over 40 truth or dares for some high quality family entertainment. I designed it to be easy to play in-person or via Zoom and even my pre-teen cousins played along. Enjoy!