5 Things I Learned from My Survey on Masked Communication

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It’s not shocking but I’ve learned that having conversations while wearing a mask is really hard for some people while others find it barely an inconvenience… That got me wondering, what exactly is it that makes communicating in the COVID world so different for different people? That’s what I’ve been on the hunt to find out.

After puzzling over how to help my clients communicate more effectively as we all endure this masked pandemic together, I decided the best way to get answers was to ask the honest opinion of people in my network, with a sample ranging from different coasts and different backgrounds.

I expected to find lots of issues and expressed frustration. I was shocked to learn that most people are adapting better than I expected and pleased to see that most are willing to do what it takes to work around the masks in order to get their points across and still keep each other safe. But that was just scratching the surface… Here are 5 of my initial findings on #MaskedConversations, based on the responses of 50 individuals who completed the survey.

1. The biggest problem for people who are speaking behind a mask is having to repeat themselves because people can’t hear or understand them. (50% of those surveyed)

2. A minority of people (24%) felt that wearing masks actually restricted their mouth movements.

3. I was heartened to see that only 12% of people give up and remove their masks to be understood, and only 12% of people have seen others who are talking to them give up and remove their masks to be understood.

4. Not being able to see someone’s face behind the mask makes it difficult for others to tell if a person is serious or joking (34%). This makes things like humor, sarcasm, and flirting challenging even for the most charismatic among us!

5. Many people commented that they miss seeing smiles and being able to smile at someone (and have that person know they are smiling). Of that group, many also said that the mask stops them from enjoying “small talk” among strangers at the store and other public locations.

In conclusion, the data from this small study was incredibly illuminating, but the research gave us more than just the facts or figures. What we are dealing with here is more than just a pandemic, we are experiencing a shift in communication modalities for the foreseeable future. Not surprisingly, the solution may be more multi-faceted than any of us hoped. Which of these surprised you? Which confirmed your existing suspicions? The one thing that is certain is this: this situation is not going away for most of us, and more research needs to be done before we can figure out how we can best overcome this widening communication gap…

P.S. Do you want to take the survey yourself? I’d love to get more results. You can find it right here. 🙂

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