• Kristina Browning

Wearing a mask deprives us of some information

If we are aware of it, we can compensate for it and then focus on the positives.

I was in the hospital recently for just one night to have a procedure. I observed that because everyone had on masks, I found myself glancing down at their nametags that featured their full face photo so I could understand and take in whom I was speaking to. Suddenly, I was REALLY thankful for name tags.

We are online more and seeing each other less. My husband has two company chat platforms; Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business that features photos so you know whom you are chatting with online despite the work conversation not really being "in person." Occasionally, he'll ask me to help him articulate something so I stand at his work station with him hashing out what he wants to say to formulate the best way to say it and... I'm always looking at the photo of the person whom he's chatting with just like I did at the hospital with the name tags.

Now that we are are to wear masks everywhere out in the world, I find myself wanting a name tag to clip on to have my photo there too so people have comfort in "SEEING" me when we speak. I also like the idea of the new clear masks I've seen ads for lately. Or, like my husbands' chat platform, maybe a hologram of my headshot can float above my head while I talk with people fully masked.


Above all else, I have noticed lately how much non-verbal language I was accustomed to when I spoke to someone. Now that things have shifted and I can't see half your face, I feel like I am missing half the information. Fascinating! After doing some research, I discovered there are roughly nine types of nonverbal communication

  1. Facial Expressions

  2. Paralinguistics: tone of voice, loudness, inflection, pitch, etc

  3. Gestures

  4. Body Language and Posture

  5. Proxemics: the amount of personal space needed when having a casual conversation with another person

  6. Eye Gaze

  7. Haptics: touching another person, like a pat on the shoulder, handshake etc.

  8. Appearance

  9. Artifacts; Objects and images are also tools that can be used to communicate nonverbally. An Avatar is an example of using an artifact online.

When reviewing this list, I notice that half are affected:

  1. By wearing masks, we miss out on the lower half of facial expressions

  2. Proxemics is now superficial because to stay safe, we need to stand further away from one another- which wouldn't necessarily be what you would choose in a non-pandemic scenario.

  3. Haptics is gone if you are standing six feet away.

  4. Appearance is altered: Our choice of mask color and design is now added to the mix.

As a responsible citizen, I think we all owe it to one another to wear a mask. Wearing a mask doesn’t mean that we are weak or afraid or a coward. It’s a way to protect the vulnerable around us...so it's the opposite actually. It shows an awareness of our personal impact on others. In other words, it shows our emotional intelligence. It’s our American duty to keep each other healthy.

And so, wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands. Mirror what you think you heard and clarify things more because you are missing some non-verbal information when speaking with someone in person. Relish the conversations you have with your loved ones where you can enjoy the luxury of seeing their whole face and enjoy your time at home like you never had before. Sometimes it takes a shift to see things differently and appreciate things you may have taken for granted. Today, I am thankful for my health and the health of my family. I am grateful for the time we are spending in our backyard and the good weather ahead. I am excited about the new fire pit we are putting in this summer and I look forward to backyard camping complete with smores.

Instead of focusing on what we are missing by wearing masks, we can be grateful for the time at home when we aren't wearing masks, connecting with one another fully.

We can be grateful that this happened in 2020 and not in 1989 when there were no computers, no streaming services, and no cell phones. What a different, more lonely experience that would have been.

Focus on the endeavors that you once pined for but never had time for. Restore the vintage hot rod sitting in the barn or write the novel you always thought you had in you. Small daily action steps can give you that sense of purpose, progress, and structure that you need. Find fulfilling things that require introspection and you'll be so glad you did once we come out on the other side. For it's the darkest hour that we grow.


About the Author: Kristina Browning is a Home Functionality Coach and Realtor in Portland Oregon. Living in a home that isn't set up thoughtfully or doesn't speak to your passions can be draining and exhausting. How fulfilled we are can have a big impact on our daily life across all kinds of contexts; parenting, success, work, and health. Kristina Browning is the producer and host of the Home Space and Reason podcast helping listeners to Create a Home that Thrives.® She is a wife and a mother to a 7-year-old boy.

Podcast: 👉🏻 Explore an intellectual, uplifting podcast about home functionality, design, and automation with a bit of history & psychology; “Home Space and Reason” is kid-friendly and all positive; in the Top 200 on U.S. charts. I recommend staring at Ep. 1 https://link.chtbl.com/E4X8SlK_



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