Borrowingthe popularAmerican Express ad campaign slogan, “Don’t Leave Home Without It”, the campaign thatbegan in 1975 runningfor over two decades.It now seems the slogan is relevant for us to remind people “Don’t Leave Home Without Your Face Mask!” Don’t you think so?Well, I think so!

Admit it, especially to those who want to stay safe and healthy, and care for others’ safety and health, it has become a mandatory to wear a protective face maskthe moment you step outside your house. You don’t want to catch nor spread COVID-19.  Treat it like a simple habit, like the habit of carrying your mobile phone whenand wherever you go, especially when you leave your house.

Picture this! You have left the house, and then you realize that you don’t have your mobile phone with you!  How would you feel?  Exactly!  You feel a big part of you is missing. You ought to feel just the same way when you realize that you don’t have a protective facemask on your face when outside. A protective face-mask is one of your essentials you must have with you at all times.I suggest you have one or two spare ones in your bag, just in case for emergency.

Again, I really urge you: “Wear non-surgical facemask when in public spaces, such as in supermarkets, public transportation stations, in large public gatherings, including in office meetings especially.

Smile! Even Behind the Mask

Now that we have agreed to include a protective face mask as our daily mandatory accessories worn &carried wherever and whenever we go, we need to understand and accept that from the communication stand point, we have to face a long list of disadvantages when we wear a face mask. Let’s list down for the sake of it:

  1. Are you smiling? We will not be able to see people’s facial expression/s – you cannot tell if they are making a face, sticking their tongue out, smiling or frowning at you.You just cannot read the person’s emotion. It remains to be a question mark.
  2. Are you pretty or handsome? We will not know whether they are pretty or handsome hidden behind their masks. Another question mark here.
  3. Are you young or old? Again, we will not be able to guess the age of the people wearing masks, but perhaps you can tell from their physics (e.g. is the posture hunched?), from they way they walk (slow? careful?), and from the sound of the voice.
  4. How is the voice quality?Because the mouth is covered, the speech has some obstacles in its articulation and loudness, resulting less intelligible and comprehensible, hence unclear or muffled speech. In many cases, you’d have to ask the person to repeat what she/he just said. This can be annoying. You need to control your emotion too.

How to overcome these disadvantages?

  1. Eye contact– keeping a good eye contact is even more necessary than ever.With good practice you’d be able to read through the persons’ eyes, whether they’re being serious, humorous, formal, informal, relaxed, tensed, and the mood they’re in.
  2. Higher volume – ask them to speak a little louder than in the normal situation (when no mask is worn), explain that you have a slight problem in listening to them with the mask on.
  3. Listening skills – sharpen your listening skill, learn to hear the different tones of the voice behind the mask, is it a happy voice? Pleasant? Welcoming? Angry? Upset? Annoyed? And so on. Don’t worry, you’ll be an expert on this soon or later.
  4. Body language – to support your comprehension of what the person is saying to you, do rely on his or her body language, e.g. hand gesture, and other body movements.
  5. Physical distancing – stay within the reasonable distance, though you need to remember to stick the physical distancing rule, I think you are advised to be within 2 meters away (not less)with each other. This distance is reasonable enough for you to be able to communicate well to each other.
  6. Remain polite – accept that we’re all in this situation together. Expect that it will not be 100% effective nor efficient in the way we communicate if we compared with the time when we did not need to wear masks. Being polite helps us to communicate better to each other.

So, for sake of everybody’s safety and health, let’s accept that we all need to wear a mask when stepping outside our houses, especially when we’re in public spaces. Accept that there’ll be some obstacles when communicating with others, but there are some ways to overcome this problem.  We only need put extra attention to some points as outlined above, to help us communicate effectively and efficiently to others.

Don’t you leave home without wearing your face mask, ok?

(by Ida Bayuni, Public Relations practitioner, – based in Jakarta)

Image by:Danrley Smith Ariza from Pixabay