Wave And A Nod: Smiling With A Mask On Proves Challenging

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, takes off his face mask before testifying at a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Capitol Hill on June 23, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Photo credit Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Smiling and seeing someone’s mouth is a key component of social interaction.

Months of wearing a face mask are forcing us to start finding new ways to communicate non-verbally.

When we communicate with each other, the face has a lot to do with it - smiles, frowns and other forms of expression with the mouth. Now that we’re all wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we’re trying to find new ways to get our emotions across.

"We lose so much when we can’t see each others’ faces, even though we can see just a part of it," said David Matsumoto, psychology professor at San Francisco State University and the director of Humintell, a research company that trains people to read non-verbal cues.

"When they don’t see our smiles, you’ve gotta find new ways of doing those kinds of greetings and social niceties like waving, saying hello and, you know, we compensate in other ways in order to make those signals," Matsumoto said.

He said when we do speak, sometimes our words can come across as muffled under a mask. Matsumoto suggests trying to wave or nod your head to acknowledge the person you’re interacting with.

"Not only the smile, but the wave of the hand or the little bob of the head goes a long way to help package that back together," Matsumoto said.

This new reality is all about balance - trying to get our point across - even if that means being a bit creative.