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10 Ways to Improve Interactions While Wearing a Mask

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Avatar for Omar
Written by   339
6 months ago
"Mask Communication" made by a Filipino painter, Christian Trinidad.

Face masks keep us safe, but do make communication more challenging!


I recently came across a list of 10 suggested strategies to help improve communication while wearing a mask. They were primarily written for healthcare practitioners, but most of the principles apply to other various life situations.

I thought that the subject is important, especially that it looks like we will be wearing masks for quite some time!

So, without further ado, here is the list:

1. Focus on what you can do.
Immediacy behaviors such as moving closer to someone, smiling, and touching may be difficult during COVID-19, but there are other ways to establish interpersonal closeness. You can maintain genuine eye contact, lean forward toward the patient, have an expressive tone of voice, and use gestures. If you are working in an inpatient setting, you may need to re-introduce yourself when you re-enter a room as it will be harder for patients and families to remember faces when masked.

2. Be an active listener: 

When a patient is speaking, use nonverbal encouragement (head nods, forward lean, etc.) and maintain eye contact. While wearing a mask, the message your eyes and body language are sending becomes amplified. You may feel confident that you can look at a patient's chart and listen at the same time, but not all patients share that perspective. A lack of eye contact can contradict a verbal invitation for patient participation. If you ask the patient, "Is there anything else you'd like to discuss?" but accompany this question with a "no" head shake or pulling away and looking at the chart, the patient gets the impression that no further information is welcomed.

However, the call for more eye contact comes with an important caveat:

3. Do not engage in uncomfortable levels of eye contact: 

Genuine eye contact should occur while the patient is speaking, but genuine does not mean continuous. You should gaze comfortably between the patient, the chart, and your notes. Just be aware of those specific conversational moments that require direct eye contact: (1) implicit or explicit requests for attention (i.e., pauses, emotions, and questions) and (2) conversational turns: establish eye contact before you start talking and to signal that it's the patient's turn to talk.

4. Mirror what you are saying with hand gestures and body language:
Try to integrate simple gestures like a hand wave to signal "hello" and "goodbye"; a thumbs-up or okay sign to deliver positive news, offer encouragement, and confirm understanding or agreement; and a shoulder shrug or "huh" hand gesture to express uncertainty or lack of understanding. These forms of nonverbal communication make your communication more expressive, and reinforce a verbal message that may be muffled behind a mask.

5. Exaggerate emotion with your eyes, not your entire face: 

Patients may be able to tell that you are smiling from behind a mask, but exaggerating your smile all day can be exhausting. Instead, focus on expressing emotion using your eyes and eyebrows (along with hand gestures).

6. Use vocal variety to convey emotion: 

Your patients cannot see your smile behind your mask and may misconstrue a neutral expression for a negative one. By varying your rate, pitch, tone, and volume you can more accurately convey emotion. With that being said...

7. Focus on talking slower, not louder:

When you face communication challenges with patients due to language barriers or other limitations, you may find yourself speaking louder even if the patient has no trouble hearing. You have probably noticed yourself doing the same thing while wearing a mask. This comes across as aggressive or dominant, and will likely tire the muscles in your face quickly. 
Speaking slowly will help you conserve energy and will increase understanding (which means you won't have to repeat yourself!). An added benefit of talking slowly is that it conveys to your patient that you value the time you are spending with them and are not in a hurry to rush off to another patient.

8. Look for empathic opportunities:
An empathic opportunity describes when a patient expresses an emotion, a challenge (e.g., negative experience or event), or progress (e.g., positive change or event). You should listen for empathic opportunities and view them as a prompt to respond using acknowledgment, praise, validation, or support: all forms of responsive communication. Learning to listen for these empathic opportunities can be particularly important when facial expressions are masked. You can also elicit these empathic opportunities by asking patients directly about their reactions/feelings when you are unable to read facial expressions.

9. Minimize dominant communication: 

Dominant communication involves controlling the conversation. These behaviors are associated with power, authority, and compliance-gaining, which can have negative impacts on patient outcomes. These behaviors intensify the perceived distance between you and your patient that already exists while wearing masks. Some dominant behaviors include standing during the visit, interrupting the patient, and making the patient wait for you without explanation.

10. Modify your communication to match your patient’s:

Communication accommodation refers to the extent to which two or more people match or differ the other person's verbal and nonverbal behavior during an interaction. Matching helps convey interest and relational closeness -- especially when both parties are wearing masks -- and is useful for developing trust. You should try to match your patient's behaviors including talk time, body position, speech rate, gesturing, nodding, and eye contact.

Hope this helps improve our communication in healthcare and other life situations.

Thank you for reading.

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Written by   339
6 months ago
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Comments

I literally stop reading just to look for our country flag and saw it. Then I have read the caption below and wow, no wonder you can easily it. The image is captivating. On the other way around this post should reached all other countries and should be translated into many languages. :)

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1 month ago

Listen properly and speak when you have a quiet audience

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6 months ago

Nice

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6 months ago

it helps a lot to avoid covid19, very informative article.

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6 months ago

Well this is good, tips for everyone it make help us! Thanks for this :D

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

as you will!

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6 months ago

Already brother

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6 months ago

Already subscribed. Dont know believeme or not.

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6 months ago

Thank you

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6 months ago

Very informative.....Thanks. Plz subscribe me.

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6 months ago

i like the painting... where'd you find it?

People tend to speak louder but speaking slower is best, i agree with you.

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6 months ago
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6 months ago

I am subscribing to you you subscribe to me

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6 months ago

Since your mouth movement can't be seen, focus more using body gestures to communicate

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6 months ago

So nice.Please subscribe MrRahi

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6 months ago

Nice

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

this article is very nice..

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

wow good information

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

ohh. i learn a lot. thanks for your sharing. know i know how to improve interaction while wearing a face mask. thanks again. keep sharing to other. to help so people. i hope more articles you make:)

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6 months ago

Oh really thats happening. Nice article indeed bro.

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6 months ago

This is very informative and timely. I will try to follow the suggestions written here when I go out today.

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6 months ago

Thank you so much dear sir. Good topic you sharing dear sir...

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6 months ago

I subscribe you plz subscribe back to me

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6 months ago

It's such a nice article coming from you sir. For sure it will help those people who are really in needs this kind of communications. a simple wave from a health workers to his/her family will be meaningful to them. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article sir @Omar. 🤗😊

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6 months ago

Thank you Salma.

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

Very informative article.

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6 months ago

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1 month ago

Wow , that's awesome. Thanks a lot for this informative article . please subscribe me and support me. I just did yours. I hope my articles will be liked by you.

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6 months ago

Coronavirus has taught us a lot of new things, one of which is to wear this mask.

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2 months ago

This article is very helpful.... I want share your article translate in Bangla...If you permission me for Bengali people... @omar please permission me sir....

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4 months ago

This informations should spread to all health professionals and doctors. Actually this is gonna be a big problem and people are lagging behind to go for a consultant due to communication lackings we are suffering for wearing masks and PPE. including me, 2. Months ago when i went for a doctor, i can hardly realize what advice he is giving me because he was wearing a mask also ppe. But making expressions using only eyes, it seem dificult to me. Also eye contact... i cant maintain a genuine eye contact while. I speak with someone. Hope i will cope. With it.

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5 months ago

Very nice post sir.I saw the picture in your post. It's really like this pic. And also like your post.It's mind blowing. Wow!! Can you tell me How could you wrote this post! It's soo beautiful!❤❤👍👍😲😲😍

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5 months ago

very good post sir. subscribed your ID, plese subscribe me and like, comment my post. thank you sir.

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5 months ago

I think the doctor is alive. God has given the ability to understand, to have the ability to understand in the midst of his gaze on any angry side. The patient's vitality is good in the sweet glimpse of the doctor. The tips are not only for doctors but also for ordinary people. Thanks @Omre sir

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5 months ago

In this coronavirus condition it is more important for us to read Max so we will read Max more and be aware, thanks bro

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5 months ago

I was searching you from a long days while. good to see you sir

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5 months ago

I agreed with what you have written. I experienced difficulties when having a communication to others. I was crying at that time, when someone ignored me because because of the facemask I'm waering, she can't hear my voice clearly. I hope that wouldn't happen to some patients. Good manners must still there.

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5 months ago

Wow... Your are really too good writer.... You describe whole things with perfection. Thanks for sharing such important topic with us....

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6 months ago

Very informative bro.... I consider it as an Awareness..😊

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

nice article

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6 months ago

Covid-19 has made us change our way of life, our way of behaving and speaking. The whole world has changed. Has the consciousness of all the people in the world changed?

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6 months ago

Definitely right and good know all of these special now we're always wearing mask nit only for protection in virus but dust also... This article must be read by other for awareness

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

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6 months ago

Thank you @Arnavaria!

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6 months ago

Nice article

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6 months ago

I have read very useful tips in this article. I would especially like to draw attention to deaf people, communication is especially difficult for them even in normal conditions, and even more in conditions when the interlocutor wears a protective mask that prevents reading from the lips.

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6 months ago

Thanks sir for sharing this helpful information with us. Yes we should follow all of this for awareness.

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6 months ago

Well detailed. Thanks for this vital information..

Thanks for the upvote too on my article;https://read.cash/@ADEPRETTY/black-has-been-beautiful-since-the-begging-of-time-2178122c God bless you

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6 months ago

Very relevant post, thanks for sharing...

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6 months ago