How to overcome barriers to communication while wearing a mask

How to Overcome Barriers to Communication While Wearing a Mask

How to overcome barriers to communication while wearing a maskClients often ask me about books that I’ve read and techniques that I employ to overcome everyday challenges and retain consistent levels of motivation.

An area of study where I excel and intrigues me is communication in all forms.  We’re communicating while wearing a face mask or face covering in places where it’s a mandatory requirement.

The human face has 43 muscles, which are all important non-verbal ways that we communicate.  We are capable of making over 10,000 facial expressions.  Many of them have traced back to our primitive past.  Some researchers suggest that it evolved from the way primates donned their teeth to establish dominance and negotiate the pecking order and to be socially accepted.

Dr Paul Ekman, Professor of Psychology and one of the world’s most famous face readers created a research tool called FACS, (Facial Action Coding System).  This tool deciphers which of the 43 muscles in the face are used at any given time, also when an emotion is so brief that the person encountering it may not be conscious of it.

Dr Ekman identified seven universal human emotions which have clear facial signals.  Surprise, contempt, anger, fear, sadness, disgust, and happiness.

Under typical situations, facial expressions form part of a systematic arrangement of signals – such as body language, face colour, gender, words, pitch and tone—all acting together in a corresponding way to convey message and intent.

Researchers who study the impact of human smiles understand that the Duchenne smile is one of the most significant of human articulations—recognised as the most authentic expression of happiness.

The Duchenne Smile

The Duchenne smile is an expression that signals true enjoyment. It occurs when the zygomaticus major muscle lifts the corners of your mouth at the same time the orbicularis oculi muscles lift your cheeks and crinkle your eyes at the corners.

  • They can elevate our mood by stimulating parts of your brain that control emotional responses.
  • Help us connect by creating a social cohesion that enables us to feel empathy and help one another to survive.
  • They can help your body’s stress response; there are psychological and physiological benefits from sustaining the encouraging facial expression amidst stressful situations.
  • Shaping how others see you, studies show how smiling with your mouth as well as your eyes can help you by perception as trustworthy, positive and associated with providing good customer service.

A physical barrier to communicating 

Wearing a mask or face covering can sometimes feel for many uncomfortable and a hindrance to communication due to the physical barrier between communicating with the other person.

I suffer from tinnitus therefore in areas which are especially challenging listening environments like when there is background noise, crowded or dark, I rely upon looking at the shapes the mouth makes; otherwise, it can be frustrating. I watch for and identify mouth movements that are associated with speech.

Therefore, learning to smile with your eyes and your mouth can help to:

  • Lifts your morale
  • Helps you to relax
  • Enables you to stay connected
  • Empowers you to forge new connections with other people

“As long as you have access to other cues”  The fact that you’re wearing a mask or that you have your face covered should not prevent others from understanding what you’re trying to express non-verbally.” – Aleix Martinez.

For more further understanding watch Mark Bowden and expert in human behaviour body language.

If you know anyone in your world, friends, neighbours, work colleagues who you think would benefit from spending some time with me, please ask them to get in touch. I’d be delighted to arrange a free 30-minute consultation.

Telephone 07967 052585 or email




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