Face Masks and Communication

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

How are masks changing communication? 

Some studies estimate as much as 93% of communication is nonverbal. I think the number is much lower – but we do send many communication signals nonverbally. The most information dense area of nonverbal communication is people’s facial expressions. Because of COVID-19, all of a sudden, everyone has half of their face covered. We have unwittingly entered into an unmeasured experiment.

For a more in depth dive on this I like Markham Heid’s piece over on Elemental, “Face masks hide what words can’t say”.

The other day I experienced this first hand. A routine interaction in my office building escalated to a lecture from a stranger on proper behavior – something I have never experienced. (We were both wearing face masks. The lesson was on…rudeness? Not sure.)

This was a completely foreign situation for me and I blame the mask. Perhaps our face says more than we know. 

Have you had any strange communication experiences with masks?