I don't understand you - about talking with a mask

A few months ago I noticed that some people are concerned and asking: “How can you communicate without misunderstandings when you're wearing a mask?” It is difficult enough under normal conditions to make yourself understood.

But, remember, your emotions can also be seen when you wear a mask! (c) Can Stock Photo / halfpoint

With a smile behind the mask, you can overcome most barriers.

I heard things like: “When I talk to others, my facial expressions can no longer be seen properly. There will be a lot of misunderstandings. People can no longer see how I react to them and their ideas.”

Immediately there were recommendations in podcasts and YouTube films on how to show facial expressions while wearing a mask. For example, one recommendation was to exaggerate the laugh so that the laugh lines around the eyes can be seen more clearly. Over the past few weeks we have all been able to practice wearing masks. Fortunately, no one I've met has exaggerated their facial expressions.

I observed many other people and their interactions with each other (a habit as an actress ;-) ...). What I was able to observe is this: people still understood each other non-verbally, regardless if someone was speaking to toddlers or whether it was a serious conversation between adults. The brain “computes” the rest of the face like a computer.

Sometimes is was still hard to understand each other because the mask wearer spoke too softly.

Anne-Christiane Schneider

But, and now comes the big but: Still, there were challenges with understanding. The good news is that these challenges were very often merely acoustic problems. For example, people didn't understand each other because the mask wearer spoke too softly. The mask significantly attenuates the volume. The thicker the fabric, the fewer sound waves from the speaker can get through. Just think of thick curtains in the apartment that make outside noises quieter. The same effect also occurs with masks. The funny thing is when speaking with masks: If I am the speaker wearing a mask, I hear myself louder. So, I think I'm loud enough already. This means that I unconsciously and unintentionally speak even more softly than I would speak without a mask.

The simple solution to this problem is: you should just speak louder. In the jargon of actors, they say: You have to «send» your words to the recipient! Though, this is something you have to practice quite often, because changing your volume requires very frequent repetitions before it is internalized.

This practice will result in an added bonus. Most people speak too softly in everyday life, at performances and in presentations. Therefore, if you practice speaking loudly now, you will no longer have problems speaking at the accurate volume level in presentations and performance situations in the post-Corona era. Use this time while we are wearing masks to your advantage. You can make yourself more understandable and come across more convincing and self-confident

With that in mind, I wish you good luck practicing your speaking with your mask!

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