Be a Better Communicator — Even With a Mask On

Because masks hide our facial expressions, they make communication more difficult. Think of all of the nonverbal ways we unconsciously convey sincerity, trustworthiness, good intentions, or confusion. And while they’re critical in combatting the pandemic, masks make it hard to pick up on those subtle cues. How can we build rapport with colleagues even when half of our face is covered? Start by using your “mask voice.” Speak louder than normal, and convey emotion with your cadence and inflections. Next, practice active listening by giving verbal cues, such as a simple “Mm hmm” or “I hear you,” to the person you’re speaking to. Use other body language, such as nodding or gestures, when you otherwise would have used your face to communicate something subtle. Finally, smiling is perhaps our most important nonverbal communication tool, so try your best to smile with your eyes. It may seem uncomfortable or unnatural, but be intentional about wrinkling the outer edges of your eyes. Masks will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future, but with a bit of effort you can overcome the communication challenges they present.

This tip is adapted from “How to Build Rapport … While Wearing a Mask,” by Dustin York

Categories: Management and Career Tips

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