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As I sit in the VIU library—my favourite place to get work done—it is now mandatory to wear a face mask at all times. This is fine by me, as mask-wearing is a critical factor in minimizing the spread of COVID-19, but I can’t help but think should I even be here? 

In speaking to people in my bubble about this over the past week, I have found that the majority are favourable to wearing masks, as the most important thing right now is flattening the curve.

Some VIU professors have been examining how mask-wearing changes the way we interact with people in our community. Psychology Professor Dr. Lindsay McCunn and Nursing Professor Maureen O’Connor share their ideas on the social impacts of wearing masks and how it changes our communication. 

O’Connor says, “More than 75 percent of communication is non-verbal and most of that is through facial expressions.”

“It is estimated that humans can make and interpret more than 250,000 facial expressions,” she explains. “So, if your face is covered, it is more difficult to convey what you are trying to express, and it is more challenging for others to interpret you correctly.”

Dr. McCunn says the use of other social cues are becoming more apparent.

“We use our eyes a lot more. The eyes are a secondary way to understand what someone means and what their facial expression is telling us. We are noticing gestures being made and we can compensate when we wear a mask by using our hands and arms to get what we want to say across,” she says.

O’Connor gives some tips to help us better communicate clearly, in our new world: 

  • Face the person you want to speak to and address them so they are aware you are talking to them,
  • Enunciate your words and speak slowly and clearly,
  • Don’t yell as it could make your words unclear and make the listener feel guarded,
  • Speak at the same volume instead of letting the end of the sentence trail off,
  • Be patient if someone asks you to repeat yourself and try saying it in another way, as some words are easier to understand than others,
  • Pay attention during conversations and avoid distractions such as cellphones,
  • Actively listen and concentrate on the speaker during conversations to understand what the person is saying.

There have been constant changes to the COVID-19 public safety regulations that we are to adhere to, and it can most certainly feel confusing and overwhelming. But, as cases in BC rise we need to work together, and one simple thing we can all do is wear a mask. 

 

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