By now, most of us should be getting into the swing of wearing masks when out and about in public. If you've been staying sensible and abiding by the guidelines, you'll know that one drawback of wearing a mask it that it makes it much more difficult to convey your emotions without speaking.
To help us all out, Vistaprint – the unexpected maker of what we think is the best face mask around – has done some research to figure out some alternatives that don't rely on people being able to see your mouth.
The following advice come from body language expert Judi James, and isn't exactly what we were expecting. Here are Judi's top tips for communicating when wearing a mask:
1. Smile like a cat
Apparently, felines have it down when it comes to communicating with their eyes. “Cats use a ritual of eye narrowing and slow blinking to ‘smile’ at one another," says Judi. "Humans are more than capable of focusing on similar techniques with a bit of practice!" We think this sounds quite creepy, but these are, after all, unprecedented times. So perhaps we'll learn to love it.
2. Tilt your head
Want to show someone that you've noticed them or indicate that you're listening to what they're saying? Try tilting your head, suggests Judi."[This] it is a part of our normal transactions that can still make us look interested and even upbeat when we’re in a mask.”
3. Sustain eye-contact
Shy readers, it's time to get comfortable making sustained eye contact with strangers. “Looking down in a cut-off can signal you have no desire to communicate, and eye contact and nodding will register positive and active responses," says Judi.
If you're facially expressive – or perhaps think staring at someone while narrowing your eyes and blinking slowly, as in tip one, might be a bit much – you could try using your eyebrows instead. “Raising eyebrows makes us look engaged or excited to see someone and the small eye-brow shrug, where we raise and drop them quickly, will show engagement and even say ‘hello’.”
Done all you can with your face? Use your hands! “We need to use alternatives to handshakes and smiles, such as mimed rituals like the empty embrace to register excitement at meeting a friend, or the more exaggerated but low waving of the hands to signal rapport," suggests Judi. If a mimed hug makes you feel a little depressed, we think a thumbs up might do the trick.
The advice relates to a wider survey, in which Vistaprint asked a random sample of 2,000 UK respondents their feelings about wearing face masks. It found that over a third of Brits feel self-conscious when wearing a mask, and while 85% of the British public own a mask, only 18% always wear it when in public. Face masks aren't going anywhere any time soon, so it's time to get comfortable with face coverings. If you're looking for a mask you won't feel embarrassed in, head to our guide to where to buy the best face masks for some stylish options.
Face mask | £17 from Vistaprint / $18 at Vistaprint
Selling fast – We've ordered a couple of the Vistaprint masks and we think they're great. The designs are stylish, the cut fits around the face snugly, and the fabric is nice and comfortable – both the soft cotton lining and the adjustable elastic ear loops. The sewn-in wire nose bridge stops glasses from steaming up, and they're available in adults and kids' sizes, too.