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Smiling With A Mask On: A New Love Skill



Mini-Love-Lesson  # 274

Synopsis: The importance of smiling your love to others and smiling effectively even though wearing a mask; plus ways to behaviorally accomplish that; along with certain significant communication research findings are the topic of this Mini-Love-Lesson.


A Most Important Love Behavior

Smiles may be our most important expressional (non-verbal) communication behavior.  Smiles certainly rank right up there with touch, tones of voice, eye contact and probably even above gestural messaging.  Now that the pandemic has so many of us wearing masks covering our smiles what can we do to not be robbed of this great tool for conveying human warmth?  Well, here are a few ideas.

When your smiles are hidden behind a mask, be mindful of the fact that you would do well to compensate for having your smiles hidden.  Know that you can make up for this smile denial by using your multitudinous other communicating behaviors like words spoken with extra happy sounds, head nods and bobs, hand and arm gestures, posture changes, voice volume inflection and modulations, speed of speech changes and the host of other expressional behaviors we non-consciously use to get our emotional messages across (see “How to Talk Love Without Words”).

Do Some Consciousness-Raising

Being mindful involves raising into consciousness awareness what communicating behaviors are available to us and deciding to consciously and purposefully use them.  Doing this means you can make up for your smiles being robbed from you by a mask and the pandemic.  By giving this a little thought and working at it, you will make better contact with everyone you encounter while wearing a mask.  That will probably get you better responses coming back your way.  And, in turn, that will help you feel better in this troubled time in which we all live.

Actions That Smile

A thumbs-up, a friendly wave, moving just a bit closer, lifting your eyebrows a bit and a host of other micro-moves may do the trick for helping others feel smiled at.  Open arms gestures with the palms showing to whoever you are talking to tends to send some human, emotional warmth toward that person.  With a little work on our expressional communication behaviors, we still can get friendliness and even love across in spite of a mask.  These gestures and movements are called non-verbal communication but we call them expressional because in face-to-face communication they account for as much as two-thirds or more, of what is being communicated.  Communication research seems to show spoken words account for only 7% of what actually is being communicated in verbal, emotive messaging.  The term expressional communication refers to a lot more than what is usually meant by non-verbal, although technically it covers everything else besides words.  Some communication researchers classify as many as 16 other expressional or non-verbal communicators being behaviorally active in face-to-face interactions (see “Emotional Intercourse”).

Can You Make Your Voice Smile?

You can make the tones of your voice nearly have the same effect as smiling.  Whether you know it, or not, you probably already do some voice smiling by altering the lilt variations in your voice.  How you pace and pause, emphasize or de-emphasize and accent your words can also accomplish this.  The next time you talk on the phone pay particular attention to what is going on with voice modulations and you may learn more about this because many people who enjoy phone-talking do this quite well.  Your tones of voice and other voice variables can convey friendliness, empathy, compassion, cheerfulness and a great many other emotions, all conveyed by variations in how you say what you say rather than what you say.  Generally speaking, the more you vary your voice the better you communicate verbally (see “Behaviors That Give Love: The Basic Core Four”).

Words From Behind The Mask

Even though words may be only 7% of the communication which goes on in face-to-face personal communication, they still can have good effects.  Imagine saying to someone while wearing a mask “you can’t see it, but I’m smiling at you right now”.  In the course of talking to someone, you might also say something like “I’m feeling a bit happy dealing with you right now and I thought I’d tell you that since you can’t see my smiling face!”

New situations can cause us to invent new ways of getting things said as well as come up with new ways to get our emotions across to others.  So, start thinking about talking differently.  Do this with words: create differences in vocalization (which accounts for about 35% of the communication value and, maybe, most of the kinetics or movements (which account for about the 55% of our message meaning and impact).  What do we mean by movements?  Well, facial motions are the biggest thing but with a mask on not so much.  So, attend to your gestures, stance and posture shifts, proximity alterations, and the speed of your motions.  All of these factors are constantly getting registered and interpreted in our subconscious minds as we non-consciously perceive them, but not so much in our conscious cognition (thinking) (See “Say It with Love”).

Animate to Communicate

Since the research shows that our kinetics, or in other words, our many movements and especially facial movements account for so much of what we are communicating emotionally, pay attention to how you can get your message across by moving more.  If you are talking on Skype or Zoom, or any of the others, do more hand gesturing, up close to your face where your gestures will be better seen.  Here is a little secret that many sermon givers know.  The more you move, the more you are listened to.  That includes the more you move your voice also: louder, softer, slower, faster, higher pitch, lower pitched and all variations increase attention and help to improve the focus of the listeners.  Leaning forward, leaning back, shifting right or left and especially head movements while being verbally quiet helps convey that you are really interested and care about what someone is saying.  You see, in face-to-face communication you always are talking whether your voice is saying anything or not.  The more you do not alter your kinetics, the more you may be interpreted as uninterested and uncaring.  That is only a maybe, not a certainty.  There are so many more variables to good communications than most people realize.  However, the more you learn and use this information, the better you probably will do.

ONE MORE THING:  you are likely to plant all this in your head a little bit better if you talk it over it with someone else and see what they think about it.  If you do that, please mention where you got this info from and the many, many mini-love-lessons here.  Thanks!

As always – Go and Grow with Love,
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Are you mindful of the nourishing/nurturing value of your love messaging to your loved ones?  (Please, include in your thinking, ideas about your love message frequency and your love message potency, along with possible improvements you might make).

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