These are the ways that wearing a mask affects our non-verbal communication.
On many occasions, the content of a gesture, a smile or even a posture not only complements the message, but also provides more information than words.
The value of non-verbal communication has been widely studied and influences both social and family and work relationships.
Specifically, a study by Albert Mehrabian shows that 55% of communication corresponds to gestural language, ahead of 38% that belongs to the intention to speak and 7% of oral communication itself. These data confirm the relevance of communication skills in each of the spheres of our day-to-day life.
How does wearing a mask influence non-verbal language?
As in many other areas, the coronavirus has also generated changes in non-verbal communication, making the mask a novel element that somewhat limits the capacity for facial expression, but to which we will have to adapt during the famous “new normal.”
That is why in this article we would like to tell you about the limitations that it generates in our usual communication and how we can minimize these effects to avoid losing gestural richness.
1. Trust your ability to adapt
Darwin already anticipated that “those who best adapt survive”, and luckily the brain is perfectly capable of facing changes and assuming them normally.
The initial feeling of strangeness when having a conversation with a person with part of the face covered is progressively transformed into something natural and therefore this pattern is internalized without generating significant alterations.
The same is replicated in the affective sphere; at first it was peculiar to arrive at a place and not greet with the previous codes, and now the absence of such physical contact is not surprising.
It is precisely this plasticity of the brain that allows not only to reinforce existing neural connections but also to generate new circuits that are exercised over time.
2. The look, more important than ever
Although much of the facial communication pertains to the eyes and eyebrows, losing information from the smile can reduce the ability to show empathy and trust. In addition, the mask alters the tone and volume when speaking, which can cause difficulties in understanding.
For this reason, we must compensate for this deficit by enhancing other aspects of non-verbal communication, such as body movements or gestures with the hands.
The fact of focusing on the gaze of the person with whom we speak and that this is the richest source of information, will make us experts both in its interpretation and in its use in our expression. From this point of view, the use of the mask can generate positive effects on the detail of facial expression.
3. Beware of misunderstandings
Changes in the projection of tone and the absence of certain gestural support can generate misinterpretations in communication. This can affect irony in a more concrete way, being more difficult to abstract from the literal part without expressions that facilitate the understanding of the intention.
In the same way that communication through a message is prone to misunderstandings, this special mode of communication may at some point require assurance by the speaker that the message sent and the one received correspond.
4. Don’t lose sight of its role
Despite the difficulties that appear with the use of the mask, we must not forget its main objective, to protect ourselves.
It will not be difficult to relativize the annoyances that it produces in us if we remember the beginning and the evolution of the pandemic, bringing the mind to that moment will help to assess what was once a basic necessity, but complicated acquisition and in turn way to protect ourselves from a powerful enemy.
In addition, the fact that they are part of our current routine can be one more way to express aspects of our personality, tastes or preferences, since the market has multiplied and the offer of masks and their customization is practically infinite.
Finally, it is necessary to clarify that certain groups can be especially affected by its use, this is the case, for example, of people with hearing difficulties, who require the support of the lips at many times or of children who have a large part of the information is obtained from adult gestures.
At a professional level, it can also produce handicaps in jobs in which displays of empathy and trust are important, in the case of doctors or psychologists, among others.
However, we must once again see it as a useful contribution that the virus leaves in our lives, since it can allow us to be more aware of something that was previously automatic and therefore improve a fundamental part of communication skills.
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