by Susan D. Swafford
We live in a time where face-to-face communication is harder than it’s ever been before. With social distancing and mask-covered faces, the quality of communication is challenged.
Have you noticed it’s harder to correctly hear what another is saying when the words are coming through a barrier that’s planted right in front of the communicator’s lips? Have you noticed that there’s little facial expression that can be seen when a mask covers everything but the eyes?
There’s a natural intimacy that happens with face-to-face communication. We don’t just hear with our ears; we observe and respond to what we also see. Facial expression plays a significant role in how we receive and perceive what’s being said. Add in the fact that voices are muffled behind those cloth masks imposes even greater challenge in communicating. Words are misheard, tone of voice is misinterpreted, and unseen facial expression is left to the listener’s imagination.
While we continue to adjust to communicating in a socially distanced, behind the mask world, we need to be even more intentional to communicate clearly.
So, what can be done to improve face-to-face communication in this new mask covered world? Here are four suggestions that have proven to be successful.
1. Don’t avoid communication because it’s a bit more challenging. Rather than allowing masks to be a barrier in communication, use the situation as an opportunity to learn how to communicate better in spite of the perceived obstacle.
2. Look into the eyes of the person you’re speaking with. Eyes reveal emotions. Use what you see in another’s eyes to ask clarifying questions to get a better understanding of what was communicated and how your words were received.
3. Speak louder and clearer. This can be difficult for the soft-spoken person who may interpret their own raised volume as shouting. Even the receiver can misinterpret the tone of voice. Be deliberate to project your voice but also be attentive to the tone being used.
4. Give yourself and others grace. Good communication can be difficult, especially in a mask covered world, but it’s not impossible.
As you learn to navigate through communication challenges, don’t let the mask prevent you from leaning in to build a stronger communication connection.
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